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Ada Lovelace Day Lecture with Dr. Monica Stephens

Dr. Monica Stevens, PhD, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography at SUNY Buffalo, gave an illustrated presentation titled “The Internet Needs You: How Your Data Can Change the World” as part of The Department of Computer Science at the Fred DeMatteis School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Department of Global Studies and Geography’s observance of Ada Lovelace Day on October 10, 2018.

Her discussion highlighted the importance of human contributions to the internet’s data through platforms that seek consumer feedback, such as Wikipedia and posting reviews on Yelp.  Her research discovered that what initially appeared to be high levels of volunteered data in rural and suburban areas, actually turned out to be generated by bots.  One specific example she cited was Wikipedia pages of small towns that were created by algorithms, following a template with identical verbiage on each one except for specific facts drawn from the U.S. census.  By having people populate the information instead, the content takes on unique, personalized elements reflecting the individual’s perspective and enhancing the value of the information provided.  Additionally, men are found to contribute more often than women, skewing the resulting mapped data and leaving gaps of knowledge for and about women.  Another challenge comes from internet ‘trolls’ who will use racist tags and create virtual communities to perpetuate hate mongering.

Dr. Stevens also touched on Ada Lovelace, a 19th century mathematician who published the first algorithm to be used by the world’s original ‘computing machine’ and is credited as a pioneer in computational science.

Additional photos from the lecture can be found on our Department Flickr Page.