Assistant Professor and PhD Program Director Jana Diesner has been named a 2018-2019 Linowes Fellow by the Cline Center for Advanced Social Research at the University of Illinois. The fellowship "provides exceptionally promising tenure-stream faculty with opportunities for innovation and discovery using the Cline Center's data holdings and/or analytic tools."
Diesner will work on her project, "Using Natural Language Processing to Measure and Understand the Description of Hurricanes Depending on the Gender of Storm Names and Geo-Location of Reporting," which is a collaboration with Sharon Shavitt, professor of business administration and psychology at Illinois; Kiju Jung, Senior Lecturer at the University of Sydney; Ly Dinh, PhD student at the iSchool; and the Cline Center. Previous work by Jung, Shavitt, Viswanathan, and Hilbe has shown that severe hurricanes assigned female names have caused more deaths than those assigned male names. Diesner's project involves using natural language processing and machine learning methods on a large corpus of newspaper articles to measure if there are differences in the description or framing of hurricanes of similar severity depending on the gender of their name and place of reporting.
"In our prior work, we have identified the timeline and severity of dozens of hurricanes," explained Diesner. "To study their impact, we have identified indicator terms for determining negative emotions, risk, uncertainty, and preparedness related to hurricanes. However, since measuring the concepts of interest to us by using such lexical resources is limited in its potential, accuracy, reliability, and generalizability, in this project, I plan to build a semantic profile or differential of hurricanes with male versus female names to see if there are systematic differences in the way hurricanes are described."
Diesner's research in human-centered data science and computational social sciences combines methods from network science, natural language processing, and machine learning with theories from the social sciences, humanities, and linguistics to advance knowledge and discovery about interaction-based and information-based systems. Recognition for her research expertise includes appointments as the CIO Scholar for Information Research & Technology at Illinois (2018); faculty fellow at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at Illinois (2015); and research fellow in the Dori J. Maynard Senior Research Fellows program (2016), which is a collaboration of The Center for Investigative Reporting and The Robert C. Maynard Institute for Journalism Education. She holds a PhD from the Computation, Organizations and Society (COS) program at Carnegie Mellon University's School of Computer Science.