Societal Computing Thesis Proposal

  • BINXUAN HUANG
  • Societal Computing Ph.D. Candidate
  • Ph.D. Program in Societal Computing, Institute for Software Research
  • Carnegie Mellon University
Thesis Proposals

Learning User Latent Attributes on Social Media

In recent years, there is a growing interest in using social media to understand social phenomena. A social media site is mixed with users with various attributes, in terms of gender, location, political affiliation, social roles, and etc. Different types of users may have different motivations, different opinions towards certain topics, different resources at their disposal, different behaviors in events. If researchers want to understand what is happening on a social media site, it is important to know where a post comes from, who wrote this post, and which party the author belongs to.

In this thesis, the goal is to predict users' latent attributes such as their locations, social identities, and political orientations. Many times, these attributes are not explicitly provided by users. For example, there are no ways for users to specify their ideologies on Twitter. Even though there is a location field in a Twitter user's profile, it is often empty or filled with noisy information unrelated with any geographical location. However, many times online users would unavoidably provide indicative clues which are helpful for identifying their attributes in their posts. For example, from a post "food in cmu is delicious :)", we can infer that this user is probably living in Pittsburgh.

I will approach user attributes prediction at three levels — single post, user timeline, graph-level classification. First, I will present a global location prediction system that uses one single tweet as input to learn one user's location. It utilizes location-related features in a tweet, such as text and user profile metadata. Second, I plan to extend the tweet-level prediction system to user-level, which combines multiple posts in one user's timeline. I will demonstrate the effectiveness of this model on the task of user social identity classification. An improved user-level hierarchical location prediction model will also be presented. In these described models, I mainly focus on learning user attributes from users themselves. In the next step, I will consider social graph as additional information to improve performance. Users connected in a social network often show similarities in certain aspects, which is a well-known phenomenon called social homophily. Last, to reduce the computation cost for learning each individual attribute separately, I intend to propose a multi-task learning system that learns all attributes jointly.

Thesis Committee:
Kathleen M. Carley (Chair)
Yulia Tsvetkov
Zico Kolter
Huan Liu, Arizona State University

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