IST Research Talk – Guoray Cai

12:05 pm - 1:30 pm
E208 Westgate Building

Join IST faculty as they discuss their current research projects, new findings, and opportunities for collaboration. All talks are free and open to the public.

Democratizing Algorithmic News Recommender --- Perspectives, Challenges, and Opportunities

Online news media are the primary channel for citizens to share and receive political information and get informed on their engagement of politics. The increasing use of Algorithmic News Recommender (ANR) systems in media services has transformed the public sphere of information where people share and access political ideas.  The impacts were not yet well-understood, nor intentionally designed for.  Despite the roles of media recommenders in the operation of democratic society, current new recommender systems do not assume their social responsibilities and are primarily driven by profit motives.

In this talk, I will construct an argument that algorithmic news recommenders should be purposefully designed and implemented to support democratic values and the social roles of news media.  One of the most important democratic values is that participants should seek information to ensure opinions of all angles on an issue are considered.  We will question the current deployment of algorithmic news recommenders (ANR) on where they live up to their expected social responsibilities in a democratic society.  With the identified democratic deficits in ANR, I will present a vision on how to design ANR to support deliberative democracy in local policy-making context. Working towards democratic ANR is a great opportunity for information science and AI researchers, but we are likely to face challenges in the current technical, economical, and social environments.


Dr. Guoray Cai is an associate professor of Information Science and Technology at the Penn State University.  He received a Ph.D. degree in Information Science from University of Pittsburgh in 1999, an Master degree in geography from West Virginia University in 1993, and M.S. and B.S. degrees in electrical engineering from Tianjin University, China, in 1986 and 1983, respectively. Dr. Cai is the director of Spatial Information and Intelligence Laboratory.  He conducts research in the intersection of human-computer Interaction and geographical information science, with specific goal of transforming the use of geographical information and technologies to support collaborative and group work.  His recent project (GeoDeliberation: NSF IIS-1211059) addresses the need to advance online democracy technologies and methods for broadening deliberative civic engagement in local policy making.  His work on Geodeliberator platform and Community Issue Review received wide media coverage and was partially adopted by the State College Borough.