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NLP Colloquium: Lillian Lee, Cornell

February 21, 2017 @ 10:00 am - 11:00 pm

Lillian Lee

Professor of Computer Science
Cornell University

“Big data pragmatics!”, or, “Putting computational linguistics in computational social science”, or, if you think these title alternatives could turn people on, turn people off, or otherwise have an effect, this talk might be for you.


What effect does language have on people?

You might say in response, “Who are you to discuss this problem?” and you would be right to do so; this is a Major Question that science has been tackling for many years. But as a field, I think natural language processing has much to contribute to the conversation, and I hope to encourage many researchers across areas to dive further into these important issues.

This talk will focus on the effect of phrasing, emphasizing aspects that go beyond just the selection of one particular word over another. The issues we’ll consider include: Does the way in which something is worded in and of itself have an effect on whether it is remembered or attracts attention, beyond its content or context? Can we characterize how different sides in a debate frame their arguments, in a way that goes beyond specific lexical choice (e.g., “pro-choice” vs. “pro-life”)? The settings we’ll explore range from movie quotes that achieve cultural prominence; to posts that catch on or change minds on Facebook, Wikipedia, Twitter, arXiv, and the ChangeMyView subreddit; to language that affects discussion points among the members of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC).

Joint work with Lars Backstrom, Justin Cheng, Eunsol Choi, Cristian Danescu-Niculescu-Mizil, Jon Kleinberg, Vlad Niculae, Bo Pang, Jennifer Spindel, and Chenhao Tan.


Lillian Lee is a professor of computer science and of information science at Cornell University, and the co-Editor-in-Chief of the Transactions of the ACL. Her research interests include natural language processing and computational social science. She is the recipient of the inaugural Best Paper Award at HLT-NAACL 2004 (joint with Regina Barzilay), a citation in “Top Picks: Technology Research Advances of 2004” by Technology Research News (also joint with Regina Barzilay), and an Alfred P. Sloan Research Fellowship; and in 2013, she was named a Fellow of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI). Her group’s work has received several mentions in the popular press, including The New York Times, NPR’s All Things Considered, and NBC’s The Today Show, and one of her co-authored papers was publicly called “boring” by Youtubers Rhett and Link in a video viewed over 2.4 million times.

Host: Mohit Bansal


February 21, 2017
10:00 am - 11:00 pm
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Brooks Computer Science Building, S. Columbia Street
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