Every time we post or update our status on social media or write an online review, we provide researchers with valuable information, according to Dr. Monica Stephens, PhD, assistant professor of geographic information science at the University at Buffalo.
“The data you create tells a story of your experience in space and time,” said Dr. Stephens, who was keynote speaker at Hofstra’s annual commemoration of Ada Lovelace Day. “Researchers look at these antidotes and use that knowledge in a wide range of fields from geography and map making to political science and selling.”
Dr. Stephens spoke to an audience of students and faculty this month in recognition of Ada Lovelace Day, a global celebration honoring a 19th century female science and technology pioneer. The event was hosted by the departments of Computer Science and Global Studies and Geography.
In her presentation, “The Internet Needs You: How Your Data Can Change the World”, Stephens discussed her experience analyzing Volunteered Geographic Information (VGI) – the geographic information provided voluntarily by individuals online. As an example of how VGI can be used to understand social phenomena and trends in society, Stephens cited her research, Geography of Hate: Geotagged Hateful Tweets in the United States, which analyzed geotagged information from Twitter to identify the geographic origins of online hate speech.
“I always assumed the locations that were on the maps were placed there by the companies themselves or the programmers of the online map and not by people who are just using the service,” said marketing major Francesca Miller ’19.
Dr. Stephens received an MA and PhD in Geography from the University of Arizona. Prior to teaching at the University at Buffalo, she was the director of the Institute for Cartographic Design at Humboldt State University. Stephens is also the recipient of a fellowship from the Ada Lovelace Foundation to help support women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).