NLP: Not (Just) Language, People

As consumers become producers and, now, participants in online social communities, there are new opportunities and challenges in the increasing amounts of textual information and interactions on the web, within enterprises, in government, and in new types of social media and virtual worlds.

Natural Language Processing (NLP) researchers have traditionally regarded language as the object of study. In this talk, I argue that NLP is as much a study of people as of language per se. Doing NLP well requires us to model and reason about Content (domain knowledge), Context (goals and tasks), and Community (social context). I discuss why modeling the three C’s is difficult, and illustrate some approaches to these problems using examples from my recent academic and commercial projects.

Invited talk at PARC (Palo Alto Research Labs), Palo Alto, CA, January 2009
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