Posts Tagged ‘cognitive media’

The Intelligent Web: Shaping Behavior at the Intersection of Health, Wealth, & Choice

The web is evolving from information (portals) to interaction (social/mobile). The next stage will be about influence: shaping attitudes and behaviors. To do this effectively requires a new kind of technology: user modeling. It also requires an innovation methodology that is fundamentally about people, not technology.

I discuss three big ideas in innovation for consumer engagement and behavior change, and illustrate using examples from healthcare, education, and financial services.
Invited keynote at Amplify: Business Innovation and Thought Leadership, June 2013, Australia.

SLIDES:

Socio-Semantic Conversational Information Access

We develop an innovative approach to delivering relevant information using a combination of socio-semantic search and filtering approaches. The goal is to facilitate timely and relevant information access through the medium of conversations by mixing past community specific conversational knowledge and web information access to recommend and connect users and information together. Conversational Information Access is a socio-semantic search and recommendation activity with the goal to interactively engage people in conversations by receiving agent supported recommendations. It is useful because people engage in online social discussions unlike solitary search; the agent brings in relevant information as well as identifies relevant users; participants provide feedback during the conversation that the agent uses to improve its recommendations.

Socio-Semantic Conversational Information Access

by Saurav Sahay, Ashwin Ram

WWW-2012 Workshop on Community Question Answering on the Web (CQA-12).

Socio-Semantic Conversational Information Access

The main contributions of this thesis revolve around development of an integrated conversational recommendation system, combining data and information models with community network and interactions to leverage multi-modal information access. We have developed a real time conversational information access community agent that leverages community knowledge by pushing relevant recommendations to users of the community. The recommendations are delivered in the form of web resources, past conversation and people to connect to. The information agent (cobot, for community/ collaborative bot) monitors the community conversations, and is ‘aware’ of users’ preferences by implicitly capturing their short term and long term knowledge models from conversations. The agent leverages from health and medical domain knowledge to extract concepts, associations and relationships between concepts; formulates queries for semantic search and provides socio-semantic recommendations in the conversation after applying various relevance filters to the candidate results. The agent also takes into account users’ verbal intentions in conversations while making recommendation decision.

One of the goals of this thesis is to develop an innovative approach to delivering relevant information using a combination of social networking, information aggregation, semantic search and recommendation techniques. The idea is to facilitate timely and relevant social information access by mixing past community specific conversational knowledge and web information access to recommend and connect users with relevant information. Language and interaction creates usable memories, useful for making decisions about what actions to take and what information to retain.

Cobot leverages these interactions to maintain users’ episodic and long term semantic models. The agent analyzes these memory structures to match and recommend users in conversations by matching with the contextual information need. The social feedback on the recommendations is registered in the system for the algorithms to promote community preferred, contextually relevant resources. The nodes of the semantic memory are frequent concepts extracted from user’s interactions. The concepts are connected with associations that develop when concepts co-occur frequently. Over a period of time when the user participates in more interactions, new concepts are added to the semantic memory. Different conversational facets are matched with episodic memories and a spreading activation search on the semantic net is performed for generating the top candidate user recommendations for the conversation.

The tying themes in this thesis revolve around informational and social aspects of a unified information access architecture that integrates semantic extraction and indexing with user modeling and recommendations.

Read the dissertation:

Socio-Semantic Conversational Information Access

by Saurav Sahay

PhD dissertation, College of Computing, Georgia Institute of Technology, November 2011.

smartech.gatech.edu/handle/1853/42855

Crowdsourcing: From Phenomenon to Business Model

Crowdsourcing is changing both the way we work, as well as the way Internet applications are designed and delivered. It’s no longer just the domain of technologists (who can now achieve breakthroughs together never before achievable); crowdsourcing is now ripe for enterprise professionals to understand and leverage the possibilities for their business goals.

From Wikipedia and YouTube, crowdsourcing has moved to a $5B “crowd worker” industry with applications proliferating for productivity, research, marketing, advertising, creative development, corporate workflow management, language translations, and much more — see a list of projects here.

I discuss social networks as a kind of crowdsourcing, with unique benefits and challenges.

Invited panel presentation at PARC Forum, Palo Alto, CA, November 10, 2011
 

View the panel discussion:

www.parc.com/event/1456/crowdsourcing-ceo-expert-panel.html

Social Media for Health and Wellness 2.0

The Internet has surpassed physicians as the leading source of health information. With the advent of the social web, Health 2.0 is emerging as a strong segment with 34% of consumers using social resources such as blogs and forums to locate health information. Yet information overload leads to “search engine fatigue” that discourages users.

We advocate a consumer-centric approach to healthcare information access that increases engagement and improves health literacy.  Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques can be used to support human effort, creating a new generation of “intelligent web” technologies. These technologies can combine the benefits of the “information web” (timely, relevant health information) with those of the “social web” (human interaction, support, comfort). Our vision is to promote well-being and prevention before illness, support and information during illness, and comfort to family and friends in a natural, social, yet private manner.

Invited talk at Humana Innovation Conference: Connect, Collaborate, Create (C3), Louisville, KY, September 23, 2011.

SoCS Computational Models and Techniques: A Case Study

I spoke today at the NSF Workshop on Social-Computational Systems (SoCS) on Mike Pazzani‘s Computational Models and Techniques panel with Tuomas Sandholm, Lise Getoor, and Tina Eliassi. We were asked to address the questions of what computation can teach us about socially intelligent systems, and what problems are encountered when applying existing technologies to such systems.

I focused on two key SoCS challenges : impedance mismatch, and research-at-scale. Let me explain.

What can computation teach us about SoCS? If we begin with technology, we’ll encounter the key challenge of “impedance mismatch” between people and technology. The technology, however good, may not address people’s needs. Instead, let’s reverse the question: What do socially intelligent systems teach us about computational technology?

Consider, as a case study, the problem of education: building a SoCS system to help students learn. Our first pass was a collaborative learning site with a state-of-the-art collaboration platform, a kind of “Google Docs meets WebEx meets Etherpad meets Skype on steroids”. While the site was useful, we learned that students didn’t use most of the features we had built. The issue was impedance mismatch: the technology did not address education problems from a student perspective.

What, then, are these problems? There are two: Access (scale) and engagement. To tackle the impedance mismatch, we need to design technology that provides the right affordances (in the Gibsonian sense) for student behaviors that address those problems.

We created a vision for Open Social Learning that blends, not Google Docs and WebEx, but Facebook and World of Warcraft. With funding from NSF, NIH, GRA, and Gates/Hewlett NextGenLC, and partnerships with MIT, Yale, NYU, and many others, we rethought the site from Education to SoCS to Learning Theories to Design Principles to Affordances to Architecture to User Experience (UX) to Mechanisms. (See slides and references below.) This process resulted in a fundamentally disruptive idea, one driven not by technology but by the SoCS it was to support.

Only then did it make sense to think about Computation: really real-time collaboration technologies for a highly interactive experience; intelligent recommender systems to help learners connect with relevant content and other learners; mining and analytics to assess learner outcomes; and reputation techniques to establish social capital.

The new OpenStudy.com is an Open Peer-to-Peer Social Learning Community, a place that matches learners studying the same things into live “massively multiplayer study sessions“. The problems of access (scale) and engagement are addressed through two mechanisms: A Luis von Ahn approach where the social community scales itself, and a kind of gamification in which everyone is on the same team.

Great idea—but how do we know it works? The education literature is full of great ideas that don’t work in practice. SoCS data research involves studying large-scale communities; the same applies to SoCS technology design. This is the research-at-scale challenge. Laboratory studies don’t prove much; the research fundamentally requires scale.

After 9 months, OpenStudy has grown into a vibrant community that both provides value to its users and serves as a “living lab” to study and validate the ideas. We’re continuing to research how new technologies can be combined to address the problem of education in a manner that is highly scalable yet interactive and engaging.

To understand what socially intelligent systems teach us about computation, then, requires a new methodology comprised of old ideas about design thinking brought into the new world of Social-Computational Systems at a massive scale.

READINGS

P Adams (2009). Designing for Social Interactions.

Terry Anderson (2007). Distance Learning: Social Software’s Killer App?

J Daniel (1996), cited in JS Brown (2007). Minds on Fire: Open Education, The Long Tail, and Learning 2.0.

RA DeMillo (2011). Abelard to Apple: The Fate of American Colleges and Universities in the Twenty-First Century.

R Friedrich, M Peterson, A Koster (2011). The Rise of Generation C.

Gates Foundation study: JM Bridgeland, JJ Dilulio Jr, KB Morrison (2006), The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts.

D Thomas & JS Brown (2011). A New Culture of Learning.

More readings at: Massively Multiplayer Online—Learning?

SLIDES

Open Social Learning Communities

With the advent of open education resources, social networking technologies and new pedagogies for online and blended learning, we are in the early stages of a significant disruption in current models of education. The disruption is fueled by a staggering growth in demand. It is estimated that there will be 100 million students qualified to enter universities over the next decade. To educate them, a major university would need to be created every week.

Universities have responded to this need with Open Education Resources—thousands of free, high quality courses, developed by hundreds of faculty, used by millions worldwide. Unfortunately, online courseware does not offer a supporting learning experience or the engagement needed to keep students motivated. Students read less when using e-textbooks; video lectures are boring; and retention and course completion rates are low.

Therein lies the core problem: How to engage a generation of learners who live on the Internet yet tune out of school, who seek interaction on Facebook yet find none on iTunes U, who need community yet are only offered content. We propose a new approach to this problem: open social learning communities, anchored with open content, providing an interactive online study group experience akin to sitting with study buddies on a world-wide campus quad.

This solution is enabled by state-of-the-art web technologies: really real-time collaboration technologies for a highly interactive experience; intelligent recommender systems to help learners connect with relevant content and other learners; mining and analytics to assess learner outcomes; and reputation techniques to establish social capital.  We will discuss these technologies and how they can be combined to address the problem of education in a manner that is highly scalable yet interactive and engaging.

This approach can be used for other types of learning communities. We will show an application to healthcare information access to help consumers learn about their healthcare questions and needs.

Keynote talk at SIPA Conference: Entrepreneurship—Idea Wave 3.0, Mountain View, CA, November 12, 2011.
 
Keynote talk at the International Conference on Web Intelligence, Mining and Semantics (WIMS-11), Sogndal, Norway, May 27, 2011.
 

View the talk:

videolectures.net/wims2011_ram_learning

Read the paper:

www.cc.gatech.edu/faculty/ashwin/papers/er-11-04.pdf

View the slides:

 

 
 

CBArch: A Case-Based Reasoning Framework for Conceptual Design of Commercial Buildings

The paper describes the first phase of development of a Case-Base Reasoning (CBR) system to support early conceptual design of buildings. As specific context of application, the research focuses on energy performance of commercial buildings, and the early identification of energy-related features that contribute to its outcomes. The hypothesis is that bringing knowledge from relevant precedents may facilitate this identification process, thus offering a significant contribution for early analysis and decision-making.

The paper introduces a proof-of-concept for such a system, proposing a novel integration of Case-Based Reasoning, Parametric Modeling (Building Information Modeling), and Ontology Classification. While CBR provides a framework to store and retrieve cases at an instance level, Parametric Modeling offers a framework for rule-based geometric adaptation and evaluation. The ontology is intended to provide a semantic representation, so that new design concepts can be created, classified and retained for further reuse. Potential advantages and limitations of this three-level integration approach are discussed along with recommendations for future development.

CBArch: A Case-Based Reasoning Framework for Conceptual Design of Commercial Buildings

by Andrés Cavieres, Urjit Bhatia, Preetam Joshi, Fei Zhao, Ashwin Ram

AAAI-11 Spring Symposium on Artificial Intelligence and Sustainable Design
www.cc.gatech.edu/faculty/ashwin/papers/er-11-07.pdf

Make the World your Study Group

CNN Chalk Talk: A new website called OpenStudy allows students to share resources and learn with one another from all over the world.

Click the image to watch the video (3 min.)

Read the transcript: CNN Chalk Talk, October 1, 2010

T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Well, coming up, calling all college students. There’s now a group online that allows you to study in a unique way. You can get help from across the globe. You don’t even need a passport.

(BREAK)

HOLMES: Well, we turn to “Chalk Talk” today, now.

We are checking out a new study group that’s geared toward helping college students succeed. It’s an online study group called OpenStudy, and it’s linking students from around the world, helping them pass some tough courses.

Joining me now is Ashwin Ram. He’s the director of Georgia Tech’s Cognitive Computing Lab, one of the founders of OpenStudy.

Sir, thank you for being here.

OpenStudy, this is a worldwide study group. Do I kind of have that right?

ASHWIN RAM, DIRECTOR, GEORGIA TECH’S COGNITIVE COMPUTING LAB: That’s right. Open Study is a match.com for studying. It’s a social learning network that enables students to connect and study together, and get help when they need it.

HOLMES: Now, you said you’ve all been thinking about this for a while, for the past couple of years. What were you trying to work out, make sure there was a market for it, or is there some complicated technology you had to work out as well?

RAM: It was actually both. We wanted to get the value proposition right for students. We spent a lot of time researching the core need that students have, and that resulted in OpenStudy.

HOLMES: What did you determine was that core need? What did you find that students out there needed?

RAM: So, students all over the world are hitting their textbooks late at night cramming for exams. Maybe they’re working on review problems, watching video lectures on iTunes or MIT.

When these students need help, who can they turn to? The core need was to be able to find someone who can help them and give them help right there, right then, no matter what time they needed that help.

HOLMES: All right. And this is, again, supposed to link students with students. Essentially a study group like at the library.

RAM: It’s a worldwide study group. Our mantra is “We want to make the entire world your study group.” So there’s always someone who can help you.

HOLMES: How does this thing work? It looks like a social network page almost here.

RAM: It does. So let’s say that you are a student, and you’re one of 10,000 students studying computer science on MIT’s web site. And you’re working on video lectures or problem sets, and you have a question.

HOLMES: OK.

RAM: What do you do? You join a study group. When you do that, you get dropped into the MIT OpenStudy Group.

As you can see, we have over 2,200 people out there. Think of them as your classmates that can help you any time you want.

I noticed that we’ve just had someone join us from Kenya.

HOLMES: Oh, wow.

RAM: We actually have students from 138 countries from around the world. That’s 71 percent of the world’s countries.

HOLMES: Now, does this cost the kids anything to sign up for?

RAM: No, it’s completely free.

HOLMES: I’ll be danged. So you can pretty much — as well, you’re talking about kids up all hours of the night. No matter — somewhere in the world somebody is going to be up, somebody’s going to be logged on, somebody’s going to be studying.

RAM: Someone will always help you. And so if you have — you can go in and help somebody, but if you have a question, or you want to just study together with someone, you click on “Ask a Question,” type some question in that you want help with, and say, “Ask Now.”

The question is posted. Everything updates in real time. And you go back to the site, and then someone will be available to start answering you.

HOLMES: Will start answering you.

All right. Are you ready for growth? Because this might catch on. Are you ready for what might come?

RAM: We are ready for growth.

HOLMES: OK.

RAM: We’ve had remarkable growth already. We’ve only been live two weeks. We have over 6,000 people already using the site.

HOLMES: All right. This is going to be the next Facebook, 500 million. Come back when you get 500 million members in there. All right?

RAM: Thank you.

HOLMES: All right.

Ashwin Ram from Georgia Tech.

Thank you so much. Cool concept.

RAM: Thank you. It was a pleasure.

OpenStudying the Classics

I recently met Dr. Diana E. E. Kleiner, a distinguished professor at my alma mater and director of the Open Yale Courses initiative. We were talking about “OpenStudying the Classics”—to my knowledge, the first use of “OpenStudy” as a verb.[1] This made me think—what does it mean to “OpenStudy” something?

Some background first. In collaboration with Dean Preetha Ram of Emory University, our former student Chris Sprague from Georgia Tech’s HCI program, and experienced internet entrepreneur Phil Hill, and with funding from the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Georgia Research Alliance, I’ve been working on a system called OpenStudy[2] which embodies a new way of studying. In the new millennial world of social networking, where social graphs have no geographical boundaries, professional networks are world wide, and entertainment streams from the far corners of the globe into the palm of your hand, it has always seemed odd to me that education is bounded by school walls, class interactions are limited to one teacher and a few dozen students who happened to register at the same time as you, and studying is largely a solitary activity circumscribed by so-called “collaboration policies” that typically require students to learn alone. Even “open learning” initiatives offer little more than a solitary experience watching instructional videos in your home, albeit from world famous experts.

OpenStudy, in contrast, whole-heartedly embraces the idea of “social learning”. The world is your study group, we claim. Connect with others studying the same things you are. Give and get help. The world learns as one.

But what is the “OpenStudy experience”? What will it mean, as Prof. Kleiner wonders, to “OpenStudy the Classics”? I don’t have the final answer (sic) but I do want to share my observations from a pilot with MIT OpenCourseware (OCW). For the past month, learners in three OCW courses have been given an option to “Join a study group”.[3] OCW reports their study groups are growing at a “blistering pace”—by our metrics, by about 10% a day. Learners are demanding more OpenStudy groups; if we don’t respond quickly, they create their own. What’s going on?

It’s too early for hard metrics, but permit me to share some anecdotes. MIT pilot courses include Intro CS, Calculus, and Chinese, and there are certainly interesting interactions around those topics.[4] But users are also exploring other interests. For example, there’s an active conversation about Greek Classics. What’s interesting are the participants:

  • a classics librarian at an exclusive four-year college in New England
  • a young woman considering a PhD in social sciences
  • an international student at a community college student in Georgia
  • a professor from the MIT Physics group
  • someone studying Chinese
  • a mid-career Math/CS geek from Michigan

These people did not know each other prior to their OpenStudy encounter. OpenStudy is described as the Match.com for studying together[5]—if so, this certainly seems to be working. A student from Peru came online recently, introduced himself, and apologized for his poor English. A student in the US responded in Spanish, and they struck up a conversation around their mutual study interests. Then a user from Mexico City jumped into the conversation, and off they went studying together with two users from Costa Rica. This is the new world of OpenStudying—social learning without geographical boundaries.

A homeschooled teenager recently joined OpenStudy and said “I’m new. How do you OpenStudy?” 15 minutes later, she had connected with students in an all-girls private school. She initiated a discussion on World Religions which, less than a day later, has nearly 20 participants. Half of them have contributed and half are listening. A Hindu undergraduate from India, an Orthodox Jew from Texas, and a Muslim student from Turkey are talking about what “real” Islam is like. A teenager who can’t drive, doesn’t go to school, and does not have traditional teachers or schoolmates has answered her own question. This is how you OpenStudy. You study with the world.

Every educator knows the challenge of keeping students engaged. Studying together not only improves learning, it is a lot more fun. One of the users recently emailed us saying: “Personally, I’ve come further in my development as a programmer in the month of being on OpenStudy than the previous few years struggling on my own. Being able to see how other people approach problems and considering their questions is absolutely wonderful.” A GSU professor says she is seeing 400% increase in student engagement in her required lower-division biology class due to OS.

So this, Prof. Kleiner, is how we will be able to “OpenStudy the Classics”. Students connecting with students studying the same things they are. I call it “massively multiplayer online learning[6], a wordplay on the MMO experience we’re seeing in the gaming world. Here it has value beyond entertainment; the diversity adds to the richness of the online study group, the globalness broadens access beyond elite institutional walls, the interactivity engages today’s millennials in—of all things—study.

On average, we’re seeing 5.3 participants per “studypad” (a real-time interaction tool that facilitates conversation, discussion, or simply question answering). About 30% of the interactions occur synchronously in real time. This is quite different from a typical question site, where you post a question and wait—an hour? a day? who knows when someone might answer. OpenStudying is like a conversation in a university library or the local Starbucks, instant real-time interaction with peers—except that these peers might be halfway around the globe. The world is, after all, your social network, your professional rolodex, and, now, your study group.

Ashwin Ram
September 15, 2010

If you’ve OpenStudied and would like to share your experience, I’d love to hear about it. Please add a comment below.


[1] I’ve always been interested in the origins of words, especially new ones. Who coined the term “WebLog”, and who first shortened it to “blog? Who first used “Google” as a verb? In this day and age, surely there must be a record somewhere. To this end and with her permission, I’d like to credit Prof. Diana Kleiner with the first use of “OpenStudy” as a verb.

[2] OpenStudy is free and publicly available at OpenStudy.com, a for-profit spinoff from Georgia Tech and Emory University created via the university’s commercialization program. Our objective is to create not just an interesting research project but a sustainable product that will make a difference to thousands of learners everywhere. To accomplish this, we need to grapple with the realities of business models, lest our project die the way countless other good ideas do when their research funding runs out.

[3] Update: MIT OCW has expanded its program to several more courses: web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2010/ocw-openstudy.html

[4] Click “Join a Study Group” on the course page to see the corresponding study group.

[5] See Marc Parry’s article in The Chronicle’s Wired Campus, Start-Up Aspires to Make the World ‘One Big Study Group’, September 8, 2010: wiredcampus.chronicle.com/blogPost/Start-Up-Aspires-to-Make-the/26780

[6] My talk at the Knowledge Futures: Disrupting the University forum at Emory University, entitled Massively Multiplayer Online—Learning? aka Are social networks disrupting models of education? cognitivecomputing.wordpress.com/2010/04/26/massively-multiplayer-online—learning/