MIT Technology and Policy Program
Jisoo Hong
TPP student Jisoo Hong

Can the data speak for itself?
March 21, 2022

Jisoo Hong’s (TPP ’23) research on language and scientific controversy brings together linguistic anthropology and machine learning. Hong’s research is supported by the Technology and Policy Program Richard L. de Neufville Fund.

What is the focus of your research? What sort of knowledge and disciplines does it bring together? How can it make an impact?

My research is focused on how language shapes perceptions of evidence in scientific controversy. I work with Professor Graham M. Jones in the Language and Technology Lab on sociolinguistic and computational techniques that take a more expansive view of how the credibility of information is negotiated in online spaces like Twitter. This carries social and cultural implications for how truth and reality are constructed in the public sphere, especially within volatile information ecologies on social media. So far, this work has involved an exciting amalgamation of linguistic anthropology and machine learning methods, and I’ve personally found the task of learning to translate between these two fields to be an energizing and generative one.

Why did you choose to come to TPP?

I came to TPP after a couple years of working as a software engineer in industry because I wanted to develop a more humanistic understanding of data science and machine learning. Like many others, I was concerned about the unchecked pervasiveness of AI and datafication and the asymmetric consequences of these technologies for majority and minority groups. I wanted a new vocabulary and analytical toolkit to study and critically resist these issues. I’d done my undergrad at MIT in the EECS department, so that was where I began my search for graduate programs – and then I came across TPP. The more I looked into the program, the more it seemed like a good fit. In particular, I was drawn to the commitment to interdisciplinary work and the flexibility to shape our own TPP experience – something I’ve come to really treasure. The opportunity to pursue cross-cutting research and learn from linguistic anthropologists, historians of tech, and computer scientists alike has been super edifying and has opened up new avenues of thinking and asking questions that I know I’ll carry with me after I graduate.

What are some favorite things about the MIT and TPP communities?

It’s of course the people. It’s exciting to be part of a community with such a strong culture of building and imagining new paths forward.


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