I had a chance to present the SOCIAL CDT to the students of The Data Lab involved in a Master Program in Data Science. It was a good opportunity to learn what PhD applicants worry about:
The proposal: most students do not feel comfortable in writing a PhD proposal (not surprisingly because it is something they never did before);
The skills: there is uncertainty about the skills to be developed in order to obtain a scholarship;
Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: there are questions about possible biases in the recruitment processes.
In all cases, the best solution is to get in contact with possible supervisors. In most cases, academics are happy to answer the questions of prospective candidates and to show that applying for a PhD is not such a major challenge. The proposal is typically written in collaboration with a potential supervisor (no need to do all the work alone), the only necessary skill is openness to learn (a PhD is about acquiring new skills and not about using previously acquired skills) and all Universities are equal opportunity employers. So, if you really think PhD is what you want to do, just contact academics you like to work with and involve them in your application process!
I had the great opportunity to participate in a roundtable on data science organised by Prof Bridgette Wessels (University of Glasgow) and Prof Lesley McCara (University of Edinburgh) in the framework of SHAPE (Social Sciences, Humanities and the Art for People and the Economy). The goal of the event was to initiate a discussion about the use of data in nowadays world that included not only technological considerations (as it typically happens), but also contributions from social and human sciences. One of the main points made during the roundtable was that we need to educate data scientists to take into account ethics and Responsible Research Innovation in their work, a major challenge in an education system that tends to be highly specialistic.
The event was organised, among others, by Heysem Kaya at the University of Utrecht and it addressed the development of interactive technologies for children. My keynote focused on detection and analysis of attachment in school-age children, a topic I addressed extensively in the last years. Another keynote was given by Sibel Halfon of Istanbul Bilgi University and covered the psychological aspects of children development. Overall, children appear to be users that need specific design attention when developing technology and cannot be considered through the same lens as adult users.
We received a large number of high quality submissions and we selected 8 articles covering all aspects of Multimodal Interaction, from the analysis of human behaviour, to social robotics, Human Computer Interaction and cognitive ergonomics. All participants did a great job in sharing their results and plans towards the completion of their PhD. All of this with the help of several tutors that added significant value to the event (Sean Andrist, Anna Esposito, Mohamed Khamis, Simone Stumpf, Marynel Vazquez) by sharing their insight and experience about the work of the participants. The event included a final panel aimed at discussing different aspects of a research career.
I am very happy to participate in Book Week Scotland, the event organised by the Scottish Book Trust that involves readers and public libraries. I have been asked to prepare a short video about Artificial Intelligence that I entitled “AI: past, present and future”, where I have tried to explain what Artificial Intelligence is through a brief history of the domain.
The details of the initiative are available at the following link:
With my great pleasure, I have built the content of the video upon a few books that I have read in the last years and that have helped me to shape my very own ideas about AI and its development. I am looking forward to receive questions and comments from the audience, hoping that the video will one of help for the organisers of this important event.
The tutorial on Social AI organised in collaboration with Monika Harvey and Stacy Marsella has been a great success. Despite being held on a Saturday afternoon, the tutorial was attended by 50 persons that have participated with great questions and comments. The website of the tutorial is here:
The three presentations have covered the approaches aimed at the three main dimensions of a socially intelligent artificial agent, namely perception, cognition and action. The tutorial was organised in conjunction with Intelligent Virtual Agents, one of the main conferences on the synthesis of human behaviour.
We have published another paper about depression for Cognitive Computation:
N.Aloshban, A.Esposito and A.Vinciarelli, “What You Say Or How You Say It? Depression Detection Through Joint Modelling of Linguistic and Acoustic Aspects of Speech“, accepted for publication by Cognitive Computation, to appear 2020.
The key-point of the paper is that depression and control participants tend to. manifest their condition in different ways. In particular, while depressed individuals tend to show their pathology through nonverbal behaviour (how they speak), control ones tend to do it through their lexical choices (what they say). To the best of our knowledge, this is the first time that such an observation has been made in the literature.
Together with researchers (Prof David Bodoff from Haifa University) and entrepreneurs (Olivia Gambelin from Ethical AI and Chuan Hiang from Interaktiv) we have discussed the role of ethics in AI. After our presentations, we had the great opportunity to participate in a radio show on Money FM with the moderation of Rachel Kelly. A recording of the event is available at the link above.
I have introduced the general aspects of Social Signal Processing and Social AI, in particular when it comes to the analysis of nonverbal behaviour in human-human and human-machine interactions. I have used the analysis of conflict as a particular example of how AI-driven technologies can be used to understand social and psychological phenomena. The lecture was attended by roughly 300 people.
Both articles revolve around mental health issues and, in particular, around the possibility to infer the mental conditions of people from their observable behaviour. In the case of depression, the approach takes into account what people say and how they say it. The focus is on the possibility to detect depression using only a few seconds of speech, something that it is important because depressed people find it difficult to speak for long time. In the case of attachment, the proposed approach analyses the way children use an interactive system and the results show that secure children tend to better interact with the design of the system, in line with the expectations of Attachment Theory.
It is a great pleasure to say that the publications have been obtained with the help of one of my most senior PhD students (Nujud Aloshban) and an experienced postdoctoral researchers with whom I have been collaborating for 5 years.