STAI CDT PhD student, Luke Thorburn (2021 cohort) presented a working paper at the inaugural Plurality Research Network Conference, held at UC Berkeley from 13-15 January 2023.
Luke, alongside his Harvard collaborator, Aviv Ovadya, have been working on what they call ‘bridging systems’ — systems for allocating our attention in ways that increase mutual understanding and trust across divides, and create space for productive conflict, deliberation, or cooperation.
Luke explains that “recommender systems on social media are an example of systems which could be designed to be more bridging. But there are many other interdisciplinary examples, from civic forums such as Polis, to offline, human-facilitated deliberation”.
The aim of Luke and Aviv’s working paper is to provide a general framework for thinking about bridging systems across the many contexts in which they can be found, and to list the many open research problems that need attention.
Luke found the conference really valuable. He said it has, “resulted in lots of valuable feedback on the paper, and opened up opportunities for collaboration with platforms and academics in other institutions”. In addition to presenting their work, Luke and Aviv pitched for further funding and were voted by conference participants to be the highest priority project for funding.
Luke and Aviv have accepted to develop the working paper further as part of a symposium on “Algorithmic Amplification and Society” at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, to be held in late April.
Excitingly, Luke’s work has been featured in the Washington Post and you can read more about it too in this King’s College London news piece.
Luke’s work on ‘bridging systems’ is supported by his supervisors, Maria Polukarov and Carmine Ventre.