RESEARCH COLLOQUIUM ON COMPUTATIONAL SOCIAL SCIENCE/DATA SCIENCES – Neil Johnson – Slaying the Online Hydra of Hate, Distrust and anti-Science

October 11, 2019 @ 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Karen Underwood

Research Colloquium on Computational Social Science/Data Science

Neil Johnson
Professor of Physics
George Washington University

Slaying the Online Hydra of Hate, Distrust and anti-Science

Friday, October 11, 2019 3:00 p.m.
Center for Social Complexity Suite, 3rd Floor Research Hall

All are welcome to attend.

Hate and distrust are thriving on the Internet [1]. In addition to the political world, medicine and science are also under attack. Social media platforms such as Facebook have access to state-of-the-art software tools, yet appear unable to keep it under control. In this talk, I discuss why this might be using a simple theory of the functional properties of networks-of-networks. I also show how the ’sociophysics’ of heterogeneous objects offers a fresh understanding of such systems as interacting gels in a multi-dimensional space. I then discuss how this analysis is connected to the unexpected surge in online pro-ISIS support that arose several years ago [2].

[1] N.F. Johnson et al., Hidden resilience and adaptive dynamics of the global online hate ecology, Nature, Sept. 12, 2019
[2] N.F. Johnson et al., New online ecology of adversarial aggregates: ISIS and beyond, Science 352, 1459 (2016)

Neil Johnson is a professor of physics at GW and heads up a new initiative in Complexity and Data Science which combines cross-disciplinary fundamental research with data science to attack complex real-world problems. He is a core member of GW’s new Knight Foundation-funded Institute for Data, Democracy and Politics. His research interests lie in the broad area of Complex Systems and ‘many-body’ out-of-equilibrium systems of collections of objects, ranging from crowds of particles to crowds of people and from environments as distinct as quantum information processing in nanostructures through to the online world of collective behavior on social media. He is a Fellow of the American Physical Society (APS) and is the recipient of the 2018 Burton Award from the APS. He received his BA/MA from St. John’s College, Cambridge, University of Cambridge and his Ph.D. as a Kennedy Scholar from Harvard University. He was a Research Fellow at the University of Cambridge, and later a Professor of Physics at the University of Oxford until 2007, having joined the faculty in 1992. Following a period as Professor of Physics at the University of Miami, he was appointed Professor of Physics at George Washington University in 2018. He presented the Royal Institution Christmas Lectures “Arrows of Time” on BBC TV in 1999. He co-founded and co-directed CABDyN (Complex Agent-Based Dynamical Systems) which is Oxford University’s interdisciplinary research center in Complexity Science, and an Oxford University interdisciplinary research center in financial complexity (OCCF).