Notre Dame Researchers Using Smart Devices to Measure Emotionality of Offline Communication

Author: William G. Gilroy

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A team of researchers from the University of Notre Dame and Texas A&M University are developing an innovative system using smart devices to measure the emotionality of offline communications.

The interdisciplinary effort is designed to examine whether the increasing prevalence of online interactions may be inhibiting the development of strong, reciprocal, and emotionally significant offline social ties.

Notre Dame sociologists David Hachen and Omar Lizardo, computer scientist and engineer Aaron Striegel, and educational psychologist Jeffrey Liew of Texas A&M will develop a system that uses smart devices to detect speech traits that indicate various emotional states and provides data on offline emotionality. The data are needed to understand changing social networks.

Sociologists David Hachen and Omar Lizardo Sociologists David Hachen and Omar Lizardo

The researchers are developing this system with privacy concerns in mind. They will not be capturing and recording the content of conversations, but simply detecting in conversations traits that measure emotional valiance.

They are hoping to measure emotional interactions and determine if people are angry, happy, etc., and if people express these emotions differently online versus offline.

The research is funded by the National Academies Keck Futures Initiative (NAFKI) and is an outgrowth of Hachen, Striegel, and Liew’s invitation from NAFKI to attend a working conference, The Informed Brain in a Digital World, in which they discussed the ways in which the Internet is positively and negatively affecting social behavior. Both a video presentation and a synopsis of those discussions are available online at the NAFKI website.

NAFKI, founded in 2003 by the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and Institute of Medicine, holds annual working conference on special topics, invites experts to attend, and funds innovative projects.

The research is also supported by Notre Dame’s Interdisciplinary Center for Network Science and Applications (iCeNSA) and the University’s Wireless Institute.

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