Models and Methods for Dissemination of Information and Knowledge Online

  • In the past, information and knowledge dissemination was relegated to the brick-and-mortar classrooms, newspapers, radio, and television. As these processes were simple and centralized, the models behind them were well understood and so were the empirical methods for optimizing them. In today’s world, the internet and social media has become a powerful tool for information and knowledge dissemination: Wikipedia gets more than 1 million edits per day, Stack Overflow has more than 17 million questions, 25% of US population visits Yahoo! News for articles and discussions, Twitter has more than 60 million active monthly users, and Duolingo has 25 million users learning languages online. These developments have introduced a paradigm shift in the process of dissemination. Not only has the nature of the task moved from being centralized to decentralized, but the developments have also blurred the boundary between the creator and the consumer of the content, i.e., information and knowledge. These changes have made it necessary to develop new models, which are better suited to understanding and analysing the dissemination, and to develop new methods to optimize them. At a broad level, we can view the participation of users in the process of dissemination as falling in one of two settings: collaborative or competitive. In the collaborative setting, the participants work together in crafting knowledge online, e.g., by asking questions and contributing answers, or by discussing news or opinion pieces. In contrast, as competitors, they vie for the attention of their followers on social media. This thesis investigates both these settings. The first part of the thesis focuses on the understanding and analysis of content being created online collaboratively. To this end, I propose models for understanding the complexity of the content of collaborative online discussions by looking exclusively at the signals of agreement and disagreement expressed by the crowd. This leads to a formal notion of complexity of opinions and online discussions. Next, I turn my attention to the participants of the crowd, i.e., the creators and consumers themselves, and propose an intuitive model for both, the evolution of their expertise and the value of the content they collaboratively contribute and learn from on online Q&A based forums. The second part of the thesis explores the competitive setting. It provides methods to help the creators gain more attention from their followers on social media. In particular, I consider the problem of controlling the timing of the posts of users with the aim of maximizing the attention that their posts receive under the idealized setting of full-knowledge of timing of posts of others. To solve it, I develop a general reinforcement learning based method which is shown to have good performance on the when-to-post problem and which can be employed in many other settings as well, e.g., determining the reviewing times for spaced repetition which lead to optimal learning. The last part of the thesis looks at methods for relaxing the idealized assumption of full knowledge. This basic question of determining the visibility of one’s posts on the followers’ feeds becomes difficult to answer on the internet when constantly observing the feeds of all the followers becomes unscalable. I explore the links of this problem to the well-studied problem of web-crawling to update a search engine’s index and provide algorithms with performance guarantees for feed observation policies which minimize the error in the estimate of visibility of one’s posts.

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Author:Utkarsh UpadhyayORCiD
Advisor:Manuel Gomez RodriguezORCiD
Document Type:Doctoral Thesis
Language of publication:English
Publication Date:2022/01/10
Year of Publication:2021
Publishing Institute:Technische Universität Kaiserslautern
Granting Institute:Technische Universität Kaiserslautern
Acceptance Date of the Thesis:2021/12/01
Date of the Publication (Server):2022/01/11
Number of page:104
Faculties / Organisational entities:Kaiserslautern - Fachbereich Informatik
CCS-Classification (computer science):J. Computer Applications
DDC-Cassification:5 Naturwissenschaften und Mathematik / 500 Naturwissenschaften
MSC-Classification (mathematics):68-XX COMPUTER SCIENCE (For papers involving machine computations and programs in a specific mathematical area, see Section {04 in that areag 68-00 General reference works (handbooks, dictionaries, bibliographies, etc.) / 68Txx Artificial intelligence / 68T01 General
Licence (German):Creative Commons 4.0 - Namensnennung, nicht kommerziell, keine Bearbeitung (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)