Columbia School of Social Work Assistant Professor Desmond U. Patton has been named as a 2017–18 fellow at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

Researchers at the Berkman Klein Center study the development of cyberspace and the ways in which digital technologies can benefit society. During his fellowship, Dr. Patton will develop manuscripts that examine the link between social media communication, grief, trauma, and gang violence among youth in Chicago.

At Columbia, Dr. Patton is collaborating with Gertrude Rothschild Professor of Computer Science Kathleen McKeown on a groundbreaking study of the ways in which social media activity can serve as a predictor of gang violence. Based on the observation that real-world acts of violence are often preceded by expressions of aggression or distress on social media, Drs. Patton and McKeown are developing a computational model that combs through social media posts and auto-predicts potentially violent outcomes. Their efforts are currently focused on Chicago, but they hope their model will be replicable for other cities. Drs. Patton and McKeown recently received a half a million dollar grant from the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) to compare gang recruitment with ISIS recruitment on social media.

Dr. Patton’s work is one of a few CSSW projects selected for Columbia University’s first-ever crowd-funding campaigns. At Columbia, he is Director of the SAFE Lab at the School of Social Work, a research initiative focused on examining the ways in which youth of color navigate violence on and offline.

Photo credit: Harvard, by Angela N. via Flickr (CC BY 2.0).


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