Deb Roy

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Pioneering Expert on Using Media Analytics to Drive Audience Engagement and Create Social Impact; Director, MIT Laboratory for Social Machines and the Center for Constructive Communication; Visiting Professor, Harvard Law School; Former Chief Media Scientist for Twitter; Co-Founder and Chairman, Cortico

Biography

What if social media and related analytics could be leveraged in a way that unites, protects and creates a healthier society, economy and bottom line?

Over the last decade, Deb Roy – the director of the MIT Laboratory for Social Machines, the newly appointed director of the interdisciplinary Center for Constructive Communication and a visiting professor at Harvard Law School – has been showing organizations how to analyze, map and shift the direction of online activity so they can significantly drive growth while positively impacting society.

We have all seen how social media can be used to disparage brand reputations, divide people, and enable predatory practices and behaviors. By employing and interpreting data embedded in online conversations, without infringing on user privacy, Roy helps organizations in every sector avoid the worst effects of social media while identifying, reaching and better serving target audiences at scale.

“As our world becomes increasingly instrumented and we have the capabilities to collect and connect the dots between what people are saying and the content they are saying it in, what’s emerging is an ability to see new social structures and dynamics,” said Roy in his popular 2011 Ted Talk, which has almost 3 million views. “It’s like building a telescope or microscope and revealing new structures around our own behavior and communication. The implications are profound for science, commerce, governments and individuals.”

After years of conducting deep research into language and how we learn, Roy began teaching machines and robots how to communicate in human-like ways. This led to his unique understanding of machine language processing and his pioneering work mapping out online “wordscapes” to create content graphs and link structures that draw clear pictures of digital conversations, allowing marketers to better engineer campaigns.

In addition to his leadership roles at MIT, Roy is founder and chairman of Cortico, a nonprofit that develops media technologies and services focused on improving the health of public discourse. He is particularly interested in using data for social impact. His notable work in this area includes a collaboration with former U.S. Assistant Surgeon General Susan Blumenthal to ensure COVID-19 public health information was widely received, particularly by people in marginalized and remote areas. The analytics-driven campaign executed by Roy and his team resulted in over 650 million online impressions.

Recently named to the Aspen Institute Commission on Information Disorder, Roy’s other areas of expertise include identifying and de-polarizing online tribes and tracking and counteracting false news. In addition, he is currently working with the team at Cortico to build out the “Local Voices Network” (LVN), a platform dedicated to facilitating dialogue across differences and areas of conflict.

In a world governed by analytics, data and social media, Roy’s ability to understand and engage audiences is unmatched and his expertise is of immense value to organizations in every sector.

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Deb Roy is a Professor at MIT where he directs the Laboratory for Social Machines based at the Media Lab. His lab explores new methods in social media and media analytics (natural language processing, social network analysis, semantic modeling) and media design (information visualization, communication tools for social influencers and publishers, communication platforms for communities) with applications in health, education, and marketing.

Roy has authored more than 150 academic papers and his popular TED talk Birth of a Word showcases his research into his son’s language development, which led to new ideas in media analytics. He served as Twitter’s Chief Media Scientist from 2013 to 2017. In 2008, he co-founded and served as CEO of Bluefin Labs, a social TV analytics company which was later acquired by Twitter. MIT Technology Review named Bluefin one of the 50 most innovative companies of 2012. 

A native of Canada, Roy received a Bachelor of Applied Science (computer engineering) from the University of Waterloo and a PhD in media arts and sciences from MIT.

Deb Roy is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers & Advisors, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

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Roy, Deb

Biography

What if social media and related analytics could be leveraged in a way that unites, protects and creates a healthier society, economy and bottom line?

Over the last decade, Deb Roy – the director of the MIT Laboratory for Social Machines, the newly appointed director of the interdisciplinary Center for Constructive Communication and a visiting professor at Harvard Law School – has been showing organizations how to analyze, map and shift the direction of online activity so they can significantly drive growth while positively impacting society.

We have all seen how social media can be used to disparage brand reputations, divide people, and enable predatory practices and behaviors. By employing and interpreting data embedded in online conversations, without infringing on user privacy, Roy helps organizations in every sector avoid the worst effects of social media while identifying, reaching and better serving target audiences at scale.

“As our world becomes increasingly instrumented and we have the capabilities to collect and connect the dots between what people are saying and the content they are saying it in, what’s emerging is an ability to see new social structures and dynamics,” said Roy in his popular 2011 Ted Talk, which has almost 3 million views. “It’s like building a telescope or microscope and revealing new structures around our own behavior and communication. The implications are profound for science, commerce, governments and individuals.”

After years of conducting deep research into language and how we learn, Roy began teaching machines and robots how to communicate in human-like ways. This led to his unique understanding of machine language processing and his pioneering work mapping out online “wordscapes” to create content graphs and link structures that draw clear pictures of digital conversations, allowing marketers to better engineer campaigns.

In addition to his leadership roles at MIT, Roy is founder and chairman of Cortico, a nonprofit that develops media technologies and services focused on improving the health of public discourse. He is particularly interested in using data for social impact. His notable work in this area includes a collaboration with former U.S. Assistant Surgeon General Susan Blumenthal to ensure COVID-19 public health information was widely received, particularly by people in marginalized and remote areas. The analytics-driven campaign executed by Roy and his team resulted in over 650 million online impressions.

Recently named to the Aspen Institute Commission on Information Disorder, Roy’s other areas of expertise include identifying and de-polarizing online tribes and tracking and counteracting false news. In addition, he is currently working with the team at Cortico to build out the “Local Voices Network” (LVN), a platform dedicated to facilitating dialogue across differences and areas of conflict.

In a world governed by analytics, data and social media, Roy’s ability to understand and engage audiences is unmatched and his expertise is of immense value to organizations in every sector.

# # #

Deb Roy is a Professor at MIT where he directs the Laboratory for Social Machines based at the Media Lab. His lab explores new methods in social media and media analytics (natural language processing, social network analysis, semantic modeling) and media design (information visualization, communication tools for social influencers and publishers, communication platforms for communities) with applications in health, education, and marketing.

Roy has authored more than 150 academic papers and his popular TED talk Birth of a Word showcases his research into his son’s language development, which led to new ideas in media analytics. He served as Twitter’s Chief Media Scientist from 2013 to 2017. In 2008, he co-founded and served as CEO of Bluefin Labs, a social TV analytics company which was later acquired by Twitter. MIT Technology Review named Bluefin one of the 50 most innovative companies of 2012. 

A native of Canada, Roy received a Bachelor of Applied Science (computer engineering) from the University of Waterloo and a PhD in media arts and sciences from MIT.

Deb Roy is available to advise your organization via virtual and in-person consulting meetings, interactive workshops and customized keynotes through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers & Advisors, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

Speech Topics

Listen Closely: A Deeper Way to Identify and Measure Audience Engagement

Some organizations struggle with reaching audiences and sustaining engagement, and even those who do it well need to stay updated on emerging technologies and tactics. MIT Professor Deb Roy teaches digital marketers how to use analytics to successfully identify, reach, listen to and engage audiences in unique, exact and measurable ways, particularly when there is sensitivity around messaging. His pioneering use of media analytics serves to positively impact brands and society on a grand scale, including mitigating the spread of false news, dismantling negative online tribalism and ensuring important messages reach everyone, not just certain groups. In this session, participants learn how to use analytics to bridge gaps between their brands and their audiences.

Communicating During a Crisis: How to Ensure Urgent Information Reaches Everyone

Like any crisis, the pandemic came on unexpectedly, requiring urgent responses from government and business leaders, institutions and individuals. At the center of these responses was – and still is – a need to quickly disseminate and continually update public health information and make sure it reaches every community in an environment awash in misinformation and divided by deep chasms of mistrust. Not an easy feat but Deb Roy is leading efforts to get COVID-19 public service information out to everyone, including people in remote, marginalized communities who are often at the highest risk. In this session, participants learn how to use analytics to better tailor and disseminate their messages to wider audiences and how to use feedback to “listen” and adjust accordingly.

Networks, Trust and Truth in a Machine Learning Age

The increasingly toxic effects of social media have eroded our faith in what we read, and have us wondering where the truth lies. As a result, trust in institutions, organizations, individuals and brands has been inexorably eroded. Where do we go from here, perhaps at the nadir of trust? It is now up to stakeholders to rebuild trust with their audiences, and MIT Professor Deb Roy is showing them how to do so. By employing and interpreting data embedded in online conversations, without infringing on user privacy, Roy helps organizations in every sector steer digital activity in desired directions, allowing them to rebuild trust while mitigating the worst effects of social media. In this presentation, he teaches participants how to use analytics and guided machine learning to understand audience behaviors and preferences, weave a network of social influencers, audit consumer brand language, and market across divides, allowing them to better reach and serve target audiences – at scale.

Language and Labels: Removing Biases from Internal and External Communications

Words have power. While some language has a positive impact on society, we’ve all seen how words can be used to suppress, oppress, abuse or exclude some people and groups. MIT Professor Deb Roy’s pioneering research has been exposing how words and language shape public conversations online. He can also identify biases buried in internal corporate communications as well as customer-facing brand messages. Using analytics tools, Roy helps firms identify and root out conscious or unconscious biases hidden in digital content. By leveraging data science, he can guide efforts that aim to re-route divisive forces, counteract myths, mitigate tribal thinking and generate healthy dialogue. In this session, he shows participants how they can leverage these tactics to better communicate internal and external messages and manage online conversations in ways that positively impact their brands, audiences and employees.

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