Desmond U. Patton

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Pioneer at the Intersection of Artificial Intelligence, Social Media, Empathy, Race and Society; Founding Director, SAFE Lab; Associate Professor of Social Work, Columbia University; Fellow, Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center For Internet And Society

Biography

Many people are attempting to use Artificial Intelligence for good. Dr. Desmond Upton Patton, Associate Dean for Innovation and Academic Affairs and co-director of the Justice, Equity and Technology lab at Columbia School of Social Work, is actually doing it – by building empathetic and culturally sensitive algorithmic systems with diverse populations.

A pioneer in the use of social media and artificial intelligence to fight gun violence and Founding Director of the SAFElab at Columbia, Professor Patton is widely recognized for leveraging thought in the field of social work through community-based approaches to developing contextually sound, empathetic AI for society.

In 2013, Professor Patton revolutionized the study of gun violence in his seminal article “Internet Banging: New Trends in Social Media, Gang Violence, Masculinity and Hip Hop,” which initially defined and examined a relatively new behavior on social media where issues of trauma, stress, and aggression were linked to offline physical violence. Professor Patton is most widely known for his computational studies of Gakirah Barnes, a deceased gang-involved youth who made national headline news for her gang involvement on Twitter. Leveraging Gakirah’s Twitter data, Professor Patton developed a culturally sensitive, empathetic and holistic process for creating and analyzing training data for AI systems. When existing gold standard data science techniques could not accurately understand cultural nuances in language, Professor Patton created the Contextual Analysis of Social Media approach (CASM) to center and privilege culture, context and inclusion in machine learning and computer vision analysis. By hiring Black and Latino youth and young adults who offered their expertise, Professor Patton developed online tools for building culturally responsible, ethical and empathetic responses to social media content.

In 2018, Professor Patton published a groundbreaking finding in the prestigious Nature journal Digital Medicine, which uncovered grief as a pathway to aggressive communication on Twitter. His research at the intersections of social media, AI, empathy and race has been mentioned in the New York Times, Nature, Washington Post, NPR, Vice News, ABC News and other prestigious media outlets more than seventy times in the last three years. The report was cited in an amici curiae brief submitted to the United States Supreme Court in Elonis v. United States which examined  the interpretation of threats on social media. Professor Patton’s research on Gakirah Barnes is featured on the highly regarded A&E show “Untold Story: Secret Life of a Gang Girl.”

Before joining the faculty at Columbia, Dr. Patton was an assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work and School of Information. He holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and political science with honors from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, a Master of Social Work from the University of Michigan School of Social Work, and a doctorate in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago.

Professor Patton won the 2018 Deborah K. Padgett Early Career Achievement Award from the Society for Social Work Research (SSWR) for his work on social media, AI and well-being. He was named a 2017-2018 fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society and is currently a 2019 Presidential Leadership Scholar and Technology and Human Rights Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard Kennedy School.

Desmond Patton is available for paid speaking engagements, including keynote addresses, speeches, panels, executive training and conference talks, and advisory/consulting services, through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

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Patton, Desmond U.

Biography

Many people are attempting to use Artificial Intelligence for good. Dr. Desmond Upton Patton, Associate Dean for Innovation and Academic Affairs and co-director of the Justice, Equity and Technology lab at Columbia School of Social Work, is actually doing it – by building empathetic and culturally sensitive algorithmic systems with diverse populations.

A pioneer in the use of social media and artificial intelligence to fight gun violence and Founding Director of the SAFElab at Columbia, Professor Patton is widely recognized for leveraging thought in the field of social work through community-based approaches to developing contextually sound, empathetic AI for society.

In 2013, Professor Patton revolutionized the study of gun violence in his seminal article “Internet Banging: New Trends in Social Media, Gang Violence, Masculinity and Hip Hop,” which initially defined and examined a relatively new behavior on social media where issues of trauma, stress, and aggression were linked to offline physical violence. Professor Patton is most widely known for his computational studies of Gakirah Barnes, a deceased gang-involved youth who made national headline news for her gang involvement on Twitter. Leveraging Gakirah’s Twitter data, Professor Patton developed a culturally sensitive, empathetic and holistic process for creating and analyzing training data for AI systems. When existing gold standard data science techniques could not accurately understand cultural nuances in language, Professor Patton created the Contextual Analysis of Social Media approach (CASM) to center and privilege culture, context and inclusion in machine learning and computer vision analysis. By hiring Black and Latino youth and young adults who offered their expertise, Professor Patton developed online tools for building culturally responsible, ethical and empathetic responses to social media content.

In 2018, Professor Patton published a groundbreaking finding in the prestigious Nature journal Digital Medicine, which uncovered grief as a pathway to aggressive communication on Twitter. His research at the intersections of social media, AI, empathy and race has been mentioned in the New York Times, Nature, Washington Post, NPR, Vice News, ABC News and other prestigious media outlets more than seventy times in the last three years. The report was cited in an amici curiae brief submitted to the United States Supreme Court in Elonis v. United States which examined  the interpretation of threats on social media. Professor Patton’s research on Gakirah Barnes is featured on the highly regarded A&E show “Untold Story: Secret Life of a Gang Girl.”

Before joining the faculty at Columbia, Dr. Patton was an assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work and School of Information. He holds a bachelor’s degree in anthropology and political science with honors from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, a Master of Social Work from the University of Michigan School of Social Work, and a doctorate in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago.

Professor Patton won the 2018 Deborah K. Padgett Early Career Achievement Award from the Society for Social Work Research (SSWR) for his work on social media, AI and well-being. He was named a 2017-2018 fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society and is currently a 2019 Presidential Leadership Scholar and Technology and Human Rights Fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard Kennedy School.

Desmond Patton is available for paid speaking engagements, including keynote addresses, speeches, panels, executive training and conference talks, and advisory/consulting services, through the exclusive representation of Stern Speakers, a division of Stern Strategy Group®.

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“For us at Facebook, Prof. Patton is a valued partner and subject matter expert. An important challenge in our work of content review is understanding local context. We want to enforce our policies – to decide what content to leave on the site, and what content to remove – based on the best possible understanding of circumstances “on the ground.” By sharing his insights on youth in Chicago, Prof. Patton has provided us with a useful laboratory for thinking about how to interpret local patterns of speech. We hope to work with him to apply these lessons in other areas.”

—Peter Stern, Manager, Product Policy Team, Facebook

“The University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign invited Dr. Patton to share his work as part of our inaugural seminar series called, “Harnessing Technology for Social Good.” Dr. Patton agreed to be a part of the seminar right away. His talk was the last scheduled seminar for the year and one of the most highly anticipated talks given the topic. Without question, Dr. Patton delivered. His talk blew the audience away. I was particularly struck by how his presentation captivated both the minds and the hearts of people in the audience, which in my mind was no easy task because he was speaking to academic faculty and 8th graders from the Southside of Chicago. Dr. Patton did a terrific job of engaging everyone in the room. At the end of the talk, Dr. Patton met with the students 1:1 and talked about his career trajectory and pathway to academia, again captivating young people in ways that was inspiring. I would highly recommend Dr. Patton as a speaker.”

—Judy Havlicek, Ph.D., Associate Professor, University of Illinois

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