Lu Xiao

Associate Professor
213 Hinds Hall
Phone: 315.443.1707
Lu Xiao

Welcome to my profile page! I am an associate professor at the School of Information Studies (a.k.a., iSchool) in Syracuse University. My research interests and activities are related to three broad areas: collaborative and social computing, digital humanities, and community informatics. I use a variety of research methods and approaches ranging from field observations and interviews, to UI design and prototyping, to the application and development of computational techniques for large-scale data analysis. Please feel free to stop by at my office to chat about these areas if you are interested. I am always looking for students to work together in these areas.

Before coming to Syracuse, I was an associate professor at the University of Western Ontario. I received my Ph.D. from the College of Information Sciences and Technology at Pennsylvania State University. I was a visiting professor at Syracuse from Fall 2015 to Spring 2016, and at Xerox Research Center in Europe in Summer 2015.


News of the year (updated on November 24, 2019)

  • We have been working on the detection of propaganda techniques in the news articles these days. Here is our paper that talks about a technique that identifies whether there is propaganda in a given sentence (first author: Jinfen Li, second author: Zhihao Ye).
  • With collaborators Regina M Luttrell and Jonathon Glass at Newhouse, we have organized an interactive art exhibition “Digital Age in Democracy: Does It Exist?” (funded by a CUSE Grant at the university). Through an online questionnaire, we sampled the country’s college students’ perspectives on their use of social media and its impact on their political viewpoints. Student research assistants created photos and illustrations to present the questionnaire results. A virtual reality (VR) experience was also offered for the visitors to see the survey data come to life as well as a music playlist that spans five decades of music reflecting the changes in American politics. This exhibition is at the Biblio Gallery on the 4th floor of Bird Library, Syracuse University.
  • Our paper (co-author: Taraneh Khazaei) that details the analysis of Reddit CMV comments for the indicators of their persuasion power is accepted by 2019 Social Media & Society conference, and is awarded “Best Methods Paper”. You can find the paper here
  • Our paper (first author: Humphrey Appiah Mensah, third author: Sucheta Soundarajan) that analyzes the Reddit CMV submissions to explore the indicators of a user’s susceptibility to the others’ persuasion acts is accepted by 2019 Social Media & Society conference. You can find the paper here
  • Our extended abstract (first author: Jumayel Islam, third author: Robert E. Mercer) that gives an overview of our tension detection model is accepted by 2019 Digital Humanities conference. In this project, we are interested in identifying an interviewee’s tension points during an interview about Genocide or Mass Violence. Our current model has used several indicators of a tension, such as the interviewee’s emotion, the language use in the response, and the length of a response.
  • Our panel proposal (co-authors: Steven High, Liangqin Jiang, Robert E. Mercer, Yu Hao, and the graduate students) is accepted by 2019 ACH conference. As the lead organizer of this panel, I hope to use this panel to discuss two DH projects both are related to the analysis of interview data about Genocide or Mass Violence, focusing on the impact of interview contexts and methods on the computational analysis of the data.
  • Our paper (first author: Jumayel Islam, third author: Robert E. Mercer) that reports a multi-channel convolutional neural network architecture for identifying different types of emotion (e.g., sadness, joy, fear, anger, etc.) in Tweets is accepted by NAACL-HLT. You can find this paper here.
  • We (first author: Ali Javanmardi) developed a structured dataset that contains about two years of Wikipedia’s Article for Deletion (AfD) discussions. The purpose is to support computational analysis of the discussion content. With this dataset, we developed several interactive visualizations that show the categories of the articles, the policies mentioned in the discussion, etc. This work is presented at WikiWorkshop at 2019 the Web conference. You can find the paper here
  • I attended Wikimania conference August 16 – August 18 and presented my Wikipedia work. You can find more about this event here. My presentation overviews several projects around Wikipedia’s Article for Deletion (AfD) discussions, including our questionnaire study of AfD participants, manual annotation of the AfD rationales, computational analysis of imperatives in the discussion, and the persuasive power of the rationales. You can find a copy of the presentation slides here
  • I was invited to attend the Third Data Science Education workshop (June 9 – 11, Pittsburgh). You can find more about the workshop here.

Archived news

  • At 2019 iConference, I presented a study of annotating online blogs and their comments to examine the existence of authority claims in rationale-containing statements. You can find this short paper (co-author: Xin Huo) here.
  • At 2019 HICSS conference, I presented a study (co-author: Jeffrey V. Nickerson) that is about the potential of imperative statements in online community’s discussions as a resource for understanding community norms and practices. In this study, we analyzed imperative statements that are extracted from over 4,000 discussions with the extraction tool developed by my research group. You can find the paper here. Also, here is the short paper that briefly explains the imperative extraction algorithm.
  • I organized a panel – “Fake News, Language Analysis, and Online Influence” on Oct. 16, 2018. This is the second of three Syracuse University’s Social Media & Democracy panel series. The panelists are Prof. Rosanna Guadagno, Prof. Lillian Lee, and Prof. Victoria Rubin.
  • I organized a panel at 2018 Annual conference on social media and society. The title of the panel is “Online Persuasion Mechanisms and Processes – A Research Agenda”. The other three panelists are Dr. Rosanna Guadagno, Prof. Jeffery Joe Hemsley, and Prof. Anabel Quan-Haase.
  • I presented a preliminary study that examines a message’s features that are indicative of its persuasive power in the context of Wikipedia’s Article for Deletion discussions
  • I presented our privacy preference study (Taraneh Khazaei, Lu Xiao, Robert Mercer, and Atif Khan) on July 10, 2018 at ACM Hypertext and Social Media conference. The study is about whether and how a social media’s privacy reference may be localized. The paper is titled “Understanding Privacy Dichotomy in Twitter“.
  • I presented our preliminary study (Lu Xiao & Niraj Sitaula) on March 28, 2018 at iConference. The study is about the correlation between the sentiment of a Wikipedia Article for Deletion (AfD) discussion and its discussion outcome, e.g., the article will be deleted, kept, or other at the end of the discussion.
  • I gave a talk at Knowledge Media Institute of Open University (Milton Keynes, UK) on March 23, 2018. The talk was about my recent studies on the user provided reasons in online communication and on online persuasion
  • Our paper (Daniela Fernandez Espinosa & Lu Xiao), titled “Twitter Users’ Privacy Concerns: What do Their Accounts’ First Names Tell Us?”, is published at Journal of Data and Information Science
  • Our paper (Hao Zhou & Lu Xiao), titled “The Effect of Pre-Discussion Note-Taking in Hidden Profile Tasks”, is published at Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology (JASIST)
  • Our paper (Taraneh Khazaei, Lu Xiao, & Robert Mercer), titled “Writing to Persuade: Analysis and Detection of Persuasive Discourse”, was one of the four finalists for the Best Completed Research Paper (i.e., Lee Dirks Award for Best Paper) at 2017 iConference (Mar. 22 – 25, Wuhan, China)
  • Our paper (Lu Xiao, & Niall Conroy), titled “Discourse Relations in Rationale-Containing Text-Segments”, is published by Journal of the Association for Information Science and Technology (JASIST).
  • We (Annie T. Chen, Samantha Kaplan, Pamela Lach, & Lu Xiao) will have a panel session “Incorporating Values Sensitive Design into Crowdsourcing Methodologies for Knowledge Collaboration” at ASIS&T Annual Meeting 2017 on Oct. 30 (8:30 – 10:00 am)

I am looking for motivated students who are interested in exploring the following research topics. Let’s chat if you want to know more about what my group does on these topics, but please email me with a copy of your resume first.

To leverage collective intelligence in social media environments

In social media environments, users express their opinions, offer their ideas, and construct new knowledge with the others. I am interested in studying and supporting their online reasoning behavior in these processes. Currently, we explore computational approaches to identify the users’ rationales or justifications (an example paper can be found here) and to predict the persuasive power of the users’ messages. We also examine the design of reasoning aid tools from HCI perspective.

Leveraging collective intelligence in these digital environments implies the collection and analysis of the user generated content and the contextual data about the users’ activities and behavior in the environments. This brings up an important concern – the user’s privacy issue. While these data about the users or the users generated are easily accessible through the web, some users may be more privacy concerned and less comfortable of their data being used. In addition, some users may be annoyed or even scared of receiving personalized services or messages which are based on the analysis of their online data. To address this issue, we utilize user social footprints to automatically detect their privacy preferences (an example paper can be found here). Our goal is to provide support for companies to make an informed decision whether or not to exploit one’s publicly available data for personalization purposes.

To understand and facilitate the curation and analysis of human rights research data

In this research program, we first analyzed the human rights research literature to understand the reported data sources, and data analysis methods and software programs. We next surveyed human rights researchers through interviews and online questionnaires to further understand these issues (our paper about this study is available here).

In the current stage of this research program, we have been working with an oral history research community to understand and support the curation and analysis of survivor testimonies. It is sometimes said that we live in an age of testimony. Eyewitness accounts of survivors of past mass violence are valuable in our current society. Digital environments are now central conduits for the global circulation of these stories, which allows first-person testimony to be increasingly used in human rights research and advocacy. Taking the word “curate” at its root meaning of “caring for,” as Lehrer and Milton suggest (2011), we develop innovative ways to curate survivor testimony so we can listen and analyze across, between and within individual life story recordings without losing the life story context. Our first prototype, Clock-based Keyphrase Map (CKM), uses machine learning and information visualization techniques to automatically identify common themes across different interviews and present them in a visual format. A short video about this prototype is available here.

To foster informal learning in community settings

In the past, I’ve worked with local small non-profit organizations to help them develop sustainable strategies with respect to learning IT. We identified different roles a community partner would take in different stages of an IT project (an example paper can be found here). I am interested in continuing to develop this line of research.

Two years ago, I led a multidisciplinary research group and designed a mathematics workshop model for families of children in the local communities. We implemented a series of workshops in two major cities of Canada and China respectively (a paper about the project can be here). I am interested in exploring the collaboration opportunities with public libraries and/or schools to further develop this workshop model and expand it to other STEM subjects. There has been increased interest in integrating STEM education into library services. The first Public Libraries & STEM conference in August 2015, supported by the National Science Foundation and organized by Space Science Institute’s National Center for Interactive Learning (NCIL) and the Lunar and Planetary Institute (LPI), marked the significance and potential of this line of work.

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Consistent with constructivist and connectivist learning theories, my teaching method seeks to: promote intentional learningoffer authentic learningencourage collaborative learningnurture reflective thinking, and provide a mutual learning environment. These five principles provide a framework for my teaching guiding my curriculum design. A good educator is a reflective practitioner. To me, one of the most rewarding aspects of an academic position is the opportunity to teach and interact with students.


Here are something interesting about me (I think :-))

  • I hold a doctoral degree in Information Sciences and Technology, a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering, and a Bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering.
  • I grew up in a hot and humid city in China close to the southern part. Throughout my graduate education period, I kept moving towards north starting from University of Florida. My friends were genuinely concerned that I could only graduate in North Pole. Thankfully, Penn State issued me a doctoral degree and stopped this pattern.
  • I love Martial Art (I learned a little of Small Chang Quan, Small Hong Quan, Wu Style Tai Chi, Tae Kwon Do, and Chi Gong)
  • I won Pop Song singing competition in middle school
  • With the help of my son (who likes robotics and computing stuff), we started a Robotics Club in Feb. 2018 at a local public library. If you are interested in volunteering, please let me know!