This week iSchools announced that Dr. Galen Panger is the winner of the 2018 iSchools Doctoral Dissertation Award. Dr. Panger’s dissertation, “Emotion in Social Media,” was judged the best dissertation from an information school in the iSchools organization, now more than 80 institutions worldwide, in the preceding academic year.
Dr. Panger is currently a user experience researcher at Google. At the I School, Panger’s studies focused on social media behavior, happiness and well-being, and behavioral economics. He was also a founding director of the Center for Technology, Society & Policy (CTSP). Prior to Berkeley, he worked at Google in Washington, D.C. for three years and before that attended Stanford University where he received his bachelor's degree in public policy.
In “Emotion in Social Media,” Panger asserts that “emotion is central to the study of social media”. Panger addresses fundamental questions about emotional expression and emotional experience in social media — and about the use of social media ‘Big Data’ to make inferences about emotional life. “For a while, I've had an interest in how we can use the Internet to tap into how people are feeling or what they're thinking,” Panger told the School of Information, “and I became inspired by visualizations of 'Big Data' showing, for example, how happiness unfolds over time in a country, based on what people are tweeting there. I was reading widely in the emerging field of social media behavior and became concerned that these visualizations might not be accurate — that because of how people self-censor or the way they tend to present themselves in the best light, we might not get the whole story from social media data. So a big part of my dissertation is looking into how well these visualizations and similar efforts really work in practice. And I found that things like concern for self-presentation or privacy — as well as very basic factors like how often you tweet or post on Facebook — do affect how well your status updates reflect your happiness or emotions.”
The Award Committee lauded Panger’s dissertation for its unique approach to the study of social media. “Dr. Panger’s thesis ‘Emotion in Social Media’ is a novel addition to the literature on the evolving state of self-representation in online environments. Contrary to stereotype, Panger found that people tend to wind down while browsing Facebook and Twitter. This combined with the other aspects of his study call for a more nuanced appreciation of the role of social media in our emotional lives. The skill with which Panger crafted the research question and research design set it apart from others in the competition. This, combined with his skill to communicate his research work at the intersections of conflicting concepts in the literature made it the clear winner for this year’s competition.”
Winning the Doctoral Dissertation Award is a significant achievement for Panger: “I decided to pursue a very ambitious dissertation project,” he told the School of Information, “at least relative to my capabilities at the outset, and I created a lot of work for myself as a result. So it feels good to be rewarded for my hard work and ambition. I hope that my advisor and committee members are feeling good right now, that they feel rewarded for investing in me and supporting me. And I hope the award means that my work will reach more people and have a bigger impact as a result.”
The iSchools Doctoral Dissertation Award recognizes the best iSchool dissertations of the preceding year. Nominations are solicited from all members of the iSchools organization, now more than 80 institutions worldwide, and judged by an award committee drawn from leading international schools. The winner receives a prize of $2,500, the runner up $1,000. The iSchools organization will present their awards during iConference 2018 in Sheffield, UK
Berkeley I School Ph.D. students have now received this honor two out of the past three years: Panger in 2018, and alum Ashwin Mathew in 2016 for his dissertation, “Where in the World is the Internet? Locating Political Power in Internet Infrastructure.” In 2013 Joshua Blumenstock was the runner up for his Ph.D. dissertation, “Essays on the economic impacts of mobile phones in sub-Saharan Africa.” Blumenstock is now an assistant professor at the I School and director of the Data-Intensive Development Lab.
The iSchools organization is a worldwide association of Information Schools dedicated to advancing the information field. These schools, colleges, and departments have been newly created or are evolving from programs formerly focused on specific tracks such as information technology, library science, informatics, information science, and more.