2020 was a climacteric year in the United States, with widespread protests related to the pandemic, police violence, racial issues, and the presidential election. There was an explosion of violence associated with these protests that was often partisan in nature, and 2020 saw a dramatic rise in the participation of armed extremist groups in protests nationwide. Over the past three years I have collaborated with partners including Cure Violence Global, the Carter Center, and the Department of Homeland Security to better understand the temporal and geospatial trends in extremist and partisan violence in an effort to better direct on-the-ground community resources towards intervention efforts to prevent violent conflict. As I will discuss, pinpointing which communities are at highest risk of such violence involves a modelling approach informed with a wide variety of data on past protests and violence, political mobilization, socioeconomic demographics, social media data, OSINT, and data related to extremist recruitment and organizing activities. While modelling and quantitative analytics play a significant role in the process, it is critical to also include the “human intel” component, drawing upon the input of experts in partisan violence and extremism to best pinpoint areas for optimal intervention, facilitated by interactive data visualisation tools.
Dr. Sherry Towers is a data scientist with a diverse background in visual analytics, data mining, social media analytics, OSINT, machine learning, high performance computing, and mathematical and computational dynamical modelling. With over 400 publications, her unique trans-disciplinary skill set enables her to examine a wide range of research questions in public health and the social sciences that are often of broad interest and importance to policy makers and the general public, including disease modelling, crime and violence risk analyses, and spread of extremist sentiments in a society. Her work in the computational social sciences has been high impactful with studies investigating how media can incite panic in a population, and how contagion may play a role in the temporal patterns observed in mass killings in the US. She is an affiliated scholar at the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, and since 2007 has also been consulting for the public, private and non-profit sectors through her company, Towers Consulting, LLC.
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Sherry Towers will give a talk on Thursday , January 26, 2023 at 3 PM in Room 201.