Researcher Dr. Ming Ming Chiu to speak about automatic conversation analysis

Coming from Hong Kong to Oakland University, Dr. Ming Ming Chiu will host a lecture about his work with analyzing big data via artificial intelligence and statistics on Thursday, March 28.

Chiu, chair professor of analytics and diversity and director of the Assessment Research Center at The Education University of Hong Kong, has been using statistics to analyze conversations for about 20 years.

He invented the Statistical Discourse Analysis (SDA) to model face-to-face and online conversations; the artificial intelligence program, Statistician, to run it; a multi-level diffusion analysis to search for corruption in the music industry; and he created an online sexual predator detection system.

Chiu’s work aims to identify moments in conversation that affect what people say, such as insights and topic shifts, according to a biography written on Chiu by Gaowei Chen. After analyzing the conversations, Chiu offers suggestions on how to improve conversations based on the results.

Chiu said conversations can be made better through many ways, including meeting goals of increased creativity, solving problems more effectively and building better relationships.

“Anytime we have a conversation, we might want to think about what makes it effective, we can look at what makes it persuasive, what makes people become friends as opposed to not,” he said. “So basically, conversation is about how people interact, and if we want to understand how people interact, we collect data on the conversations, we analyze what’s going on and then we try to make it better.”

Chiu has collaborated with more than 100 co-authors to publish more than 100 journal articles. As part of his co-author list, Chiu has worked with OU reading and language arts professor and researcher Tanya Christ since 2008.

Christ said Chiu has a wide scope of interesting work, and he is dedicated to solving problems.

“He really has a wide range of applications of the kinds of methods he does,” she said. “What makes him kind of unique is when he finds a statistical problem that statistical methods just can’t answer, he creates new statistical methods.”

The applications of the SDA methods he developed are broad—his work can span across multiple disciplines, according to Christ.

Chiu said creativity is an important takeaway from his research, but digging into the specifics of that creativity is important too.

“In terms of being creative, when a group gets together to solve problems no single person can do alone, that’s often quite magical…” he said. “What I do is I try to understand what creates this creativity…. It turns out it’s not simply having new ideas, it’s not simply correct ideas, it’s actually correct evaluations that are most important.”

Chiu said the lecture is open to all, and people who come do not need a background in statistics or artificial intelligence to understand the topics. The event will also include time for discussion, which is what Christ thinks is the most generative part for students.

According to Christ, lecture attendees will have the chance to tell Chiu about their work and see how he truly cares about discovering students’ passions for research.

“Despite all of his success, he’s very down-to-earth,” Christ said. “I find when I take my students to conferences with me and they meet him, they always really enjoy talking to him, and they’re always really stoked by how interested he is in what they’re doing. I think something people should know is he’s really a great person to talk to, particularly about the ideas you’re interested in.”

The lecture, sponsored by the Department of Reading and Language Arts, will be Thursday, March 28, at 7 p.m. in Oakland Center Gold Rooms B and C.