Beyond the Tool: Integrating Social Work Thinking, Qualitative Methods, and Artificial Intelligence for Gun Violence Prevention

October 8, 2021 3:00pm-4:00pm
  • Virtual Event
Audience Open to the Public

Desmond Upton Patton of the Columbia School of Social Work will discuss critical gaps in gun violence prevention and intervention strategies, as well as his research on AI in gun violence prevention.

The talk will be given by Desmond Upton Patton, M.S.W., Ph.D., Associate Professor at the Columbia School of Social Work. The event is co-sponsored by the School of Social Policy & Practice, the Annenberg School for Communication, and the Department of Psychiatry at the Perelman School of Medicine.

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About the Talk

Gun violence continues to be a serious public health problem in the United States. Recent research indicates that firearm violence is exacerbated by social media usage and the formation of the “digital street.” Violence prevention and intervention strategies, however, typically exclude social media as a risk factor, and there are few tools available to violence prevention organizations to help them prevent violence based on social media content and engagement.

Professor Desmond Upton Patton will address this critical gap, present findings from his research on this subject, and discuss the promise and challenges of using AI in the process.

About Desmond Upton Patton

Desmond Upton Patton

An Associate Professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work, Desmond Upton Patton examines pathways to violence, both on- and offline, among low-income youth of color.

Patton’s research uses qualitative and computational data collection methods to examine the relationship between youth and gang violence and social media; how and why violence, grief, and identity are expressed on social media; and the real-world impact these expressions have on well-being for low-income youth of color. He studies the ways in which gang-involved youth conceptualize threats on social media, and the extent to which social media shapes and facilitates youth and gang violence.

Patton is the founding director of SAFElab, a member of the Data Science Institute, and a faculty affiliate of the Social Intervention Group (SIG). He holds a courtesy appointment in the department of Sociology. He is the recipient of the 2018 Deborah K. Padgett Early Career Achievement Award from the Society for Social Work Research (SSWR) and was named a 2017-2018 fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society.

In partnership with the Data Science Institute, he is developing an online tool for detecting aggression in social media posts. Patton’s research on “internet banging” has been featured in The New York Times, the Chicago Tribune, USA Today, NPR, Boston magazine, ABC News, Nature, and Vice. It 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.

Before coming to Columbia, Patton was an assistant professor at the University of Michigan School of Social Work and School of Information. He holds a B.A. in Anthropology and Political Science with honors from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, an M.S.W. from the University of Michigan School of Social Work, and a Ph.D. in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago.


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