CITP Seminar: Amy Bruckman – Difficult Conversations Online—Two Empirical Studies and a Design Experiment

Date & Time Feb 28 2023 12:30 PM - 1:30 PM
Location Sherrerd Hall
Amy Bruckman
Audience Open to the Public

Does conversation online often lead to deeper understanding of important issues? In this talk, research will be presented in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech about understanding and supporting online discussion of difficult issues. In the first study, we interviewed people who had disagreements with others on Facebook. We find that conflict often results not from disagreement but from violation of expectations. Design recommendations for social media platforms will be presented that could help mitigate disagreements, and ideas to help people have productive, hard conversations.

In the second study, we interviewed people who discuss guns and gun policy on Reddit, from both a pro- and anti- gun perspective. We find that members of pro- and anti- gun groups rarely interact. However, many people who post to highly partisan groups admit to actually holding more moderate views on some issues. Unfortunately, they would not feel comfortable posting about moderate views for fear of displeasing their partisan friends. Ways that the design of social media impacts our ability to have civil conversations across political difference will be explored.

Finally, to better understand difficult conversations online, we created a new subreddit for civil, bipartisan discussion of gun issues, r/gunInsights. How this design experiment sheds light on what is hard about civil communication about societal issues will be explained.


Amy Bruckman is Regents’ Professor and Senior Associate Chair in the School of Interactive Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Her research focuses on social computing with interests in online collaboration, understanding across differences, and content moderation. Bruckman received her Ph.D. from the MIT Media Lab in 1997, and a B.A. in physics from Harvard University in 1987. She is a Fellow of The ACM and a member of the SIGCHI Academy. She is the author of the book “Should You Believe Wikipedia? Online Communities and the Construction of Knowledge” (2022).

To request accommodations for a disability please contact Jean Butcher,, at least one week prior to the event.

This seminar will be recorded and posted to the CITP website, CITP YouTube channel and Princeton University’s Media Central channel.

Click here to watch the webinar.