Francesca Bolla Tripodi

Sociologist & Information Scholar

Tripodi Wall lean

I’m a sociologist interested in understanding how society interacts and engages with information systems and participatory platforms (e.g., Wikipedia, Facebook, YikYak, Search Engines, and Regulatory Email). I combine ethnographic observations with scraped metadata to expose what scholars refer to as “sociotechnical vulnerabilities.” The goal of my research is to demonstrate how inequality and misinformation are often hiding in plain sight.


what drives my research?

My research has been covered by National Public Radio, The Washington Post, Business Insider, The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Columbia Journalism Review, Wired, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Guardian, and The Neiman Journalism Lab.

    1. It's not just technology that creates problems – how society uses the technology is just as important. 
    1. Gender inequality is real and my Wikipedia research creates a tangible account of implicit biases.
    1. Politicians and pundits understand how search engines work and utilize SEO to spread propaganda. 
    1. Our society is becoming algorithmically polarized – our worldviews shape our keywords which, in turn, shape our returns.
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Wikipedia Gender Bias (Ms. Categorized)

Many people know that less than 20% of biographies on English Wikipedia are about women, but few people understand the extra hurdles editors must jump through to get those pages to stick. My research finds that biographies about women are nominated for deletion at a disproportionate rate and that women who meet Wikipedia’s criteria for inclusion are more likely to be considered non-notable and less worthy than men.

This study matters for three reasons:

    1. It complicates our understanding of how women’s contributions to society are assessed;
    1. It calls attention to the limitations of pronouns use;
    1. Wikidata teach AI systems used by Google, Alexa, Siri, etc., so a woman's absence on Wikipedia reverberates. 

NPR Appearance on All Things Considered

Data Graphs 

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Senate Testimony

In this presentation to Congress I provide a detailed analysis of the tactics conservative elites use to spread disinformation in pursuit of partisan political goals, demonstrate disinformation’s historical connection to white supremacist logics, and present a deeper understanding of how our society has become algorithmically polarized.
My research reveals how the input we enter into search engines shapes the content we see and the way we perceive the world.

1/6 CITAP Event

Hosted by the University of North Carolina’s Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life (CITAP) and George Washington University’s Institute for Data, Democracy & Politics (IDDP), The Capital Coup One Year Later: How Research Can Assess and Counter Threats to Democracy. 
We like to think of ourselves as savvy searchers, but the truth is that most of us have no idea how search engines work—especially given how much we rely on them. For example, do you know whether different people get personalized results for the same searches? What are data voids, and what do they mean for how we assess the information we find online?
Wikipedia Research Workshop
The Monthly Wikimedia Research Showcase is a public showcase of recent research by the Wikimedia Foundation's Research Team and guest presenters from the academic community. The topic I have presented on is Gaps and Biases. 

Ms. Categorized

For the last five decades, sociologists have argued that gender is one of the most pervasive and insidious forms of inequality. Research demonstrates how these inequalities persist on Wikipedia - arguably the largest encyclopedic reference in existence. Roughly eighty percent of Wikipedia's editors are men and pages about women and women's interests are underrepresented. English language Wikipedia contains more than 1.5 million biographies about notable writers, inventors, and academics, but less than nineteen percent of these biographies are about women. To try and improve these statistics, activists host “edit-a-thons” to increase the visibility of notable women. While this strategy helps create several biographies previously inexistent, it fails to address a more inconspicuous form of gender exclusion.
SILS Faculty Lightning Talks: Francesca Tripodi
Francesca Tripodi, Assistant Professor at the UNC School of Information and Library Science (SILS), talks about her first semester of teaching at SILS, her educational background, her research using ethnography to reveal socio-technical vulnerabilities, and her excitement at joining the Center for Information, Technology, and Public Life (CITAP) at Carolina.
The SILS Faculty Lightning Talks series is an opportunity for students, alumni, and the public to learn more about the current SILS faculty. 
The Morehead-Patterson Bell Tower is visible in a fall scene on the campus of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. November 11, 2021.
(Jon Gardiner/UNC-Chapel Hill)

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