Computer Science Seminar - University of Houston
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Computer Science Seminar

Give Me the Full Picture: Using Computer Vision to Understand Visual Frames and Political Communication

When: Wednesday, February 26, 2020
Where: PGH 232
Time: 11:00 AM

Speaker: Dr. Michelle Torres, Rice University

Host: Dr. Thamar Solorio

Political communication is a central element of political dynamics. Its visual component is crucial in understanding the messages sent between elites, media, and citizens. However, visual features have been overlooked in political science. Thus, this talk introduces a tool to dissect the content of visual material in order to assess its relationship with political variables: the Bag of Visual Words. My talk details and validates the implementation of this technique for the extraction of visual features that allows researchers to build an Image-Visual Word matrix that emulates the Document-Term matrix in text analysis. I illustrate its applicability by focusing on the identification of visual frames using a visual topic model. More specifically, this talk studies the different depictions of the caravan of Central American migrants and finds that in news related to the caravan, right-leaning media outlets are more likely to use pictures with higher proportions of topic "crowd".


Dr. Michelle Torres is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Rice University. She holds a Ph.D. in Political Science and an A.M. in Statistics from Washington University in St. Louis. Her current research focuses on political methodology and the ways in which we can make statistical and computer science methods accessible to political science. She is interested in developing and applying innovative and rigorous tools to achieve a better understanding of social issues, especially in the fields of political behavior and public opinion. Methodologically, Torres is particularly interested in computer vision, causal inference and survey methodology. Substantively, she focuses on political communication, participation, and psychological traits. Her work is published or forthcoming in the American Journal of Political Science, Political Opinion Quarterly, American Politics Research, Political Science Research & Methods, Research & Politics, and others.