The Bringing together Language and Behavior for Large-scale Analytical Breakthroughs Laboratory (Blablablab)

Why do we say the things we do and what does our language say about us in return? The Blablablab develops new scientific methods to answer socially-impactful questions about human behavior from what we observe people say and do. Our work broadly intersects with computational social science, natural language processing, computational sociolinguistics, data mining, and social computing. Along the way, we release new software tools and datasets for the community to help reveal the social dimensions of language, and, with a bit of luck, make our online world a better place.

The Blablablab is officially a part of the University of Michigan School of Information (UMSI) and is a member of the Computational Social Science group within UMSI. We widely collaborate on interdisciplinary projects with researchers and students in the Departments of Computer Science and Linguistics, the School of Public Health, the Center for the Study of Complex Systems, and the Michigan Institute for Data Science. But mostly, we work with amazing people doing socially-impactful work.

It's the Blablablab!

Some Blablablabers: Xingyu Lu, David Jurgens, Thomas Horak, Naitian Zhou, Shiqi Sheng, Sky Wang, Julia Mendelsohn, Minje Choi, Sayan Ghosh, Kenan Alkiek, Christina Lu, Aparna Ananthasubramaniam, Jiaxin Pei (Summer 2020)



  • April 2021: The lab is recruiting two students for NSF funded REU positions this summer. Please see the REU page for details and how to apply!
  • April 2021: Two students from the lab were awared NSF GRFP fellowships this year: Sky Wang, who has worked on multiple research projects, and Zhizhuo Zhou, who did amazing work on the Alexa Prize team. Fantastic news and congrats to both!
  • March 2021: More good news! UMSI PhD student Minje Choi has his paper on social relationships accepted to ICWSM. Minje's work shows that different types of relationships have strong behavioral differences on Twitter, that these can be predicted, and that the nature of the relationship aids in predicting information diffusion. A great action-packed paper!
  • March 2021: Two papers accepted at NAACL! One in computational social science (and political communications!) with UMSI PhD student Julia Mendelsohn looking at how discussions of immigrants on social media are framed and the impact that has on audience engagement; the second on computational sociolinguistics with Linguistics PhD student Jian Zhu showing how the structure of online communities modulates the rates at which they adopt new terms. Congrats to both!
  • March 2021: David gave a talk at GESIS on some of research on the framing of marginalized/politicized people! One of the silver lining of pandemic times is getting to easily connect to colleagues in Europe (who had great questions)!
  • January 2021: Our paper on prosocial conversations was accepted at the Web Conference (WWW) based on work from U-M undegrads Jiajun Bao and Yiming Zhang and summer visitor Junjie Wu, in collaboration with (now-professor!) Eshwar Chandrasekharan. We look at different dimensions of what can go right in a conversation and show that the prosocial direction of a conversation is actually predicable from its onset. Congrats to all!
  • January 2021: Some great news to start the year with PhD student Julia Mendelsohn winning an honorable mention for the Twitch Research Fellowship. Way to go Julia!!!
  • December 2020: David gives the keynote at the PEOPLES workshop at COLING. What a wonderful group of folks and many interesting conversations and questions. Thank you Malvina, Viviana, and Barbara for the invitation!
  • December 2020: Sky Wang receives an honorable mention by the CRA for the Outstanding Undergraduate Researcher Award. Amazing work, Sky! Blablablab has been incredibly fortunate to have so many fantastic undergraduates and Sky joins Sayan Ghosh who received an honorable mention last year.
  • September 2020: Two long papers accepted to EMNLP this year: First-year PhD student Jiaxin Pei's work on quantifying intimacy in language (with lots of cool Social Psych) and junior Naitian Zhou's work on condolence and empathy in online communities (work done as a sophormore!). Congrats to both and more details, data, and models to come soon!
  • July 2020: Whoa—our paper on identfying Russian trolls on Twitter was Best Paper Runner Up at WebSci! Congrats to all the co-authors!
  • July 2020: David gave a talk at the AKBC workshop on NLP for Scientific Texts (SciNLP) on bias in which authors are mentioned in the news stories on their published papers, based on work with Hao Peng and Misha Teplitskiy. These informal citations matter and add up to who we think of as a scientist. You can check out all the cool talks here too.
  • July 2020: The NSF has graciously awarded David and co-PI Daniel Romero an NSF grant to study the communicative and behavioral dynamics of social relationships. Thanks NSF for your support!!
  • June 2020: Summer is here!! 😎🌞⛱️ (...well, beginning after the EMNLP submission deadline) Welcome to Christina Lu and Kenan Alkiek who are joining us for the summer.
  • May 2020: Congrats to all the graduating seniors this year: Jiajun Bao (→CMU LTI, MS), Justin Chen (→GaTech, MS), Shengyu Feng, Thomas Horak, Sam Lee, Wenhao Li (→UNC PhD), Junjie Wu (→HKUST PhD), Yiming Zhang, and Zach Zipper (→U-M, MS)!
  • April 2020: Wowza, seven IC2S2 abstracts from the lab made it in! Time to get those talks and posters ready. Looking forward to seeing how the virtual conference turns out and excited we can share videos of this work in the future! ✨
  • April 2020: Congrats to Blablablab collaborators Jane Im, Eshwar Chandrasekharan, Jackson Sargent, Paige Lighthammer, Taylor Denby, and Ankit Bhargava on getting our paper on detecting Russian trolls on Twitter accepted to WebSci 2020! This is the first paper for Jackson, Paiges, Taylor, and Ankit and hopefully the start of a great journey.
  • March 2020: Congrats to Blablablab member Julia receiving an honorable mention for the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program!
  • Febrary 2020: Congrats to Blablablab collaborator Ashwin for being awarded a Facebook Fellowship for Computational Social Science! Looking foward to seeing all the great things you'll do.
  • January 2020: Congrats to Minje for getting a paper accepted to the Web Conference based on his summer internship at NOKIA Bell Labs! Great work!
  • December 2019: Sayan was selected for an Honorable Mention by the CRA Outstanding Undergraduate Research awards! Amazing work and he made it in the CSE News — so famous 🤩 !
  • November 2019: Blablablab collaborator Yulia Tsvetkov (CMU) presents our paper on microagressions at EMNLP! A tough but important classification problem for reducing incivility online. The paper reads pretty well for being written by academics too.
  • November 2019: Our paper at SocInfo on cross-cultural norms for social roles was nominated for best paper!
  • October 2019: How can we make beautiful maps like the one below that show regional variation in language?
    Map of the word 'but' in the US
    We have the answer for you! David is at NWAV presenting a tutorial on this with Jack Grieve. Check out the code and materials here, or just peek at the html-exported Juypter notebook online! Happy map making!
  • September 2019: A new fall season brings new PhD students. Welcome Aparna, Jiaxin, and Julia!! 👋
  • July-August 2019: Blablablabbers Zijian and Sayan present the group's research at IC2S2 and ACL respectively. Look at that science delivery—such grace, such poise!
  • July 2019: What attributes to people ascribe to social roles and what those roles do? New paper on cross-cultural norms for social roles examines this question and was accepted at Social Informatics with CSE collaborators MeiXing Dong, Carmen Banea, and Rada Mihalcea! Congrats to MeiXing on her first conference paper!
  • June 2019: New paper out with collaborators from the School of Public Health showing systematic underrecognition of suicide amoung people transitioning to or living in long-term care facilities like nursing homes—serious stuff!—using NLP. Individuals' loss of identity and agency in this setting can have this profound and negative outcome and needs to be better recognized.
  • June 2019: Ashwin, Ram, and David win Best Paper at ICWSM for their work on measuring attitudes about caste discrimination through intercaste marriage!! Incredibly proud of this work!
  • June 2019: Wowza! Our UMich team was one of the 10 teams selected for the Amazon Alexa Prize Socialbot Grand Challenge 3! Way to go team! Can't wait to introduce the world to our super social Audrey!
  • May 2019: The poster for our WebConf paper on demographic inference for more accurate surveys won the Best Poster Presentation award! Check out the poster here--be careful of the sea monsters!
  • May 2019: Two papers accepted at ACL 2019! Congrats to co-authors MSI student Innocent Ndubuisi-Obi and CSE undergrad Sayan Ghosh for our work on understanding English-Naija code-switching and to co-authors UMSI Faculty Libby Hemphill and visiting student Eshwar Chandrasekha for our position paper arguing what should be the next steps for the NLP community in tackling abusive behavior.
  • April 2019: The NSF has graciously awarded David a CRII grant to study the language of social relationships. Thanks NSF!
  • March 2019: Blablablab celebrates an ICWSM acceptance on a paper about caste discrimination with collaborator Ashwin!
  • February 2019: David travels to UCLA to talk with their Computational Sociology group. Great visit and wonderful folks doing amazing research there!
  • January, 2019: Blablablab celebrates even more as two Web Conference long papers are accepted! Congrats to now-alumnus Zijian for being first author on one!
  • January, 2019: Blablablab celebrates the new year in style... and then furiously sprints to get those ICWSM papers in! Great job everyone!
  • December, 2018: You can't spell breakthrough without break, so the group gets some much-needed rest over the holiday season.
  • November, 2018: Just in time for the election, Jane showed that Russian trolls are still active on Twitter and trying to interact with major news reporters. Timely stuff!
  • November, 2018: Jane presents her work on Wikipedia conflict resolution at CSCW and David and Zijian meet up in Brussels to talk about access to support in online communities. The lab hopes that Jane will bring back Montreal-style bagels too.
  • October, 2018: David is off to NWAV47 to talk about Computational Sociolinguistics! He came back with a mountain of Montreal-style Bagels and a new appreciation for the Northern Cities Vowel Shift.
  • September, 2018: New PhD rotating students Jane Im and Minje Choi arrive at UMSI! Welcome Jane and Minje!
  • August, 2018: New EMNLP paper on supportive/unsupportive language accepted with undergraduate first author Zijian Wang! In online conversations, users who indicate they are women really do receive more unsupportive replies--yet they also receive more supportive replies. Lots of interesting follow-up questions on gendered interactions online #FoodForThought
  • August, 2018: Visiting students Akshita Jha, Qi Sun, and Nan Gu depart physically but remain with us in spirit and co-authorship. Wonderful having you here with us this summer!


PhD Students

School of Information

School of Information

School of Information

School of Information
Masters Students

MS Information

MS Data Science

Lingyun Gao
MS Information

Bohan Zhang
MS Computer Science

Zach Zipper
MS Computer Science

Sayan Ghosh
Computer Science

Xingyu Lu
Computer Science

Talia Rizika
Cognitive Science

Shiqi Sheng
Computer Science

Computer Science

Computer Science

Computer Science

Hongting Zhu
Computer Science
External Collaborators

(Social Psychology PhD @ UMich)

(Computer Science PhD @ Geogia Tech; visiting at UMSI → Faculty at UIUC)

(Computer Science PhD @ UMich)

Thomas Horak
U-M → Office of Academic Innovation

(University of Mannheim; intern at AI2, co-advised with Kyle Lo and Arman Cohan)

Christina Lu
Dartmouth → Google Deep Mind



(Linguistics PhD @ UMich)


(In reverse order of graduation)

BS Computer Science

MS Data Science

BA in Computer Science and Sociology
→ GaTech MS

Lingding Chen
BS Computer Science

Rex Chen
BA Linguistics
→ Amazon SDE

Shengyu Feng
BS Computer Science

BS Computer Science
→ PhD @ Northwestern University

Sanjana Kolisetty
BS Computer Science

Michelle Lee
BS Computer Science

Sam Lee
BS Computer Science

Trevor Li
BS Computer Science

Yaoyang Ling
BS Computer Science (with Honors)
→ Harvard, MS in Data Science

Adi Mannari
BS Computer Science

BS Computer Science
→ Stanford, MS in Symbolic Systems

Xinyi Wu
BS Computer Science
→ Univ Washington, MA in Computational Linguistics

BS Computer Science
→ PhD, Carnegie Mellon University

Yiming Zhang
BS Computer Science

Visiting Students

Nan Gu
BS Electrical Engineering @ Tsinghua University

Akshita Jha
MS Computer Science @ IIIT
→ Virginia Tech, PhD in CS

Qi Sun
BS Computer Science @ Peking University

Shangming Zhao
BS Software Engineering @ Tsinghua University

Kevin Henner
MA Computational Linguistics, University of Washington
→, Senior NLP Engineer

BS Computer Science and Technology, Tsinghua University
→ Univeristy of North Carolina PhD

BS Statistics, Sun Yat-sen University


Language and Identity

Identities are complex and in any given situation, we may choose different language--or even pronunciation--to signal different aspects of who we are. A core project in the Blablablab is focused on the interplay between linguistic style and the construction of identity. Here, work in the emerging field of Computational Sociolinguistics to help bring together theories, observational analyses, and large scale models to advance the fields of Linguistics and NLP.

Promoting Healthier Interactions

Online environments can be very supportive or very toxic places. We believe that the absence of anti-social behavior doesn't necessary make for a positive online environment. Here in the Blablablab, we develop new methods to study what leads to healthy communities and how to nudge people to behave in more pro-social ways through both system design, social analysis, and NLP tools.

Information Engagement

Our world viewpoints are often shaped by the information we're exposed to. The Blablablab has multiple projects examining how people engage with different kinds of news sources and how this exposure influences our world views. We also examine this within the broader context, examining both multilingual and international exchanges of ideas.

People and Place

The internet brings people together but geography still plays a major role in our lives. In a series of interrelated projects, the Blablabab examines the impact geography plays on our social lives, how we can the characteristics and culture of a place, and how to support broader survey methods through location inference. We also like to make cool maps.


Temporal dynamics of relationships on Twitter More than meets the tie: Examining the Role of Interpersonal Relationships in Social Networks
Minje Choi, Ceren Budak, Daniel Romero, and David Jurgens.
International Conference on Web and Social Media (ICWSM), 2021.
(all forthcoming) pdf  ·  project webpage  ·  code
The structure of two online subreddits, which is predictive of their rate of lexical change The Structure of Online Social Networks Modulates the Rate of Lexical Change
Jian Zhu and David Jurgens.
Proceedings of the North American Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (NAACL), 2021.
(all forthcoming) pdf  ·  project webpage  ·  code
The effects of framing on audience response to immigration tweets Modeling Framing in Immigration Discourse on Social Media
Julia Mendelsohn, Ceren Budak, and David Jurgens.
Proceedings of the North American Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (NAACL), 2021.
(all forthcoming) pdf  ·  project webpage  ·  python libraries  ·  code
The main architecture for forecasting prosocial behavior Conversations Gone Alright: Quantifying and Predicting Prosocial Outcomes in Online Conversations
Jiajun Bao*, Junjie Wu*, Yiming Zhang*, Eshwar Chandrasekharan, and David Jurgens.
Proceedings of the Web Conference (WebConf), 2021.
pdf  ·  project webpage  ·  code
Quantifying Intimacy In Language
Jiaxin Pei and David Jurgens.
Proceedings of the Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP), 2020.
pdf  ·  project webpage  ·  code  ·  pip-installable package
Condolence and Empathy in Online Communities
Naitian Zhou and David Jurgens.
Proceedings of the Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP), 2020.
pdf  ·  project webpage
Author Mentions in Science News Reveal Wide-Spread Ethnic Bias.
Hao Peng, Misha Teplitskiy, David Jurgens.
in submission.
Still out there: Modeling and Identifying Russian Troll Accounts on Twitter.
(Best Paper Runner-Up)
Jane Im, Eshwar Chandrasekharan, Jackson Sargent, Paige Lighthammer, Taylor Denby, Ankit Bhargava, Libby Hemphill, David Jurgens, Eric Gilbert.
Proceedings of Web Science, 2020.
Measuring the predictability of life outcomes with a scientific mass collaboration.
Matthew J. Salganik, Ian Lundberg, Alexander T. Kindel, Caitlin E. Ahearn, Khaled Al-Ghoneim, Abdullah Almaatouq, Drew M. Altschul, Jennie E. Brand, Nicole Bohme Carnegie, Ryan James Compton, Debanjan Datta, Thomas Davidson, Anna Filippova, Connor Gilroy, Brian J. Goode, Eaman Jahani, Ridhi Kashyap, Antje Kirchner, Stephen McKay, Allison C. Morgan, Alex “Sandy” Pentland, Kivan Polimis, Louis Raes, Daniel E. Rigobon, Claudia V. Roberts, Diana M. Stanescu, Yoshihiko Suhara, Adaner Usmani, Erik H. Wang, Muna Adem, Abdulla Alhajri, Bedoor AlShebli, Redwane Amin, Ryan B. Amos, Lisa P. Argyle, Livia Baer-Bositis, Moritz Büchi, Bo-Ryehn Chung, William Eggert, Gregory Faletto, Zhilin Fan, Jeremy Freese, Tejomay Gadgil, Josh Gagné, Yue Gaobj, Andrew Halpern-Manners, Sonia P. Hashim, Sonia A. Hausen, Guanhua He, Kimberly Higuera, Bernie Hogan, Ilana M. Horwitz, Lisa M. Hummel, Naman Jain, Kun Jin, David Jurgens, Patrick C. Kaminski, Areg Karapetyan, E. H. Kim, Ben Leizman, Naijia Liu, Malte Möser, Andrew E. Mack, Mayank Mahajan, Noah Mandell, Helge-Johannes Marahrens, Diana Mercado-Garcia, Viola Mocz, Katariina Mueller-Gastell, Ahmed Musse, Qiankun Niu, William P. Nowak, Hamidreza Omidvar, Andrew Or, Karen Ouyang, Katy M. Pinto, Ethan Porter, Kristin E. Porter, Crystal Qian, Tamkinat Rauf, Anahit Sargsyan, Thomas Schaffner, Landon Schnabel, Bryan Schonfeld, Ben Sender, Jonathan D. Tang, Emma Tsurkov, Austin van Loon, Onur Varol, Xiafei Wang, Zhi Wang, Julia Wang, Flora Wang, Samantha Weissman, Kirstie Whitaker, Maria K Wolters, Wei Lee Woon, James Wu, Catherine Wu, Kengran Yang, Jingwen Yin, Bingyu Zhao, Chenyun Zhu, Jeanne Brooks-Gunn, Barbara E. Engelhardt, Moritz Hardt, Dean Knox, Karen Levy, Arvind Narayanan, Brandon M. Stewart, Duncan J. Watts, and Sara McLanahan.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Mar 2020, 201915006; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1915006117 pdf
Finding Microaggressions in the Wild: A Case for Locating Elusive Phenomena in Social Media Posts
Luke Breitfeller, Emily Ahn, David Jurgens, and Yulia Tsvetkov.
Proceedings of 2019 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing and 9th International Joint Conference on Natural Language Processing (EMNLP-IJCNLP), 2019.
Perceptions of social roles across cultures.
(Nominated for Best Paper)
Meixing Dong, David Jurgens, Carmen Banea and Rada Mihalcea.
Proceedings of Social Informatics (SocInfo), 2019.
Suicide Among Older Adults Living in or Transitioning to Residential Long-term Care, 2003 to 2015
Briana Mezuk, Tomohiro M. Ko, Viktoryia A. Kalesnikava, and David Jurgens.
JAMA Network Open 2019;2(6):e195627
Wetin dey with these comments? Modeling Sociolinguistic Factors Affecting Code-switching Behavior in Nigerian Online Discussions
Innocent Ndubuisi-Obi*, Sayan Ghosh*, David Jurgens.
Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL), 2019
The spectrum of abusive behaviors A Just and Comprehensive Strategy for Using NLP to Address Online Abuse
David Jurgens, Libby Hemphill and Eshwar Chandrasekharan.
Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the Association for Computational Linguistics (ACL), 2019
Caste attitudes Smart, Responsible, and Upper Caste Only:Measuring Caste Attitudes through Large-Scale Analysis of Matrimonial Profiles
(Best Paper Award)
Ashwin Rajadesingan, Ramaswami Mahalingam, David Jurgens.
Proceedings of the AAAI International Conference on Web and Social Media (ICWSM), 2019
Population inference Demographic Inference and Representative Population Estimates from Multilingual Social Media Data.
Zijian Wang, Scott Hale, David Ifeoluwa Adelani, Przemyslaw Grabowicz, Timo Hartmann, Fabian Flöck and David Jurgens*.
Proceedings of the Web Conference, 2019
*Corresponding senior author
pdf  ·  demo  ·  code
Group success Are All Successful Communities Alike? Characterizing and Predicting the Success of Online Communities.
Tiago Cunha, David Jurgens, Chenhao Tan and Daniel Romero.
Proceedings of the Web Conference, 2019
It's going to be okay: Measuring Access to Support in Online Communities.
Zijian Wang and David Jurgens.
Proceedings of the Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP), 2018
pdf  ·  supplementary  ·  website and data  ·  code
RtGender: A Corpus of Responses to Gender for Studying Gender Bias.
Rob Voigt, David Jurgens, Vinodkumar Prabhakaran, Dan Jurafsky, and Yulia Tsvetkov.
Proceedings of the Eleventh International Conference on Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC), 2018
pdf  ·  data
Measuring the Evolution of a Scientific Field through Citation Frames.
David Jurgens, Srijan Kumar, Raine Hoover, Dan McFarland, Dan Jurafsky.
Transactions of the Association for Computational Linguistics (TACL). 2018.
pdf  ·  website and data  ·  code

We showed up to UMSI!

Software + Data

  • Citation Function Data: labeled training data of citations by their rhetorical function.
  • Gender-Labeled Online Conversations: 100M online dyadic conversations from Reddit, Wikipedia, and StackExchange, labeled by gender salience. To respect the privacy and dignity of individuals, this dataset is available for non-commercial research purposes online; please email the lab PI to obtain access.
  • Reply Supportiveness Ratings: ~9K ratings of replies to authors rated on a 5-point Likert scale for how supportive (or unsupportive) they are. Items are balanced across Reddit, Wikipedia, and StackExchange interactions, as well as by length (equal amounts of short, medium, and long comments).

Prospective Students

Graduate students

Prospective PhD graduate students interested in joining Blablablab should apply to one of our affiliated programs. We typically accept most students through UMSI though we occasionally will accept students who apply to the Computer Science division of EECS.

Current U-M graduate students of any program are welcome to email about potential research collaborations. Blablablab is highly interdisciplinary and we especially enjoy working with social scientists.


Current U-M undergraduates who want to do research during the school year should contact the lab and describe a bit about their background (e.g., have you done research before? what classes have you taken? why do you want to research?) and what kind of project they want to be on. Scanning our current list of publications will give you a sense of what topics we research and can be a good jumping off point for a new project. We often have a few spots for the year for all levels of experience but please know we expect at least 10 hours per week of research. Research takes time and it will be difficult for you (or anyone) to make progress with just a few hours per week.

Undergraduates interested for summer research opportunities should look for an announcement sometime in the early to mid-winter period with a description of the projects. We have hosted lots of wonderful undergraduate students throughout the summer. Women and underrepresented minorities are encouraged to contact us early, as we often can apply for special summer funding opportunities (e.g., through the B.A. Rudolph Foundation or the NSF) to provide financial support for your summer stay.

Visiting Students

We often have self-funded visiting students for the summer and (rarely) during the academic year. In these cases, usually the student has some prior research experience, similar research interests, and (due to luck) there is a current project going on in the Blablablab where they would be a good fit. If you are a self-funded student who wants to come join us for the summer, you should send an email in February or March before the summer that

  • Describes your research experience and state what parts are relevant to the work going on in the Blablablab.
  • Clearly states why you want to work in the Blablablab.
  • Discusses what you want to get out of a summer research experience and what you want to learn — this helps us make sure that the trip is a success for you as well.

We don't consider self-funded visiting students as "free labor" and strongly want to make sure that your stay is productive and a success for your career goals.


We have no openings at this time for postdocs. :(

©2018 Regents of the University of Michigan