foto: BeeldstudioKB

I am a data scientist with a PhD in information retrieval and natural language processing, and a background in the media. In my current lead data scientist role at FD Mediagroep I lead a team of four data scientists in bringing AI to media, through SMART Journalism (FD) and SMART Radio (BNR).

For SMART Journalism we leverage deep learning and natural language processing, and a custom-built real-time recommender system, to serve personalized summaries of FD’s journalism to our readers. For BNR SMART Radio we employ AI for automatically segmenting and tagging BNR’s radio content, to offer listeners a personalized, non-linear radio experience with radio snippets that match their interests. Both projects are partially funded by Google’s Digital News Innovation Fund.

I have a PhD degree from the University of Amsterdam (UvA), where I worked under supervision of prof. dr. Maarten de Rijke at the Information and Language Processing Systems Group (ILPS). My research project was focused on semantic search and computational methods for automated understanding of large-scale textual digital traces, in the context of e-discover and digital forensics.

I defended my thesis “Entities of Interest — Discovery in Digital Traces” in June 2017. In summer 2015 I did an internship at Microsoft Research in Redmond, under supervision of Paul Bennett, Ryen White, and Eric Horvitz. I worked on analyzing Microsoft’s Cortana user-interaction logs, which resulted in a best paper award at UMAP 2016, and the filing of a patent. In the winter of 2014 I visited prof dr. Doug Oard‘s E-Discovery Lab at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Algorithms aren’t evil

I am opinionated on matters involving filter bubbles, algorithmic discrimination, and the general fear (and misunderstanding) of AI and machine learning. In particular in the context of personalization, search engines, and recommender systems. I think it’s important that computer scientists are actively involved in this debate, and in that context I have written and spoken on these topics in mainstream media for the general public—which I try to continue to do. Some things I am particularly proud of:

  1. An article on why it’s a good thing algorithms aren’t neutral, written with Maarten de Rijke, published in NRC Handelsblad and nrc.next.
  2. An appearance on TV in “Denktank,” a program for youngsters, where I nuance the worries around algorithms and algorithmic personalization.
  3. A layman’s talk on how and where algorithms affect us in daily life for a debate night themed “The power of algorithms” at De Balie in Amsterdam.
  4. A keynote at the VOGIN-IP Lezing titled “The filter bubble doesn’t exist,” where I explain algorithmic personalization and summarize a few academic works that suggest the filter bubble is not an algorithmic problem.
  5. Consulting lawyer Inez Weski in making sense of the digital forensics process that played a role in a large-scale lawsuit involving the acquisition of a huge database of encrypted communication data (Ennetcom).

In general, if you ever need someone to bring some nuance to the fear of algorithms and personalization, I’d be happy to help. It seems to me there’s not many of us, in the current The-Circle-meets-Black-Mirror-day and age where the prevailing opinions seems to be that of fear and worries towards technology (it may be my bubble, however).

Science communication

I combined my background as a science editor (see below) with my work as a computer scientist during my PhD, by writing short articles about our group’s publications for the general public, in collaboration with the communications department of the University of Amsterdam. By translating papers into (near-)human language, we increased the exposure of our research group, and fulfilled our duty of informing the public of the work we do. I co-authored and published several articles, some of which gained (inter)national coverage on tech sites, newspapers and magazines. See for example:

  1. New method supplements Wikipedia with Twitter topics (also appeared on Tweakers.net, DeMorgen.be, Emerce, z24.nl)
  2. Improved predictions of queries by search engines
  3. New method helps Google Translate translate better (also appeared in NewScientist)

Background

I have a background in Humanities, and obtained my Media and Culture (media studies) Bachelor of Arts at the University of Amsterdam in 2008. After a brief period of work and travel, in 2009 I started my MSc Media Technology at the Leiden Institute of Advanced Computer Sciences, at Leiden Universiteit. In 2012, I graduated with a project involving semantic annotation and network visualization. I actively blogged about my MSc thesis, which played a substantial role in subsequently finding my PhD position at the University of Amsterdam.

Professional experience

I used to work in the media. I’ve worked for Dutch broadcasting company NTR (formerly Teleac, former-formerly Teleac/NOT) for several years as an editor for radio and online science programs. There I gained experience in a wide array of editorial tasks such as writing (news) items, preparing interviews, but also with several aspects of audiovisual media production, like (video) editing, animating, and the recording of our daily science program in the studio.

What else?

I further possess basic skills in graphic- and web-design, having built several websites for several people, creating thesis covers for friends, and logos for projects. I like hacking away at my car. I like photography, which you can witness on Instagram (@instagraus). I also like yoga and running. And like the rest of the world I like to travel, read books, watch films, play videogames, and listen to music.