Sil Hamilton


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The COVID That Wasn’t: Counterfactual Journalism Using GPT
Sil Hamilton | Andrew Piper
Proceedings of the 6th Joint SIGHUM Workshop on Computational Linguistics for Cultural Heritage, Social Sciences, Humanities and Literature

In this paper, we explore the use of large language models to assess human interpretations of real world events. To do so, we use a language model trained prior to 2020 to artificially generate news articles concerning COVID-19 given the headlines of actual articles written during the pandemic. We then compare stylistic qualities of our artificially generated corpus with a news corpus, in this case 5,082 articles produced by CBC News between January 23 and May 5, 2020. We find our artificially generated articles exhibits a considerably more negative attitude towards COVID and a significantly lower reliance on geopolitical framing. Our methods and results hold importance for researchers seeking to simulate large scale cultural processes via recent breakthroughs in text generation.