Stephanie Hirmer


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At the Intersection of NLP and Sustainable Development: Exploring the Impact of Demographic-Aware Text Representations in Modeling Value on a Corpus of Interviews
Goya van Boven | Stephanie Hirmer | Costanza Conforti
Proceedings of the Thirteenth Language Resources and Evaluation Conference

This research explores automated text classification using data from Low– and Middle–Income Countries (LMICs). In particular, we explore enhancing text representations with demographic information of speakers in a privacy-preserving manner. We introduce the Demographic-Rich Qualitative UPV-Interviews Dataset (DR-QI), a rich dataset of qualitative interviews from rural communities in India and Uganda. The interviews were conducted following the latest standards for respectful interactions with illiterate speakers (Hirmer et al., 2021a). The interviews were later sentence-annotated for Automated User-Perceived Value (UPV) Classification (Conforti et al., 2020), a schema that classifies values expressed by speakers, resulting in a dataset of 5,333 sentences. We perform the UPV classification task, which consists of predicting which values are expressed in a given sentence, on the new DR-QI dataset. We implement a classification model using DistilBERT (Sanh et al., 2019), which we extend with demographic information. In order to preserve the privacy of speakers, we investigate encoding demographic information using autoencoders. We find that adding demographic information improves performance, even if such information is encoded. In addition, we find that the performance per UPV is linked to the number of occurrences of that value in our data.


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Building Representative Corpora from Illiterate Communities: A Reviewof Challenges and Mitigation Strategies for Developing Countries
Stephanie Hirmer | Alycia Leonard | Josephine Tumwesige | Costanza Conforti
Proceedings of the 16th Conference of the European Chapter of the Association for Computational Linguistics: Main Volume

Most well-established data collection methods currently adopted in NLP depend on the as- sumption of speaker literacy. Consequently, the collected corpora largely fail to represent swathes of the global population, which tend to be some of the most vulnerable and marginalised people in society, and often live in rural developing areas. Such underrepresented groups are thus not only ignored when making modeling and system design decisions, but also prevented from benefiting from development outcomes achieved through data-driven NLP. This paper aims to address the under-representation of illiterate communities in NLP corpora: we identify potential biases and ethical issues that might arise when collecting data from rural communities with high illiteracy rates in Low-Income Countries, and propose a set of practical mitigation strategies to help future work.


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Natural Language Processing for Achieving Sustainable Development: the Case of Neural Labelling to Enhance Community Profiling
Costanza Conforti | Stephanie Hirmer | Dai Morgan | Marco Basaldella | Yau Ben Or
Proceedings of the 2020 Conference on Empirical Methods in Natural Language Processing (EMNLP)

In recent years, there has been an increasing interest in the application of Artificial Intelligence – and especially Machine Learning – to the field of Sustainable Development (SD). However, until now, NLP has not been systematically applied in this context. In this paper, we show the high potential of NLP to enhance project sustainability. In particular, we focus on the case of community profiling in developing countries, where, in contrast to the developed world, a notable data gap exists. Here, NLP could help to address the cost and time barrier of structuring qualitative data that prohibits its widespread use and associated benefits. We propose the new extreme multi-class multi-label Automatic UserPerceived Value classification task. We release Stories2Insights, an expert-annotated dataset of interviews carried out in Uganda, we provide a detailed corpus analysis, and we implement a number of strong neural baselines to address the task. Experimental results show that the problem is challenging, and leaves considerable room for future research at the intersection of NLP and SD.