PKG Social Impact Internships: Ezra Erives (’24)
My name is Ezra Erives and I’m a rising sophomore at MIT studying mathematics (18) and computer science (6-3). Last winter, during MIT’s Independent Activities Period (IAP), I participated in a web development class competition called web.lab. My team built a website that allows students to interact with a colorful graph representation of the MIT course catalog. Having no web programming experience beforehand, this was an incredibly rewarding and transformational experience, and one which led to me an internship at FindOurView that following spring, an opportunity which I am continuing to pursue this summer with the support of the PKG Center.
Across the internet, a great number of global conversations are taking place, whether this be on the message boards of online forums, the reviews section of products on popular shopping websites, or the chat window in a community’s virtual town hall. The sheer amount of information is overwhelming, and can often drown out certain marginalized voices. FindOurView’s core mission is to apply technology and techniques from natural language processing to help digest and understand these large-scale conversations more intelligently. One such conversation is the America’s Path Forward project, in which users submit questions and concerns about the current state and future of American democracy. By identifying themes present in questions, FindOurView is able to help civic designers and community organizers scale up their efforts to bring people together to discuss their shared concerns.
My contribution this past summer has been on the platform which enables users to interact with the analysis results provided by FindOurView. In doing so, I have become more familiar with certain technologies, libraries, and frameworks used, building on the programming experience I gained from web.lab. One particular feature on the platform is a graph representation of the various topics, with edges in the graph indicating overlaps between various topics.
Interwoven with the technical aspect of the internship was the underlying social mission informing FindOurView’s development, and my work as an intern. Frequently, new features and projects came about because of specific feedback from users. I found that this grounded context gave my work more meaning, a welcome complement to the technically-oriented aspect of my work. I look forward to continuing to enjoy my internship and learning about the real impact my work is having.
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