Dominic DiFranzo

Assistant Professor

Computer Science & Engineering

Lehigh University

About me

I am a an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Lehigh University. My research in human computer interaction translates established social science theories into design interventions that encourages social media users to stand up to cyberbullies, fact check fake news stories, and engage in other prosocial actions. In my effort to better implement and test these design interventions, I also developed new experimental tools and methods that create ecologically valid social media simulations, giving researchers control of both the technical interface and social situations found on social media platforms. My research has been published in numerous conferences and journals, including the ACM CHI Conference, the ACM CSCW Conference, the International World Wide Web Conference, and the ACM Web Sci Conference. I hold a PhD in Computer Science from the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and was a member of the Tetherless World Constellation. I was also a Post-Doctoral Associate in the Social Media Lab at Cornell University.

Current Projects

Truman Platform

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Truman is a complete social media simulation platform for experimental research. It creates a custom social media site where every user, post, like, reply, notification, and interaction can be created, curated and controlled by the research team. This social media simulation platform (named Truman after the 1998 film, The Truman Show) can create a controlled social media experience for participants. In this way, each participant is completely "alone" in this social media site, as every user they interact with is an actor being played by a "bot". This allows for complete control of the social situations and actions that take place on the platform, as every participant experiences the exact same social media experience. The Truman platform also allows for complete replication of any study as all the code, data, and media necessary to run this social media simulation is freely available on a public GitHub repository. Truman is an open source platform that is freely available for other researchers to use and build upon for their own studies.

See on GitHub

Social Media TestDrive

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Social Media TestDrive is a educational platform that lets kids practice being online while ensuring their mistakes won’t come back to haunt them, online or off. The training simulation (built off the Truman Platform) includes a number of lesson plans to teach social media skills to kids. It has been used by over 800,000 middle school students acorss the US.

See Website Try a Lesson See on GitHub

Deception Awareness and Resilience Training (DART)


DART is a cross-disciplinary, multi-institutional, user-centered effort to develop games and a learing platform to help older adults recognize and navigate scams. The Deception Awareness and Resilience Training (DART) platform aims to fill the gap in the lack of appropriate resources and training for older populations. A collaboration between researchers, game designers, and community organizations, our platform is unique in tailoring its curriculum and using gamification to make training accessible and engaging for seniors. The overarching goal of our DART project is the development of a research/educational platform with integrated digital tools, advanced pedagogical techniques, and timely materials to increase disinformation awareness and improve resilience, to inoculate users against the impact of harmful disinformation, and prevent its spread.

See Site Play Demo See Video

Cyberbullying Design Interventions

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Although bystander intervention can mitigate the negative effects of cyberbullying, few bystanders ever attempt to intervene. In this study, we explored the effects of interface design on bystander intervention using a simulated custom-made social media platform. Participants took part in a three-day, in-situ experiment, in which they were exposed to several cyberbullying incidents. Depending on the experimental condition, they received different information about the audience size and viewing notifications intended to increase a sense of personal responsibility in bystanders. Results indicated that bystanders were more likely to intervene indirectly than directly, and information about the audience size and viewership increased the likelihood of flagging cyberbullying posts through serial mediation of public surveillance, accountability, and personal responsibility. The study has implications for understanding bystander effect in cyberbullying, and how to develop design solutions to encourage bystander intervention in social media.

See Paper See on GitHub

AI Mediated Communication


This research aims to explore AI system's impact on inidviduals, groups and communities. We have run studies that have explored how personification of AI agents affects people’s sense of privacy violation, how smart reply systems affect group communication in chatting apps, and how AI-based social media moderation systems are perceived differ-ently than human-based ones.



Moshi is a web-based research platform that allows researchers to engage online participants in text-based, real-time interpersonal communication. Moshi provides a modular scaffold for experiments on text based AI-MC, allowing other researchers to modify it and explore their own research questions. The interface is reactive to device type and resizes itself to work well on desktops, tablets, and mobile devices (e.g., Android and iOS). In addition to the standard text box to send messages, participants can also receive smart replies that they can click or tap to send automatically. Similar to existing chat apps, users can also scroll to see the history of the conversation at any point.

Read the Paper See on GitHub

Past Projects


Campfire for US/UK Elections

As part of the EPSRC funded project SOCIAM, I built a real-time data visualization that combined traditional polling data with social media posts for the 2016 UK and US Elections. The application was built and designed for the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute EMPAC Campfire, a novel multi-user, collaborative, immersive, computing interface that consist of a desk height panoramic screen and floor projection that users gather around and look into. This visualization system allows groups of users, in real time, explore the local social media conversations taking place about the elections, while also exploring the historical polling and option data.

Video on YouTubeCode on GitHub

Platform for Experimental, Collaborative Ethnography (PECE

The Platform for Experimental, Collaborative Ethnography (PECE: pronounced “peace”) is an open source (Drupal-based) digital platform that supports multi-sited, cross-scale ethnographic and historical research. The platform links researchers in new ways, enables new kinds of analyses and data visualization, and activates researchers’ engagement with public problems and diverse audiences. PECE is at the center of a research project that explores how digital infrastructure can be designed to support collaborative hermeneutics. My thesis explored new design methodologies to help work with scholars in the empirical humanities and science and technology studies to build PECE.

See SiteCode on GitHub

Mapping Crisis Text Line Use and Mental Health Resources in New York State

Mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression, are common, affecting a quarter of the US population (26.4%), often with onset in adolescence. Though prevalence rates are similar, those living in rural areas are less likely to receive mental health treatment than urban dwellers. Technologically-mediated crisis supports, such as Crisis Text Line (CTL), may complement face-to-face therapeutic interventions by supplementing limited, existing local resources. This interactive map shows usage of CTL in NYS from 2013 – 2017.

Live DemoCode on GitHub
web observatories

Web Observatory Schema

The multi-disciplinary nature of Web Science and the large size and diversity of data collected and studied by its practitioners has inspired a new type of Web resource known as the Web Observatory. Web observatories are platforms that enable researchers to collect, analyze and share data about the Web and to share tools for Web research. In this effort, I helped to create a semantic model for describing Web Observatories as an extension to the microdata vocabulary collection. This model helps enables Web Observatory curators to better expose and explain their individual Web Observatories to others, thereby enabling better collaboration between researchers across the Web Science community.

Documentation Webinar on Web Observatories

Large Scale Social Network Analysis on an MMORPG with Semantic Web Technology

Virtual worlds present a natural test bed to observe and study the social behaviors of people at a large scale. Analyzing the rich "big data" generated by the activities of players in a virtual world enables us to better understand the online society, to validate and propose sociological theories, and to provide insights of how people behave in the real world. However, how to better store and analyze such complex big data has always been an issue that prevents in-depth analyses. In this work we explored how how Semantic Web technologies to address these issues, and explained certain social concepts expressed within a massively multiplayer online game, EverQuest II.


Instance Hub

On the Semantic Web there is a need for ways to express authoritative references to entities, and to do so in such a way that is descriptive of those entities both for computers and humans. The Instance Hub provides a way of doing this for collections of entities in related categories, e.g.: countries, US states, US government agencies, crops, toxic chemicals, etc. A URI (uniform resource identifier) is a string of characters that identifies a name or a resource on the web (ie: The Instance Hub creates URI standards for common concepts in open government data, and creates a interface to search and display them. Users can logically navigate the hierarchy of URIs in the Instance Hub, viewing categorical information at varying levels of specificity.

Data Files
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Linking Open Government Data

The LOGD project investigates the role of Semantic Web technologies, especially Linked Data, in producing, enhancing and utilizing government data published on and other websites. A large portion of government data published on the Web are not necessarily ready for reuse. The Tetherless World Constellation (TWC) has publishing over 8 billions RDF triples converted from hundreds of government-related datasets from and other sources (e.g. financial data, non-US government data) covering a wide range of topics (e.g. government spending, energy usage and public healthcare). This work also explores interlining data and building mashups using popular Web tools and APIs. Data and Mashup Visualizations from this project have been featured on and

See on Website
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Semantic Application Framework

The Semantic Application Framework (SAF) is a web application that allows users to reuse RDF content from existing sites (e.g., DBpedia), extract data from the social networks like Facebook and Twitter, and manipulate those data through JavaScript applets. Users combine these applets for processing and visualizing data in a Graphical User Interface, similar to scientific work-flow systems. Unlike workflow systems, users are encouraged to view and interact with data interactively and manipulate it in an exploratory fashion. User-constructed applet pipelines are encoded as RDF files, allowing publication and collaboration, thus taking a critical step forward in moving to an end-user programmable social machine environment.