COMPASS 2022 paper: Reddit and the AT

Grad student Morva Saaty took the lead on a note published and presented at the COMPASS 2022 conference titled “Studying Sustainable Practices of Appalachian Trail Community based on Reddit Topic Modeling Analysis. Co-authors include Jaitun Patel, Norhan Abdelgawad, Jeff Marion, Scott McCrickard, Shalini Misra, and Kris Wernstedt. Morva and Jaitun represented Virginia Tech at the conference at the University of Washington in Seattle.

The note examined how the social media platform Reddit helps people prepare for the experience of hiking the Appalachian Trail. A key focal point of our investigation was to see what topics were most frequently discussed, and whether issues of sustainability and “leave no trace” (LNT) were major topics of discussion. Certainly the first LNT principle, “plan ahead and prepare”, is a major topic of discussion. There was a lot of discussion about the right ways to care for the shelters and campsites, including LNT-related topics. But LNT as a topic itself rarely was raised, at least not by name. Our note concludes by issuing a challenge for social media researchers to understand Reddit in two regards: information and communication interventions, and understanding hikers’ experiences.

The ACM Conference on Computing and Sustainable Societies (COMPASS) is a fairly new conference in the ACM lineup, starting in 2018. It focuses on research that addresses challenges of underrepresented and marginalized communities, including conservation, climate change, accessibility, equity, and education, among others. The conference seeks to include researchers and practitioners from both academia and industry, with a variety of research areas covered, including human-computer interaction, artificial intelligence, networking, communication, government and public affairs, health and wellness, and many others. It seems to be a growing conference, one to consider for future submissions related to the tech on the trail initiative.

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