New op-ed from Mary L. Gray, on the vital human labor behind contact tracing

In a new op-ed, published yesterday in The Hill, Mary L. Gray and her co-authors argue for the importance of human labor behind contact tracing and argue for a more human-centered approach in current tech strategies.

As the Center for Disease Control (CDC) plans to massively scale up testing and contact-tracing for COVID-19, Gray argues cell phone location data for digital contact tracing is only a partial solution. “Successful contact tracing involves patiently helping people recall with whom they have interacted in the preceding weeks and assessing the risk associated with each of these interactions,” they argue. “Irrelevant contact data will needlessly consume precious human contact tracer time.”

Successful contact tracing programs rely on deeply human exchanges. It requires trust between the human contact tracers and those who have been exposed to life-threatening diseases. Technology can help in important ways—dynamic reference tools, secure databases, and centralized data storage— but ultimately, the best technological interventions to fight COVID-19 will be those designed with collaboration and equity in mind. Technological solutions must help the human contact tracers with the difficult work of building human connection and trust in our public health systems.

Mary Gray’s co-authors include Barbara Grosz, Higgins Research Professor of Natural Sciences in the Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Harvard University and external faculty at the Santa Fe Institute, and Margaret Bourdeaux, MD, MPH, the policy liaison for Partners in Health COVID-19 Contact Tracing Program. She holds appointments at Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School of Government. 

Read the full op-ed here: https://thehill.com/opinion/technology/493648-how-human-centered-technology-can-beat-covid-19-through-contact-tracing

For hard-pressed profs and agitated grads: videos and podcasts from the Social Media Collective, suitable for online classes

Many of our colleagues in academia have had to very quickly migrate their teaching online, in response to changes made by their universities in addressing the coronavirus. This can be so much work – our hats off to everyone who has done so gracefully and ingeniously. An online course can be a lot of hours to fill, a lot of Zoom meetings, so many unmuted mics. There’s nothing better than a video to provide that welcome relief of a guest lecture. But finding them can eat up a lot of prep time too: scrounging through so much available material online, skimming through long videos to see if they’re right for your course. 

And, many graduate students in our field are finding their research disrupted – unable to gather data, or unable to write with kids at home, or just thrown by the world. Sometimes it’s easier to just power through a book you meant to read – but that takes hours. Isn’t a good book talk almost as good, and so much faster? 

We thought we’d do a little of the scrounging and skimming for you. Below are some of the lectures, interviews, and podcasts from the researchers and the postdocs (past and present) from the Social Media Collective, that we thought could be most easily dropped into a new media syllabus. If one works, may it speed your prep time and more quickly get you to your bed or your binge watching. If one lines up with your work, we hope it provides an easily digestible task in these days of stress and distraction. 

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Nancy Baym, “New Media, New Work, and the New Call to Intimacy” (2018, Rutgers University, 78 min – Q&A starts at 60) — overview of Playing to the Crowd

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Nancy Baym, “Personal Connections in the Digital Age” (2016, Microsoft Research, 56 min – Q&A starts at 50) — overview of Personal Connections in the Digital Age

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Nancy Baym, “Connecting with Audiences: Musicians and Social Media” (2012, Summer Social Webshop, 53 min – Q&A starts at 50) — on research coding methods

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Mary Gray, “Ghost Work – Discussion with the Author” (2019, TechEquity Collaborative, 74 min – Q&A starts at 53) — overview of Ghost Work

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Mary Gray, “‘There are no gay people here’: Expanding the boundaries of queer youth visibility in the rural United States” (2012, UNC, 60 min) — overview of Out in the Country

Mary Gray, Communicators (2014, C-SPAN, 29 min) — on data ethics

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Tarleton Gillespie, “Custodians of the Internet” (2018, MIT, 16 min) — overview of Custodians of the Internet

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Tarleton Gillespie, “Custodians of the Internet” (2018, UVA, 69 min – Q&A starts at 53) — overview of Custodians of the Internet

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Tarleton Gillespie, “Content Moderation and the Politics of Social Media Platforms” (2020, Social Media and Politics Podcast, 57 min) — interview

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Elena Maris, “Tumblr’s Fandometrics and the metricization of online communities” (2019, Data Power, 14 min)

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Elena Maris, “Are porn site visits being tracked by Google and Facebook? (You already know the answer.)” (2019, NPR Marketplace, 7 min)

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Mike Ananny, “Networked Press Freedom: Creating Infrastructures For a Public Right to Hear” (2018, New Books Network, 42 min)

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Alice Marwick, “The ‘alt-right’ approach to disrupting the media” (2017, Guardian podcast, 16 min)

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Alice Marwick, “Media Manipulation and Disinformation Online” (2017, University of Oslo, 27 min)

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Andres Monroy-Hernandez, “Collaborative News: From ‘Narcotweets’ to Journalism-as-a-Service” (2015, Personal Democracy Forum, 13 min)

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Andres Monroy-Hernandez, “Collaborative News: From ‘Narcotweets’ to Journalism-as-a-Service” (2014, Stanford, 49 min – Q&A starts at 38)

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Jessa Lingel, “At 25 Years, Understanding The Longevity Of Craigslist” (2020, NPR All Things Considered, 4 min)

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Jessa Lingel, “An Internet for the People: The Politics and Promise of Craigslist” (2020, Princeton University Press, 3 min)

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Megan Finn, “We Are All Well: A Social History of Public Information Infrastructures After Disasters” (2019, University of Washington, 77 min – Q&A starts at 49)

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Megan Finn, “Documenting Aftermath: Information Infrastructures in the Wake of Disasters” (2019, New Books in Science, Technology, and Society, 54 min)

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Sarah Brayne, “Policing Digital Traces” (2017, AI Now 6 min)

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Sarah Brayne, “Police Surveillance in the Age of Big Data” (2018, Vera Institute, 7 min)

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Kevin Driscoll, “Re-Calling The Modem World: The Dial-Up History Of Social Media” (2015, MIT, 83 min)

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Kevin Driscoll, “Minitel: The Web before the Web” (2018, Computer History Museum, 86 min)

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Lana Swartz, “(How) is Venmo Social Media?” (2018, ICA, 14 min)

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Lana Swartz, “Talking Blockchain” (2019, Filene Fill-in, 27 min)

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Lana Swartz, “Paid: Tales of Dongles, Checks, and Other Money Stuff” (2017, MIT, 19 min)

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Lana Swartz, “Cashless Society: Can We Get Rid of Cash? (2019, University of Virginia, 1 min)

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Dan Greene, “Not Bugs, But Features: Hopeful Institutions and Technologies of Inequality” (2017, Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, 70 min – Q&A starts at 35)

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Dan Greene, “Organizing the Library and Its Contradictions” (2018, Metropolitan New York Library Council, 42 min – Q&A starts at 36)

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Dylan Mulvin, “Embedded Dangers: Revisiting the Y2K Problem and the Politics of Technological Repair” (2017, Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society, 56 min – Q&A starts at 28)

Solon Barocas, “Data Science in Finance: From Theory to Practice – The Intuitive Appeal of Explainable Machines” (2020, CFA Society, New York, 64 min)

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Solon Barocas, “Teaching Ethics in Data Science” (2019, Good Code Podcast, 27 min)

SMC news: two new articles from Desmond Patton and his SafeLab team

We’re thrilled that Desmond Patton, associate professor in the School of Social Work at Columbia University, is visiting us for the first half of 2020. He’s a rare bird in our field, able both to explain the importance of cultural contexts in data science techniques to technical experts, and to do the important ethnographic work necessary to take account of those contexts. His research “uses qualitative and computational data collection methods to examine the relationship between youth and gang violence and social media; how and why violence, grief, and identity are expressed on social media; and the real-world impact these expressions have on well-being for low-income youth of color.”

By way of getting to know his work, if you’re in the Boston/Cambridge area, you have an excellent opportunity to hear him speak tomorrow (Thurs Feb 20, 5-6:30pm) as pat of the MIT Comparative Media Studies / Writing colloquium series. Beyond that, we wanted to share two new papers from him and his colleagues that may be of interest. The first describes a collaborative, critical methodology for extracting context in social media posts for natural language processing tasks. The second paper describes a new web-based annotation system (VATAS) designed to help social workers and social scientists conduct social media analysis.

Desmond U. Patton, William R. Frey, Kyle A. McGregor, Fei-Tzin Lee, Kathleen McKeown, Emanuel Moss (2020) “Contextual Analysis of Social Media: The Promise and Challenge of Eliciting Context in Social Media Posts with Natural Language Processing” AIES ’20: Proceedings of the AAAI/ACM Conference on AI, Ethics, and Society. 337-342. 

Desmond U. Patton, Philipp Blandfort, William R. Frey, Rossano Schifanella, Kyle A. McGregor, Shih-GFu Chang (2020) “VATAS: An Open-Source Web Platform for Visual and Textual Analysis of Social MediaJournal of the Society of Social Work and Research.

SMC news: an essay in the new Fake News collection, and a podcast interview

A new edited collection from Melissa Zimdars and Kembrew McLeod called Fake News: Understanding Media and Misinformation in the Digital Age (published by MIT Press, with a clever cover) includes an essay from me called “Platforms Throw Content Moderation at Every Problem.” It’s just one of many excellent essays, I recommend you check out the entire volume.

And while I have you, I had the pleasure of talking with Michael Bossetta for his podcast Social Media and Politics. Our discussion, which dove back to my early arguments about platforms, through the issues of content moderation I deal with in Custodians of the Internet, and into possible futures for platforms, moderation, and their role in the democratic process, is now available. Give it a listen, and then dive back into his archives, so excellent interviewees in there.

announcing The Digital City – a new book from Germaine Halegoua

We’re happy to announce the publication of Germaine Halegoua’s new book from NYU Press, The Digital City: Media and the Social Production of Urban Place. (You can read an excerpt published by Flaunt Magazine, or an interview with Germaine about the book.)

Five case studies from global and mid-sized cities around the world illustrate the concept of “re-placeing” by showing how different populations employ urban broadband networks, social and locative media platforms, digital navigation practices, smart cities, and creative placemaking initiatives to re-produce abstract urban spaces as inhabited places with deep meanings and emotional attachments.

“Maybe it’s not that the nature of place is changing, but what place means now within the digital era is changing… Part of the way that it’s changing is because place is not necessarily about static pause, or even an exact location, but it’s more of an event. It’s more of a performance. So place itself is becoming a little bit more mutable, more changeable, more fluid in the sense that its meaning is becoming more changeable, mutable and fluid through the use of digital technologies.”

Halegoua argues that a sense of place is integral to understanding contemporary relationships with digital media while highlighting our own awareness of the places where we find ourselves and where our technologies find and place us. This book expands practical and theoretical understandings of how urban planners envision and plan connected cities, the role of urban communities in shaping and interpreting digital architectures, and the tales of the city produced through mobile and web-based platforms. Digital connectivity is reshaping the city as well as the ways we navigate through it and belong within it. How this happens and the types of places we produce within these networked environments is what this book addresses.

An Internet for the People – First Chapter Preview

I’m delighted to share that my new book, An Internet for the People: The Politics and Promise of craigslist, is out now from Princeton University Press. This book considers the vision of a single platform as instructive for thinking about the future of the web: craigslist. Over its 22 year history, craigslist has grown into a multi-faceted website for local exchanges, which can include buying, selling, hiring, apartment seeking, dating or simply ranting about the neighborhood. At once outdated and highly relevant, easy to use and easy to overlook, craigslist has mostly stayed the same while the web around it has changed, becoming less open and more profit driven. The design decisions and user policies governing craigslist give shape to particular a form of politics, and examining these rules and norms reveals what we stand to lose if the web continues to become less open, more homogenous and geared towards sleek professionalism over messy serendipity.

cover

Here’s the introduction (thanks to the folks at Princeton University Press for letting me share this new work) and here’s a fun video with highlights from the book (thanks to the communications team at Annenberg for their help!).

pdf is from AN INTERNET FOR THE PEOPLE: The Politics and Promise of craigslist by Jessa Lingel. Copyright © 2019 by Princeton University Press. Reprinted here by permission of the publisher

Mary Gray, new report on the future of work

Join us in congratulating Senior Principal Researcher and Social Media Collective member Mary Gray, for two achievements this week!

Yesterday, the Digital Future Society released a report this week called “The Future of Work in the Digital Era: The Rise of Labour Platforms.” Mary co-authored the report with the other members of the Equitable Growth working group (https://digitalfuturesociety.com/equitable-growth/): ten international experts in platform work, worker-led movements, and the future of work. The report examines both the opportunities and challenges faced by workers doing platform work, and proposes five policy initiatives to address these key challenges:

  • Amplify the Atypical Worker’s Voice, to ensure legal status to third-party entities authorized to represent platform workers in collective agreements between platforms and governments
  • DataWorks! to mandate regular publishing of data by platforms of average income earned and time spent on the platform, making the data available to workers, monitoring agencies, and data activists
  • Platform Cooperative Accelerator, a government-run and -funded accelerator to cultivate and develop platform cooperatives, encouraging fair wages for workers and high quality services for customers
  • Worker Status Questionnaire, to help workers determine whether they are an employee or self-employed—which can better inform workers and platforms of the worker’s employment status, rights, and obligations
  • Easy Taxes for Platform Workers, to facilitate payments of income taxes and social security contributions for platform workers who are often considered independent workers

The entire report, which includes detailed descriptions of each initiative, can be found here.

And today, Mary is speaking at the California Future of Work Commission as a featured expert. The event is being livestreamed on YouTube. In August 2019, Governor Gavin Newsom signed an executive order establishing a commission to understand the current state of jobs for Californians, analyze the way technologies and other factors have shaped these conditions, and recommend how to improve jobs and work for Californians in the future. Mary is part of the Jan 16 convening, focused on “Employment and Labor Law in the New Economy.” More information about the commission is available on the California Governor’s website.

Applications are due Dec. 1, for the Social Media Collective postdoc. Here’s how to apply!

APPLICATION DEADLINE: December 1, 2019

The Social Media Collective at Microsoft Research New England (MSRNE) is looking for a social media postdoctoral researcher (anticipated start date: July 2020). This position is an ideal opportunity for a scholar whose work draws on communication, media studies, anthropology, sociology, and/or science and technology studies to bring empirical and critical perspectives to complex socio-technical issues. We also consider applications from candidates who might bridge SMC and one or more areas of the MSRNE lab, including machine learning, economics, bioinformatics, cryptography, algorithmic game theory.

The Social Media Collective is comprised of full-time researchers, postdocs, visiting faculty, Ph.D. interns, and research assistants. Current projects in New England include:

– how do social media platforms, digital assistants, and related technologies challenge and reshape our relationships? (Nancy Baym)

– how do social media platforms, through algorithmic design and content policies, serve as custodians of public discourse? (Tarleton Gillespie)

– what are the cultural, political, and economic implications of crowdsourcing as a new form of semi-automated, globally-distributed digital labor? (Mary L. Gray)

– how do media/tech industries and users try to know and influence each other? What are the roles of technology and identity in these interactions? (Elena Maris)

SMC postdocs may have the opportunity to visit and collaborate with our sister Social Media Collective members in New York City.

Microsoft Research provides a vibrant multidisciplinary research environment, with an open publications policy and close links to top academic institutions around the world. Postdoctoral researcher positions offer emerging scholars an opportunity to develop their research career and to interact with some of the top minds in the research community.

Postdoctoral researchers receive a competitive salary and benefits package, and are eligible for relocation expenses. Postdoctoral researchers are hired for a two-year term appointment following the academic calendar, starting in July 2020.

Qualifications

Applicants should have a strong academic record in anthropology, communication, media studies, sociology, science and technology studies, or a related field. The ideal candidate may be trained in any number of disciplines, but should have strong social scientific or humanistic methodological, analytical, and theoretical foundations, be interested in questions related to technology or the internet and society or culture, and be interested in working in a highly interdisciplinary environment that includes computer scientists, mathematicians, and economists.

Applicants must have completed the requirements for a PhD, including submission of their dissertation, prior to joining Microsoft Research. We encourage those with tenure-track job offers from other institutions to apply, so long as they can defer their start date to accept our position.

Successful candidates will have a well-established research track record as demonstrated by journal publications and conference papers, as well as participation on program committees, editorial boards, and advisory panels.

Responsibilities

Postdoctoral researchers define their own research agenda. In addition to their own research, postdocs are expected to be a contributing participant in the SMC and the MSRNE lab.

Application process

Submit an online application here. Click “Apply now” The site may prompt you to set up an account first; be patient.

The application will ask you to upload your complete CV and the names of three referees (one of you letter writers should be your dissertation advisor).

In addition, you must upload the following 3 attachments with your online application:

1. a single research statement (four page maximum length) that does the following:

  • outlines the questions and methodologies central to your research agenda (~ two pages);
  • offers a description of how your research agenda relates to research conducted by the Social Media Collective (~ one page);
  • provides an abstract and chapter outline of your dissertation (~ one page)

2. two writing samples: journal articles, book chapters, or equivalent (uploaded as two separate attachments);

After you submit your application, a request for a recommendation letter will be automatically sent to your list of referees on your behalf. NOTE: THE APPLICATION SYSTEM WILL NOT REQUEST REFERENCE LETTERS UNTIL AFTER YOU HAVE SUBMITTED YOUR APPLICATION! Please warn your letter writers in advance so they will be ready to submit them as soon as they receive the prompt. The email they receive will tell them they have two weeks to respond, but consideration of application begins very quickly after the December 1 deadline – so submitting early will give them adequate time to get their letters to us. Please make sure to check back with your referees to ensure they received the request for letters of recommendation and that they sent them. You can check the progress on individual reference requests at any time by clicking the “status” tab within your application page.

To be assured of full consideration, all of your materials need to be received by December 1, 2019. If you have any questions about the application process, you can contact Tarleton Gillespie at tarleton@microsoft.com – please include “SMC postdoc” in the subject line.

Microsoft is an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to age, ancestry, color, family or medical care leave, gender identity or expression, genetic information, marital status, medical condition, national origin, physical or mental disability, political affiliation, protected veteran status, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, or any other characteristic protected by applicable laws, regulations, and ordinances. We also consider qualified applicants regardless of criminal histories, consistent with legal requirements.

If you need assistance and/or a reasonable accommodation due to a disability during the application or the recruiting process, please send a request via the Accommodation request form.

PhD students studying tech+media+society! Come intern with the SMC at Microsoft Research NE, summer 2020!

APPLICATION DEADLINE: JANUARY 6, 2020

Microsoft Research New England (MSRNE) is looking for advanced PhD students to join the Social Media Collective (SMC) for its 12-week Internship program. The Social Media Collective (SMC), a network of social science and humanistic researchers, spans several Microsoft Research labs. The SMC PhD interns work in the MSRNE Lab located in Cambridge, MA, with Nancy Baym, Tarleton Gillespie, Mary L. Gray, and current postdoc Elena Maris. Learn more about us here.

The Social Media Collective (SMC) includes full-time researchers, postdocs, interns, current and alum visitors, and research assistants. Our primary purpose is to provide a rich, contextual understanding of the social and cultural dynamics that underpin social media technologies. Our work spans several disciplines: anthropology, communication, economics, information, law, media studies, women’s studies, science & technology studies, and sociology.

Current projects in New England include:

  • How do social media platforms, digital assistants, bots, and datafication affect personal and professional relationships? (Nancy Baym)
  • How do social media platforms, through algorithmic design and content policies, shape public discourse? (Tarleton Gillespie)
  • What are the cultural, political, ethical, and economic implications of on-demand, cloud computing as ecosystems of information, labor, and social exchange? (Mary L. Gray)
  • How do media/tech industries and users try to know and influence each other? What are the roles of technology and identity in these interactions? (Elena Maris)

For more information about the Social Media Collective, and a list of past interns, visit the About page of our blog. For a complete list of all permanent researchers and current postdocs based at the New England lab, see: http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/labs/newengland/people/bios.aspx

RESPONSIBILITIES

The ideal candidate may be trained in any number of disciplines (including anthropology, communication, information studies, media studies, sociology, science and technology studies, or a related field), but should have a strong social scientific or humanistic methodological, analytical, and theoretical foundation, be interested in questions related to media or communication technologies and society or culture, and be interested in working in a highly interdisciplinary environment that includes computer scientists, mathematicians, and economists.

Primary mentors for this year will be Nancy Baym, Tarleton Gillespie, and Mary L. Gray with additional guidance offered by other members of the SMC. We are looking for multiple applicants working in one or more of the following areas:

  • Personal relationships and digital media
  • Audiences and the shifting landscapes of producer/consumer relations
  • Affective, immaterial, and other frameworks for understanding digital labor
  • How platforms, through their design and policies, shape public discourse
  • The politics of algorithms, metrics, and big data for a computational culture
  • The political economies of on-demand labor
  • The difference between traditional cooperatively-managed markets and Commons and online platform cooperatives
  • The gender and cultural politics of algorithmic detection of pronouns
  • The ethics of dataset creation and uses of large-scale social data for qualitative research

Interns are also expected to give short presentations on their project, contribute to the SMC blog, attend the weekly lab colloquia, and contribute to the life of the community through weekly lunches with fellow PhD interns and the broader lab community. There are also natural opportunities for collaboration with SMC researchers and visitors, and with others currently working at MSRNE, including computer scientists, economists, and mathematicians. PhD interns are expected to be on-site for the duration of their internship.

Some of the compensation and benefits of this position include:

  • highly competitive salary
  • travel to/from internship location from your university location (including the intern and all eligible dependents)
  • housing costs: interns can select one of two housing options
    • fully furnished corporate housing covered by Microsoft, or
    • a lump sum for finding and securing your own housing
  • local transportation allowance for commuting
  • health insurance is not provided; most interns stay covered under their university insurance, but interns are eligible to enroll in a Microsoft sponsored medical plan
  • internship events and activities

QUALIFICATIONS

To apply for a PhD internship with the Social Media Collective, fill out the online application form here: https://careers.microsoft.com/us/en/job/734214/Research-Intern-Social-Media-Collective (may prompt you to set up an account first; be patient.)

Applicants must have advanced to candidacy in their PhD program by the time they start their internship. (Unfortunately, there are no opportunities for Master’s students or early PhD students at this time). Applicants from historically marginalized communities, underrepresented in higher education, and students from universities outside of the United States are encouraged to apply.

Your application needs to include:

  • A short description (no more than 2 pages, single spaced) of 1 or 2 projects that you propose to do while interning at MSRNE, independently and/or in collaboration with current SMC researchers. The project proposals can be related to, but must be distinct from your dissertation research. Be specific and tell us:
    • What is the research question animating your proposed project
    • What methods would you use to address your question?
    • How does your research question speak to the interests of the SMC?
    • Who do you hope to reach (who are you engaging) with this proposed research?
  • A brief description of your dissertation project(no more than 1 page, single spaced).
  • An academic article-length manuscript (~7,000 or more) that you have authored or co-authored (published or unpublished) that demonstrates your writing skills.
  • A copy of your CV.
    if available, pointers to your website or other online presence (this is not required).

In addition, you will be asked to submit the names of (at least) two reference letter for this position (one must be your dissertation advisor). After you submit your application, a request for letters may be sent to your list of references on your behalf. Note that reference letters cannot be requested until after you have submitted your application, and furthermore, that they might not be automatically requested for all candidates. You may wish to alert your letter writers in advance, so they will be ready to submit your letter.

If you have any questions about the application process, please contact Mary Gray via email (mlg at microsoft dot com) and include “SMC PhD Internship” in the subject line.

TIMELINE

Applications are due January 6, 2020. Due to the volume of applications, late submissions (including submissions with late letters of reference) will not be considered. We will not be able to provide specific feedback on individual applications. Finalists will be contacted in February to arrange a Skype interview. Applicants chosen for the internship will be informed in March and announced on the socialmediacollective.org blog.

Microsoft is an equal opportunity employer. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to age, ancestry, color, family or medical care leave, gender identity or expression, genetic information, marital status, medical condition, national origin, physical or mental disability, political affiliation, protected veteran status, race, religion, sex (including pregnancy), sexual orientation, or any other characteristic protected by applicable laws, regulations and ordinances.  We also consider qualified applicants regardless of criminal histories, consistent with legal requirements. If you need assistance and/or a reasonable accommodation due to a disability during the application or the recruiting process, please send a request via the Accommodation request form.

Benefits/perks may vary depending on the nature of your employment with Microsoft and the country where you work.

PREVIOUS INTERN TESTIMONIALS

“Most productive summer of my graduate school experience. The SMC internship was all that I expected and then some. To be able to collaborate with a leader in my discipline, receive hands-on mentorship in pursuing a new project and to be given the space think things through among others brimming with a diversity of expertise was invaluable. The office in Cambridge is really an intellectual candy store. Having so many informal (and formal) conversations about my current and future work has given me a better ability to articulate my identity as a scholar as well as the spark to fine-tune my research agenda. Besides having the opportunity to network with so many well-established scholars, I’ve now developed a diverse peer network that I am sure will be helpful to my professional development in the future. Besides that, this is a group that actually has fun doing the work that they do. There was a magnetic energy that flowed through the office throughout the summer. I left really inspired and renewed to write my dissertation.” — Jabari Evans, Communication, Northwestern University

“My summer at Microsoft Research with the Social Media Collective was nothing short of transformative. My theoretical and methodological horizons broadened, and the relationships I forged continue to shape my development as a scholar.” — Shannon MacGregor, Communication, University of Utah

“It might be hard to believe that a twelve-week internship could be so integral to your professional and personal growth, but that’s exactly how I felt at that end of my time at MSRNE. I learned more about writing, critical thinking, public speaking, collegiality, and self-belief than I thought possible within such a short space of time, and I gained a group of forever friends and mentors in the process. The internship also provides you with a rare opportunity to work in a truly interdisciplinary environment and allows you to take your research proposal in a direction you might not have planned for. MSRNE was, and will continue to be, the perfect intellectual home for me.” — Ysabel Gerrard, Digital Media and Society, University of Sheffield, UK

“The internship at Microsoft Research was all of the things I wanted it to be – personally productive, intellectually rich, quiet enough to focus, noisy enough to avoid complete hermit-like cave dwelling behavior, and full of opportunities to begin ongoing professional relationships with other scholars who I might not have run into elsewhere.” — Laura Noren, Center for Data Science, New York University

“If I could design my own graduate school experience, it would feel a lot like my summer at Microsoft Research. I had the chance to undertake a project that I’d wanted to do for a long time, surrounded by really supportive and engaging thinkers who could provide guidance on things to read and concepts to consider, but who could also provoke interesting questions on the ethics of ethnographic work or the complexities of building an identity as a social sciences researcher. Overall, it was a terrific experience for me as a researcher as well as a thinker.” — Jessica Lingel, Communication, University of Pennsylvania

“My internship experience at MSRNE was eye-opening, mind-expanding and happy-making. If you are looking to level up as a scholar – reach new depth in your focus area, while broadening your scope in directions you would never dream up on your own; and you’d like to do that with the brightest, most inspiring and supportive group of scholars and humans – then you definitely want to apply.” — Kat Tiidenberg, Communication and Culture, Aarhus University, Denmark

“The Social Media Collective was instrumental throughout the process in giving me timely, sharp, and helpful feedback for my research project. These conversations further inspired new thinking that has shaped for my overall research agenda. I also felt supported by the process at Microsoft Research, to take on what may seem intimidating, especially for social science and humanities students: tackling a research project in 12 short weeks. Socially, the Social Media Collective and other interns at Microsoft Research New England were all amazingly nice and fun people, with whom I made great memories. Overall, the internship was an invaluable experience for my intellectual and professional development.”— Penny Trieu, Information, University of Michigan

“The Microsoft Internship is a life-changing experience. The program offers structure and space for emerging scholars to find their own voice while also engaging in interdisciplinary conversations. For social scientists especially the exposure to various forms of thinking, measuring, and problem-solving is unparalleled. I continue to call on the relationships I made at MSRE and always make space to talk to a former or current intern. Those kinds of relationships have a long tail.” — Tressie McMillan Cottom, Sociology, Virginia Commonwealth University

“Coming right after the exhausting, enriching ordeal of general/qualifying exams, it was exactly what I needed to step back, plunge my hands into a research project, and set the stage for my dissertation… PhD interns are given substantial intellectual freedom to pursue the questions they care about. As a consequence, the onus is mostly on the intern to develop their research project, justify it to their mentors, and do the work. While my mentors asked me good, supportive, and often helpfully hard, critical questions, but my relationship with them was not the relationship of an RA to a PI– instead it was the relationship of a junior colleague to senior ones.” — J. Nathan Matias, Psychology, Princeton University (read more here)

“There are four main reasons why I consider the summer I spent as an intern with the Social Media Collective to be a formative experience in my career. 1. was the opportunity to work one-on-one with the senior scholars on my own project, and the chance to see “behind the scenes” on how they approach their own work. 2. The environment created by the SMC is one of openness and kindness, where scholars encourage and help each other do their best work. 3. hearing from the interdisciplinary members of the larger MSR community, and presenting work to them, required learning how to engage people in other fields. And finally, 4. the lasting effect: Between senior scholars and fellow interns, you become a part of a community of researchers and create friendships that extend well beyond the period of your internship.” — Stacy Blasiola, Facebook UX Research

“This internship provided me with the opportunity to challenge myself beyond what I thought was possible within three months. With the SMC’s guidance, support, and encouragement, I was able to reflect deeply about my work while also exploring broader research possibilities by learning about the SMC’s diverse projects and exchanging ideas with visiting scholars. This experience will shape my research career and, indeed, my life for years to come.” — Stefanie Duguay, Communication Studies, Concordia University, Canada

“My internship with Microsoft Research was a crash course in what a thriving academic career looks like. The weekly meetings with the research group provided structure and accountability, the stream of interdisciplinary lectures sparked intellectual stimulation, and the social activities built community. I forged relationships with peers and mentors that I would never have met in my graduate training.” — Kate Zyskowski, Facebook UX Research

“It has been an extraordinary experience for me to be an intern at Social Media Collective. Coming from a computer science background, communicating and collaborating with so many renowned social science and media scholars teaches me, as a researcher and designer of socio-technical systems, to always think of these systems in their cultural, political and economic context and consider the ethical and policy challenges they raise. Being surrounded by these smart, open and insightful people who are always willing to discuss with me when I met problems in the project, provide unique perspectives to think through the problems and share the excitements when I got promising results is simply fascinating. And being able to conduct a mixed-method research that combines qualitative insights with quantitative methodology makes the internship just the kind of research experience that I have dreamed for.” — Ming Yin, Computer Science, Purdue University

“Spending the summer as an intern at MSR was an extremely rewarding learning experience. Having the opportunity to develop and work on your own projects as well as collaborate and workshop ideas with prestigious and extremely talented researchers was invaluable. It was amazing how all of the members of the Social Media Collective came together to create this motivating environment that was open, supportive, and collaborative. Being able to observe how renowned researchers streamline ideas, develop projects, conduct research, and manage the writing process was a uniquely helpful experience – and not only being able to observe and ask questions, but to contribute to some of these stages was amazing and unexpected.” — Germaine Halegoua, Film & Media Studies, University of Kansas

“Not only was I able to work with so many smart people, but the thoughtfulness and care they took when they engaged with my research can’t be stressed enough. The ability to truly listen to someone is so important. You have these researchers doing multiple, fascinating projects, but they still make time to help out interns in whatever way they can. I always felt I had everyone’s attention when I spoke about my project or other issues I had, and everyone was always willing to discuss any questions I had, or even if I just wanted clarification on a comment someone had made at an earlier point. Another favorite aspect of mine was learning about other interns’ projects and connecting with people outside my discipline.” — Jolie Matthews, Learning Sciences, Northwestern University

The incoming 2019 summer interns for the Social Media Collective!

The SMC internship doesn’t just bring us bright students, eager to take on original research projects and be part of the SMC and MSRNE community for the summer. It certainly does that. But it also makes us grow – we get blown open every time we welcome such a startling range of people, of topics, of perspectives. We look, of course, for the kind of students who we want to see succeed in our field. But there are a lot of ways to do that. Check out this year’s interns, below.

Also, we want to express our gratitude to everyone who applied. There were, as always, so many amazing applicants who would have also been fascinating and talented additions to the SMC. We wish we could bring in more of you. (Remember, we offer these internships every summer: if you’re an advanced PhD student in the areas of communication, the anthropology or sociology of new media, information science, and related fields, watch this page for when we open next year’s call.)

Anna Banchik is a PhD Candidate in Sociology at the University of Texas at Austin interested in digital media cultures, knowledge production, public archives, and social movements. Based on a year-long study of the Human Rights Investigations Lab at UC Berkeley’s Human Rights Center, her dissertation examines the rise of online open source investigations in human rights fact-finding and advocacy, and assesses its implications for participation, pluralism, and power in the human rights field. Her research has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Fulbright Commission, and P.E.O. International among other institutions, and has been published in Law & Social Inquiry and Gender & Society. At the Social Media Collective, she will research how content removals from social media platforms impact the work of human rights organizations dedicated to collecting, using, and preserving user-generated content depicting conflicts and atrocities.

Jabari Evans is a Ph.D. Candidate in the Media, Technology, and Society program at Northwestern University and works under the direction of Dr. Ellen Wartella in the Center on Media and Human Development. He received his B.A. in Communication and Culture with a minor in Sociology from the University of Pennsylvania and then went on to earn his MSW from the University of Southern California’s School of Social Work. Prior to Northwestern, Jabari enjoyed a decorated career as a hip hop songwriter and producer performing under the moniker of “Naledge” in the Chicago rap group Kidz in the Hall. Jabari’s research focuses on the music sub-cultures that urban adolescents of color develop and inhabit, collectively and individually, to learn about and understand their social environments, emotional development and professional aspirations. His dissertation focuses on Hip-Hop as pedagogy of practice in the music classroom and how youth digital media programs can increase civic engagement.  Most recently, Jabari has founded his nonprofit organization (The Brainiac Project Inc.) to leverage the combination of social media and a burgeoning local hip-hop scene as a means for violence prevention in Chicago’s South Side communities.  

Nina Medvedeva is a PhD candidate in the Department of Gender, Women, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Minnesota and is co-advised by Dr. Aren Aizura and Dr. Miranda Joseph. Her research seeks to understand how different instances of home become normalized while others unravel as contested sites. Using an ethnographic research design consisting of participant observation, interviews, media analysis, GIS spatial analysis, and archival research, her work investigates how the practice of short-term renting on Airbnb affects the labor done in the home, the nature of gentrification in major cities, and grassroots mobilizations around urban governance. She holds a Master of Arts in American Studies from the University of Maryland: College Park.

Gili Vidan is a PhD candidate at the Department of the History of Science at Harvard and a research fellow at the Science, Technology, and Society Program at the Harvard Kennedy School. She is interested in the stabilization of digital technologies and media, changing notions of public trust and democratic governance, and narratives of crisis and future-making in the US. Her dissertation traces technical attempts to solve the problems of trust and transparency, with a focus on the development of electronic payment systems and public-key cryptography in late 20th- and early 21st-century US. At the Social Media Collective, she will explore how certain media, like paper money, were made irreproducible, in an age of digital visual editing and publishing software. Gili holds a MSc from the Oxford Internet Institute and a BA from Harvard College. She is a graduate fellow at the EJ Safra Center for Ethics and an affiliate of the Berkman Klein Center.