Internship opportunity: Social Media Collective (MSR New England)



Microsoft Research New England, part of the global network of Microsoft Research Labs, is looking for advanced PhD students to join the Social Media Collective (SMC) for its 12-week internship program. The Social Media Collective brings together empirical and critical perspectives to understand the political and cultural dynamics that underpin social media technologies. Our affiliated social science and humanistic researchers include full-time researchers, postdocs, interns, research assistants, and visitors. Our primary purpose is to bring rich contextual analysis to the social, political, and cultural dynamics that underpin social media technologies. Our work spans several disciplines: anthropology, communication, economics, gender and sexuality studies, information, law, media studies, science & technology studies, and sociology.

For 2022, this will be a virtual internship.

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

– Personal relationships and digital media

– Race and technology

– Relationships in hybrid work

– Creator economies

– 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

– Collective, community-based approaches to content review and moderation

For more information about the Social Media Collective, and a list of past interns, visit the About page of the SMC blog. For a complete list of all permanent researchers and current postdocs based at the New England lab, see the MSRNE lab webpage. Current projects in New England include:

– How do people build social capital with each other in remote and hybrid work, and how do those processes facilitate or harm inclusion? (Nancy Baym)

– How do discourses and designs of ideal social media habits function within apparatuses of platform capitalism? (Niall Docherty)

– 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 ethical implications of on-demand platform economies as new forms and sites of semi-automated, globally distributed, digital labor? (Mary L. Gray)

– What are the sociocultural factors shaping the development, structure, and activities of ‘tech for good’ initiatives? (Karina Rider)


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.

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.

Some of the compensation and benefits of this position include:

– highly competitive salary

– 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


Applicants must have advanced to candidacy in their PhD program by the time they start their internship (approximately May 2022). Unfortunately, there are no opportunities for Master’s students or early PhD students at this time. 

Applicants from historically marginalized communities and those underrepresented in higher education are encouraged to apply. (Unfortunately, due to a range of legal matters, this year candidates must be (1) physically located in, (2) authorized to work in, AND (3) enrolled in a university in either the U.S. or Canada, at the time of application and internship.)

To apply for a PhD internship with the Social Media Collective, fill out the online application form here:

…the application portal may prompt you to set up an account first; thanks for your patience.

Your application must include:

– A short description (no more than 2 pages, single-spaced…yes, you can use a separate sheet for citations that won’t count against you) of 1 project (no more than 2 projects) that you propose to do while interning at MSRNE, independently and/or in collaboration with current SMC researchers. Project proposals can be related to, but should 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). 

– – Feel free to attach a separate citations page–we will not include that in the page count.

– One academic article-length manuscript (~7,000 or more) that you have authored or co-authored (published or unpublished) that demonstrates your writing skills. Again, we won’t count citations in this word count.

– A copy of your CV.

– If available, pointers to your website or other online presence (this is not required).

– In addition to those qualifications, you’ll need submit the names and email contact information for three academic letters of reference (one contact must be your dissertation advisor).

Note that we cannot request letters until you submit your application. We will count your application as ON TIME, as long as we have your materials. Encourage your letter writers to send their references for you once they receive a request to do so.Please alert your letter writers in advance and ask them to look for a letter request from a email alias (often, this email ends up in email Spam Folders).

If you have any questions about or problems with the application process, please contact Tarleton Gillespie at and include “SMC 2022 PhD Internship” in the subject line.


Applications are due January 11, 2022. 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 before or after submission. Finalists will be contacted in February to arrange an online interview. Applicants chosen for the internship will be informed in March and announced on the 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 records, 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.


“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 time at the SMC was unlike any other I’ve had academically or professionally. Intellectually rigorous yet remarkably collaborative, warm, and fun-loving, the SMC pushed me to do my best work while supporting me to experiment with new ways of conducting, conceptualizing, and communicating my research.” — Anna Banchik, Sociology, UT Austin

“The summer I spent interning at the SMC was one of the most productive and fulfilling in my graduate career. I was closely mentored, supported, and pushed by the SMC researchers, postdocs, research assistants, and my fellow interns. The SMC creates a community where you can sit down for a deep chat on methods, hold a writing group, meet with a nationally renowned scholar, and do your fieldwork all in the same day (or spend your day reading and puzzling over an idea if that’s more your speed). The MSRNE lab gives you the chance to learn alongside with scholars from a huge range of fields. If you’re looking for a place to drill down on your work with smart and caring people, the SMC internship is for you.” — Nina Medvedeva, Gender Women and Sexuality Studies, University of Minnesota

“My summer at MSR was among the most stimulating and productive 12 weeks I’ve had while in grad school. The SMC team as a whole provided such a great environment to embark on a completely new research project and truly push myself to try new things, while still offering a lot of guidance and support to think through some puzzles I was working through in my dissertation and offer professional advice. Belonging to a cohort of other graduate students interns at similar stages to my own also provided a remarkable community of support and advice that pushed me to get things done during the summer, which can be an otherwise quite a solitary period during the academic year. I felt welcomed and supported from day one, and very fortunate to still maintain these ties.” — Gili Vidan, History of Science, Harvard 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 North Carolina

“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, University of North Carolina

“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)