Internship opportunity: Sociotechnical Infrastructures (MSR New York City)



Microsoft Research NYC is looking for an advanced PhD student to conduct an original research project on a topic under the rubric of “sociotechnical infrastructures.” MSR internships provide PhD students with an opportunity to work on an independent research project that advances their intellectual development while collaborating with a multi-disciplinary group of scholars. Interns typically relish the networks that they build through this program. This internship will be mentored by danah boyd; the intern will be part of both the NYC lab’s cohort and a member of the Social Media Collective. Applicants for this internship should be interested in conducting original scholarly research under the guidance of Dr. boyd.

Substantive Context: In her infamous article “The Ethnography of Infrastructure,” Susan Leigh Star called on scholars to “study boring things.” There are many types of boring things, but some are especially intriguing. This internship is designed to encourage research into a certain class of boring things: sociotechnical infrastructures. In this particular context, sociotechnical infrastructures refer to the invisible backbone underlying the technologies that often get discussed. This internship is for those who might be enamored with data centers or databases, differential privacy or security breaches, federal statistics or data brokers, or a range of topics too esoteric to even name. The goal of this internship is to peel back the layers of invisible and boring infrastructures in order to better understand how complex sociotechnical systems come to be. 

Sociotechnical infrastructures are never neutral. They are designed with ideological commitments and situated in societies shaped by inequities, prejudices, and conflicting values. They are often imagined to be objective, but their very essence is entangled with the social forces they seek to distance themselves from. They may be built for the public sector or to maximize capital – or they might be envisioned as divorced from both. Yet, they are positioned within an arrangement of power that they can never truly escape. 


This internship is explicitly for scholars coming from qualitative, critical perspectives – ideally leveraging an STS approach in their research. The ideal candidate will find joy is grappling with different epistemic perspectives and relish seeing sociotechnical infrastructures from multiple vantage points. Critique, after all, stems from its own values orientation. The ideal intern might come from any number of disciplines, but will have significant experience with at least one qualitative method (e.g., ethnography, interviews, content analysis, archival methods). Most likely, the ideal intern is struggling to find a “home” discipline.

A successful internship project will dive deep into a particular sociotechnical infrastructure, offering an empirical and theoretical intervention. Preference will be given to projects that involve new data collection, projects that recognize how intersectional inequities are intertwined with sociotechnical systems, and projects that go beyond critique to grapple with the everyday realities of sociotechnical infrastructures. 


The application for this PhD internship opportunity can be found here:

Applicants must: 

1. Be currently enrolled in a PhD program 

2. Be integrating social science or STS-oriented knowledge into their dissertation 

3. Have completed, or on target to complete coursework by June 2022

Preference will be given to candidates who:

1. Have experience conducting independent research using qualitative methods (e.g., interviews, archival research, ethnographic fieldwork, etc.)

2. Have written publication-ready research papers

3. Can demonstrate a track record of research collaboration

4. Can articulate a project proposal that accounts for / centers equity and justice in their proposed analysis

Applicants from historically marginalized communities and those underrepresented in higher education are encouraged to apply. (Unfortunately, due to a range of legal matters, students must be both physically located in the United States or Canada, and eligible to work in the US at the time of application and internship.)

When applying for this job, you will have the opportunity to upload information. Your application should include: 

– Your CV

– A brief (no more than 1 page) description of your dissertation project.

– A short (2-3 pages) project proposal. 

– A cover sheet that describes your interest in this internship and your relevant experience.

– Names of three references who, upon contact, will be able to return reference letters in a timely manner. 

– An academic article-length manuscript (~7,000 or more) that you have authored or co-authored (published or unpublished) that demonstrates your writing skills. 

Your project proposal should describe a potential project (or projects) that you might conduct that fit the scope of this call. The purpose of this project proposal is to show your research interests and reveal how you would go about conducting an independent study. We are looking to see what questions might drive your inquiry, how you would methodologically pursue your questions, what fieldsite and/or data might be most fruitful for such an analysis. Your proposal should account for method and theory, and be attentive to the realistic challenges of accessing relevant data during a summer internship. Your proposal should also reveal why you are qualified to do this work by highlighting your experience.  But please note: The purpose of the proposal is to demonstrate your theoretical and analytical interests, ability to scope a project, and understanding of the data needed to do the work. The successful intern will work with their mentor during the internship to finalize a proposal before beginning data collection or analysis. In other words, the details of your actual project might differ from your proposed project as you work with MSR researchers. 

If you have any questions about the application process, please contact danah boyd at and include “MSR Internship” in the subject line.


We will begin reviewing applications for this position on January 11, 2022.

The standard MSR internship takes place during the summer, but internships may begin any time from February-June 2022. In your cover letter, please indicate your ideal start date. 

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.