SMC is looking for a postdoc. Apply now!

APPLICATION DEADLINE: December 1, 2020

The Social Media Collective at Microsoft Research New England (MSRNE) is looking for a two-year social media postdoctoral researcher. This position is an ideal opportunity for a scholar whose work draws on communication, media studies, anthropology, sociology, and/or science & technology studies to bring empirical and critical perspectives to bear on complex socio-technical issues. We also consider applications from candidates that might bridge SMC with one or more areas of the MSRNE lab, including machine learning and statistics, economics and computational economics, theoretical mathematics, and computational biology.

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 2021. The position is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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 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 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)

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

SMC postdocs may also have the opportunity to visit and collaborate with researchers in our sister labs in New York City and Montreal.

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


Qualifications

Required Qualifications:

  • PhD in anthropology, communications, media studies, sociology, science & technology studies, or a related field. 
  • A research program demonstrated by journal and conference publications.

Preferred Qualifications:

  • A strong social scientific or humanistic methodological, analytical, and theoretical foundation.
  • Strong communication skills.
  • The ability to work in a highly collaborative and interdisciplinary environment.
  • Demonstrated leadership potential in research.

Responsibilities

Postdoctoral researchers define their own research agenda. Postdocs are expected to be lively contributors to discussions in the SMC research group, and the MSR New England lab.

The ideal candidate may be trained in any number of disciplines, but should have a strong social scientific or humanistic methodological, analytical, and theoretical foundation, 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 also includes computer scientists, mathematicians, and economists.


Application process

Submit an online application here.

To get started with your application, press the “Apply now” button. When prompted, upload your CV and provide names and contact information of three referees; one of your letter writers must be your dissertation advisor.

In addition, you must upload the following 3 documents, as attachments, to your online application:

1. a single research statement (4 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+3. two writing samples: journal articles, book chapters, or equivalent (uploaded as two separate attachments).

Remember to press the “Submit” button at the last screen.

Requests for recommendation letters 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! We recommend that you warn your letter writers in advance, so they will have their letters ready to submit 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 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 also 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 submitted by December 1, 2020. For more information, see here.If you have any questions about the application process, you can contact Tarleton Gillespie at tarleton@microsoft.com and 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.

More than tools: who is responsible for the social dilemma?

The Social Dilemma has been causing a stir, somewhat ironically, on social media lately. While the film’s topic is timely, and explored with applaudable intentions, its subject matter is mishandled. For all of its values, and all of its flaws, the film’s diagnosis of social media is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of technology. Its recommended path to recovery, as a result, leads to a dead-end. Until we think of technology not as a tool but as a set of relations, we will never truly grasp the problems with which The Social Dilemma is concerned.

Jim Dine, 1973, "No Title"
Jim Dine, 1973, “No Title”

This feature length documentary turns primarily to tech industry insiders, as well as a few computer scientists, economists, and social psychologists, to spell out the dangers, which appear to be many, of our current entwinement with social media platforms today.

Glitzy infographics correlate the advent of social media with increased anxiety, depression, and self-harm in US teenagers – supposedly because platforms so easily allow us to compare ourselves to one another online. Sliding scales represent how the algorithmic filtering of information on social media increases political polarization – by only presenting self-reinforcing information to users, so it goes, social media are damaging to rational deliberation. And, in a rather confusing turn, human actors personify the technological nudges of the social media user interfaces – showing how our actions, and our very thoughts, are shaped by persuasive computer design.

The Social Dilemma argues that social media platforms are designed to manipulate us, capturing our attention for their economic gain. The longer we interact with platforms, the more data we produce, the more accurate a prediction of our behaviours can be established. These user profiles can then be sold individually or as part of demographics to marketers and advertisers wishing to reach specific audiences online.

To guard against such dangers, the documentary implores viewers to “take back control” of their lives online. A little self-discipline in how we use social media can help – limit your time spent scrolling? Turn off your push-notifications? Perhaps don’t stalk your ex’s new life, zombie-like, right before bed? However, while such actions are a start, the film’s experts argue, full control can only be achieved through complete disconnection from social media altogether.

Notwithstanding the validity of the “evidence” the documentary mobilises to justify its claims, or its tendency to trust those in the tech industry to know how to mend what they themselves have wrought, The Social Dilemma actually reveals a bigger issue at the core of our relationship with social media – one that individual, behavioural changes alone won’t fix. In our debates surrounding the impacts, potentials and perceivable “dangers” of social media today, we continue to rely upon an out-dated and redundant “tool-view” of technology.

To anyone who has paid even the scantest notice of the news in recent years, the negative effects of social media and the attention economy– in personal, political, and social spheres, are easily grasped. But the way The Social Dilemma makes its case for “manipulation” is flawed, obscuring the real, and much more profound, stakes of our deal with social media today.

To be “manipulated” suggests that users are being diverted from a course of action they would otherwise have taken. This implies a pre-existing individual, already happily furnished with their own desires, and with full capacity to enact them as they please. Social media, in this framework, is the diverting, deceiving technology that takes individuals away from their “true” interests. By falling prey to the nudges of social media, and giving in completely to what they are predicted to want, users are stopped from acting wilfully, as they otherwise would.

Yet when have human beings ever been fully and perfectly in control of the technologies around them? Is it not rather the case that technologies, far from being separate from human will, are intrinsically involved in its activation?

French philosopher Bruno Latour famously uses the example of the gun to advance this idea, which he calls mediation. We are all aware of the platitude, “Guns don’t kill people, people kill people”. In its logic, the gun is simply a tool that allows the person, as the primary agent, to kill another. The gun exists only as an object, through which the person’s desire of killing flows. For Latour, this view is deeply misleading.

Instead, Latour draws our attention to the way the gun, in translating a human desire for killing into action, materializes that desire in the world: “you are a different person with the gun in your hand”[1], and the gun, by being in your hand, is different than if it were left snuggly in its rack. Only when the human intention and the capacities of the gun are brought together can a shooting, as an observably autonomous action, actually take place. It is impossible to neatly distinguish the primary agents of the scene. Responsibility of the shooting, which can only occur through the combination of human and gun, and by proxy, those who produced and provided it, is thus shared.

With this in mind, we must question how useful it is to think about social media in terms of manipulation and control. Social media, far from being a malicious yet inanimate object (like a weapon) is something more profound and complex: a generator of human will. Our interactions on social media platforms, our likes, our shares, our comments, are not raw resources to be mined – they simply could not have occurred without their technical mediation. Neither are they mere expressions of our autonomy, or, conversely, manipulation: the user does not, and cannot, act alone.

Instead, with this idea of mediation, neither human individuals, nor the manipulative design of platforms, seductive they may be, can be the sole causes of the psychological and political harm of social media. Rather, it is the coming together of human users and user-interfaces, in specific historical settings, that co-produce the activity that occurs upon them. We, as users, as much as the technology itself, therefore, share responsibility for the issues that rage online today.

However, we are not responsible in the terms of control that the talking heads of The Social Dilemma argue for. This is certainly not to side-step the culpability of those (overwhelmingly white, male Californians) who own, design, and release social media technologies. Understanding who profits from social media, and the normative cultural worldviews they peddle, is crucial. Rather, in recognising the complexity of this “socio-technical” relationship – between designers, users, interfaces, and algorithms – we can move beyond the unhelpful binary of cause and effect. A move away from deterministic thinking would widen our view, to consider the problems raised in The Social Dilemma in a more nuanced way.

For example, rather than seeing the ostensible crisis in mental health faced by teenagers as caused by social media self-comparison, we can investigate how other socio-political factors –  gender, race, and class inequities for instance, material conditions, as well as actual governmental policy decisions, entangle with social media to contribute to our feelings of individual and collective wellbeing. As opposed to considering social media filter bubbles and echo chambers as causing political polarization (as if it were merely a matter of access to the right information), we can instead ask in what ways our fractured political climate actually reflects the systemic failures of neoliberal ideology, lasting institutional racism, and patriarchal nation-statehood.

If we are to pursue these more complex, more progressive, discussions, it is necessary to re-frame social media as something more than a mere “tool”. Rather than simply leave it to former tech industry insiders to spell out the ills of social media in documentaries like The Social Dilemma, we must engage with thinkers from a diverse range of backgrounds to look to the historical conditions of social media’s origins, while always questioning the economics and cultural politics of its global dissemination.  We must personally examine how our own thoughts and actions are subtly shaped by social media’s design, while taking time to listen to marginalized individuals and communities who are impacted the most by the violence produced through social media today. And by seeing technology as a relation, by sharing responsibility in this way, we lift the burden of fixing the problem from the individual user alone, and discard the moralizing discourses such a burden brings.


[1] Latour, B. (1994) On Technical Mediation Common Knowledge Fall Vol.3, no 2. Pp. 32-33

new faces in the Social Media Collective… welcome!

In the confusion of our current times, we were not as quick about announcing the newest members of the Social Media Collective as we usually are. Like everyone, we find ourselves out of step with the timelessness of pandemic time. But as these new faces are showing up and settling in with us – on our video screens, if not in the lab – we wanted to share the good news, tell you all about them and their work.

Below you’ll meet three SMC interns, the newest postdoc to join the Social Media Collective, and a summer/fall 2020 visitor whose (virtual) arrival is just days away. And as a sign of how late this post is, the first intern you’ll meet has already finished their internship!

Tristan Gohring is a PhD student in Informatics at Indiana University. Their research intersects the fields of science and technology studies, social informatics, and gender studies. Their primary research is about gender as a classification system, and how gender classification gets used and embedded in technologies such as identification documents and online forms and profile pages. (Tristan was part of the joint MSR / E+D JEM Project PhD internship program; they were interning with us when we all had to start working from home, and they bravely completed their internship under these unexpected circumstances. Tristan really helped us think through how to move the SMC internship online. Many thanks!)

Amber Hamilton is a PhD Candidate in Sociology at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities interested in questions concerning race, technology, and digital media. Her dissertation, titled “Contestation and Articulations of Digital Blackness,” explores the embodiment of digital Blackness in the online lives of Black Twitter users and the multiple forms of cultural conversations that occur within the community to understand how race is articulated and maintained online. At the Social Media Collective, Amber is exploring the responses of social media and tech platforms to protests for racial justice in response to the murder of George Floyd. Amber holds an MA in Sociology from the University of Minnesota and a BA in Sociology from The Ohio State University.

Anna Gibson is a PhD Candidate in the Department of Communication at Stanford University working under the direction of Dr. Angèle Christin. She is interested in present and historical online communities, and her doctoral research focuses on the friction between these communities and the governance structures and organizations that make them possible. She was awarded a graduate fellowship at Stanford’s McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society, and her work on the application of theories of democratic governance to social media platform content moderation practices has been published in Social Media + Society. This summer she is researching how platform companies talk about punishment with regards to content moderation.

Our newest postdoc, Niall Docherty recently completed his PhD at the Centre for Critical Theory, University of Nottingham. His thesis examines the material and discursive construction of Facebook’s ideal users, linking normative designations of “healthy” usership to neoliberal histories of governance through habit. Niall has a BA in Politics and an MA in Cultural Studies from Goldsmiths, University of London, specialising in political theory, Modern philosophy and governmentality studies. His future projects include developing a conceptually rigorous rubric of habit to study the quality, possibility and limitations of everyday social media usage; empirically investigating how discourses of well-being are articulated in different social media environments; and further exploring how expressions of ‘living well’ on social media sites are enacted by users to function within apparatus of platform capitalism.

And finally, our faculty visitor from July-December, Angèle Christin is an assistant professor in the Department of Communication and affiliated faculty in the Sociology Department and Program in Science, Technology, and Society at Stanford University. Drawing on ethnographic methods, she studies how algorithms and analytics transform professional values, expertise, and work practices. Her book, Metrics at Work: Journalism and the Contested Meaning of Algorithms  (Princeton University Press, 2020) focuses on the case of web journalism, analyzing the growing importance of audience analytics in web newsrooms in the U.S. and France. With the Social Media Collective, Angèle will work on a new research project on the paradoxes of algorithmic labor through an ethnographic study of influencers and influencer marketing firms on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok.

Our best wishes to our most recent faculty visitor Desmond Patton, who has returned to Columbia University’s School of Social Work, and Elena Maris, who just completed her SMC postdoc and is now an assistant faculty in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois Chicago!

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.

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.