Social Mirror: Tablet Tech for Social Checkups | MIT Center for Civic Media
At the Center for Civic Media and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Nathan designs and researches civic technologies for cooperation across diversity. At the Berkman Center, he applies data analysis and design to the topics of peer-based social technologies, civic engagement, journalism, gender diversity, and creative learning.
Nathan's current projects include large scale research on community building online. In the summer of 2015, Nathan will be a PhD intern at the Microsoft Research Social Media Collective. A full project list is at natematias.com.
Nathan regularly liveblogs talks and events. He also publishes data journalism with the Guardian Datablog and PBS IdeaLab. He coordinated the Media Lab Festival of Learning in 2012 and 2013.
Before MIT, Nathan completed an MA in English literature at the University of Cambridge, where he was a Davies Jackson scholar. In earlier years, he was Riddick Scholar and Hugh Cannon Memorial Scholar at the American Institute of Parliamentarians. He won the Ted Nelson award at ACM Hypertext 2005 with a work of tangible scholarly hypermedia. He facilitated #1book140, The Atlantic's Twitter book club from 2012-2014, and was an intern at Microsoft Research Fuse Labs in the summer of 2013.
Social Mirror: Tablet Tech for Social Checkups
Social Mirror is social checkup technology for people and organisations. Last month, the Media Lab's corporate sponsors used Social Mirror for a social checkup on their connections with our research groups. This summer, I'm testing the tablet software in UK communities in partnership with Gaia Marcus at the RSA, a prominent UK thinktank (you have probably seen their RSAnimate videos).
What do we mean by "social checkup"? We all know that finding and keeping good relationships is a basic human need. The Internet and mobile phones have created relationship overload for some of us and network inequality for many others. A social checkup shows how our network has changed and helps us choose which relationships to focus on.
Social Mirror has the potential for huge impact. It will transform social science research by making offline social network research cheaper, faster, and more reliable. It also empowers participants, giving them control over their own data.
Social checkups can also help public services evaluate their effectiveness. For example, after-school programs can track how successful they are at linking students with mentors and the community. Case workers could perform social checkups to give advice to clients dealing with social isolation or recovering from an addiction.
We think government and organisations can make great advances by applying network thinking to practical questions in society. That broader vision is at the heart of The RSA's Connected Communities project.