natematias's blog | MIT Center for Civic Media

Monitoring, Explaining, and Intervening: Field Experiments and Social Justice

What role can field experiments and other causal research play in efforts toward social justice in social computing? Aren't experiments tools for reductionistic, top-down paternalism? How could causal inference ever support grassroots approaches to social justice?

This question is a central struggle in my effort to decide a dissertation topic. The idea of participatory experimentation motivated me to work on the cornhole experiment. It was also at the back of my mind in my talk on discrimination and other social problems online at the Platform Cooperativism conference (start at 1:00:30 mark). In this post, I outline my current thinking on this question.  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

Mentorship, Intellectual Freedom, and a Great Environment For Research: My MSR Internship at the Social Media Collective

The hardest part of being a PhD intern at the Social Media Collective last summer happened on weekday mornings. On those mornings, when I joined the optional Writing Power Hour, we would sit together at a long table overlooking the Charles River and write. For one or two hours, we committed to silence, collectively focusing on our work.

For a community of caring scholars who love sharing ideas and love to be with each other, staying quiet was no small challenge-- and not just because Tarleton Gillespie and Mary Gray seem full of energy and perpetually on the cusp of a mischievous joke. Everyone is just too curious to stay in their own heads for very long.

A New Starting Point for Understanding Online Harassment

If you're a platform designer or a researcher just starting to look into the issue of online harassment, where is a good place to start? To help you out, we have created an Online Harassment Resource Guide, which covers academic research on the topic.

In the months after I led the research team on a peer reviewed report about harassment on Twitter, many designers, platform operators, and advocates have asked me if there's any academic research about online harassment and what it says. As a researcher, I felt the opposite problem. Online harassment and abuse have motivated so much research that it can be hard to wade through it all, especially because the research often appears in fields that rarely talk to each other. In many cases, designers and advocates propose great ideas that have also been tried elsewhere, approaches whose benefits and problems have already been discussed at length.

9 Working Examples of Platform Cooperatives

Having spent a day here in New York City discussing the idea of platform cooperatives, the conversation shifted this evening with a showcase of nine actual cooperative organizations and technologies.


(image by Jojo Karlin)

Starting out the conversation was New York City Council Member Maria del Carmen Arroyo. She talked about first hearing about the idea of worker-owned businesses at a conference by the Federation of Protestant Welfare Agencies, and then took the idea forward with the New York City Council. For 2016, the city approved of a $2.1 million Worker Cooperative Business Development Initiative. Arroyo talked about her hopes that they would be able to promote similar initiatives at a state and federal level.

Organizing Labor in Platform Economies: Platform Cooperativism Conference

What forms of networked solidarity are emerging in an era of online platforms, and how might we organize labor in platform economies?

I'm here at the two-day Platform Cooperativism conference at the New School in New York city. I'll be facilitating a workshop on data science in cooperative economies with Tara Adiseshan at 2pm on Sat and will be speaking on monitoring abuses of power at 4pm on Sat. In the meantime, I'm liveblogging as many sessions as I can.

Facilitated by Sara Horowitz: Founder and Exec Director of Freelancers Union

Threats and Challenges to Cooperative Economies: Platform Cooperativism Conference

What challenges must be overcome to move towards cooperative economies?

This weekend, I'm here at the Platform cooperativism conference, where I'll be talking on Saturday at 4pm. This session on "making it work" featured a series of sociologists, legal scholars, and business scholars to discuss this question.

Juliet Schor (@JulietSchor): How To Build And Sustain Cooperative Platforms

What could the platform cooperativism movement learn from how people are experiencing peer economies? When we try to clone the heart of these platforms, what does that heart look like?

What is Platform Cooperativism and Why is it Important?

(this blog post was written with Katie Arthur)

What is platform cooperativism and why is it needed?

Today, we're here at the New School in New York City for the Platform Cooperativism conference, which is bringing together a remarkable range of speakers on the theme of creating online platforms that are owned and operated by their users and workers. These two days feature speakers from a wide range of academic disciplines alongside people sharing their experiences of running co-ops and advocating for fair work in platform economies.

Trebor starts out his jeremiad telling us that the missing element in discussions of economic problems is the lack of something we can say yes to -- something that people could actually build and support. In this first session of the day, Unpacking Platforms, Trebor Scholz and Janelle Orsi offer a set of principles and platform examples that they hope will frame our conversations over the next two days.

Consequences of the Sharing Economy in the US

Bot-Based Collective Blocklists in Twitter: The Counterpublic Moderation of a Privately-Owned Networked Public Space

Here at the 16th conference of the Association of Internet Researchers, I attended a talk by Stuart Geiger, who is doing helpful work to theorize the role of block bots in conversation on the Internet. Over the years, Stuart's thinking has been deeply influential to my own approach. I've written about his work twice before, in my Atlantic article about how people work to fix broken systems that aren't theirs to repair. I've also liveblogged a great talk he gave on supporting change from the outside platforms.

Stuart opens by saying that block bots are systems where anti-harassment activists have developed algorithmic software agents to deal with harassment, relatively independently from Twitter. Blockbots involve different kinds of gatekeeping than what we typically think about. It's different from algorithmic gatekeeping (Tufekci), network gatekeeping (Nahon), or filter bubbles (Pariser). How can we make sense of it?

Online Vigilantes, the Wikipedia GamerGate Controversy, Ethics of Bots at AOIR 16

I'm here at the 16th AOIR conference liveblogging a session on ethics. You can see the abstracts and papers here.

To start out Mathias Klang gives a talk about "online vigilantism," On The Internet Nobody Can See Your Cape: The ethics of online vigilantism. What is online vigilantism? Mathias talks about large-scale online responses to the Justine Sacco case, the infamous smiling selfie from Auschwitz, the dentist who shot cecil the lion, the woman who put a cat in a bin in Coventry. Most of these events don't go to court; they are actions that lead us to be annoyed somehow, says Mathias.

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