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Presented as part of the "Solidarity and Strife: Democracies in a Time of Pandemic" initiative, funded by the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) and co-sponsored by Social Science Matrix and the D-Lab at the University of California, Berkeley.
It feels like a precursor to a bad joke: What do foreign agents, white supremacists, conspiracists, snake oil salesmen, political operatives, white academics, and a disgruntled bunch of zoomers have in common? The groups have collided in a centrifuge of chaos online, where the tactics they use to hide their identities and manipulate audiences are more prevalent than ever. Social media companies are trying to patch the holes in a failing sociotechnical systems, where the problems their products have created are now shouldered by journalists, universities, and health professionals, just to name a few. What can be done to restore moral and technical order in a time of pandemonium?
About the Speaker
Dr. Joan Donovan is the Research Director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy. Dr. Donovan leads the field in examining internet and technology studies, online extremism, media manipulation, and disinformation campaigns. Dr. Donovan leads The Technology and Social Change Project (TaSC). TaSC explores how media manipulation is a means to control public conversation, derail democracy, and disrupt society. TaSC conducts research, develops methods, and facilitates workshops for journalists, policy makers, technologists, and civil society organizations on how to detect, document, and debunk media manipulation campaigns.
Dr. Donovan's research and teaching interests are focused on media manipulation, effects of disinformation campaigns, and adversarial media movements. She teaches a graduate-level course on Media Manipulation and Disinformation Campaigns (DPI-622) with a focus on how social movements, political parties, governments, corporations, and other networked groups engage in active efforts to shape media narratives and disrupt social institutions. Dr. Donovan's research can be found in academic peer-reviewed journals such as Social Media + Society, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography (JCE), Information, Communication & Society, Social Studies of Science, and Online Information Review. Her contributions can also be found in the books, Data Science Landscape: Towards Research Standards and Protocols and Unlike Us Reader: Social Media Monopolies and Their Alternatives.
Dr. Donovan's research and expertise has been showcased in a wide array of media outlets including NPR, Washington Post, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, and more. Prior to joining Harvard Kennedy School, Dr. Donovan was the Research Lead for Data & Society’s Media Manipulation Initiative, where she led a large team of researchers studying efforts to manipulate sociotechnical systems for political gain. She continues to hold an affiliate appointment with Data & Society. Dr. Donovan received her Ph.D. in Sociology and Science Studies from the University of California San Diego, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the UCLA Institute for Society and Genetics, where she studied white supremacists’ use of DNA ancestry tests, social movements, and technology.