Technology and Social Change (TaSC) Research Project

combating media manipulation through knowledge and action

About the Technology and Social Change Research Project

Led by Dr. Joan Donovan, the Technology and Social Change (TaSC) Research Project addresses threats to media ecosystems at a time when social media presents new risks to democratic processes. From hackers manipulating media just for fun, to foreign agents looking to polarize online conversations, to journalists coming under fire by politicians – social media presents both promise and peril for connected societies. How can truth and trust survive in this new media ecosystem?

Today, technology companies, policy makers, journalists, researchers, and civil rights defenders are grappling with the responsible design and deployment of new technologies while triaging their disruptive impact on social institutions. TaSC offers a pathbreaking approach for studying the FATE of technology; Fairness, Accountability, Transparency, and Ethics (FATE) is a rubric for assessing the unintended consequences of rapid technological change. This transdisciplinary (different forms of knowledge) and cross-sector (variety of professions) approach aims to inform and activate stakeholders committed to strengthening democracies across the world.

About The 100×100 Plan

The Technology and Social Change Research Project is leading the charge to address media manipulation, disinformation, and cybersecurity with the development of the Global Media Manipulation Case Book (GMMCB). The Global Media Manipulation Case Book is a shared digital research infrastructure that serves as the backbone for TaSC’s 100×100 Plan. The case book will include the curation of 100 case studies to advance our knowledge of how misinformation travels across the web and platforms. The 100×100 Plan will curate cutting edge research and build the field of Critical Internet Studies by training over 100 diverse practitioners. By taking a cross-sector approach, journalists, researchers, policy makers, technologists, and community organizers will learn how to detect, document, and debunk media manipulation campaigns, while also contributing to public literacy about media manipulation, political polarization, and content moderation online.

Our mission at TaSC is to translate empirical research into action by providing the means to turn shared definitions of the problem into a range of possible actions, each with its own trade-offs and potential pitfalls. While there are no perfect solutions to our current crisis of communication, we view technology as a process and a product that shapes us, while we shape it. By channeling research into education for a variety of stakeholders and practitioners, we can envision and create a different future for technology and connected societies.

Team

  • Dr. Joan Donovan, Director and Lead Researcher
  • Vanessa Rhinesmith, Associate Research Director
  • Brian Friedberg, Senior Researcher
  • Nicole Leaver, Research Assistant

Contact us at manipulation@hks.harvard.edu

Collection of research and commentary:

About Dr. Joan Donovan

Research Director
Technology and Social Change Research Project
full profile

Dr. Joan Donovan is Director and Lead Researcher of the Technology and Social Change Research Project at the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard Kennedy School.

Dr. Donovan’s research and teaching interests are focused on media manipulation, effects of disinformation campaigns, and adversarial media movements. This fall, she will be teaching a graduate-level course on Media Manipulation and Disinformation Campaigns at Harvard Kennedy School 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 + SocietyJournal of Contemporary Ethnography (JCE)Information, Communication, & Society, Social Studies of Science, and Online Information Review. Her research and 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 NPRWashington PostThe New York TimesRolling StoneABC NewsNBC NewsColumbia Journalism ReviewThe 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 as well as an affiliate appointment at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

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.

Dr. Joan Donovan on the web:

For all inquiries directed to Dr. Donovan (including press) please contact us at: manipulation@hks.harvard.edu