Social Media Collective

Organization founded in 2009. SMC is a network of social science and humanistic researchers, part of the Microsoft Research labs in New England and New York. It includes full-time researchers, postdocs, interns, and visitors.

Our primary purpose is to provide rich contextual understanding into the social and cultural dynamics that underpin social media technologies. Our work spans several disciplines: anthropology, communication, economics, information, law, media studies, women’s studies, science & technology studies, and sociology. Examples of our current and past research include:

  • What are the social and cultural issues arising from data-centric tech development?
  • How does the use of social media affect relationships between artists and audiences in creative industries and what does that tell us about the future of work?
  • What are the politics, ethics, and policy implications of artificial intelligence and machine learning? How do machine learning techniques interpret and represent the social world?
  • What are the cultural, political, and economic implications of crowdsourcing as a new form of semi-automated, globally-distributed digital labor?
  • What kind of public obligations are social media platforms now facing, and how is this shifting how they approach policing user content and behavior?
  • What kinds of biases can be embedded in algorithms, how should public concerns shape algorithmic design?
  • How do youth make sense of social media? What are their working notions of privacy?
  • How do people with minimal internet access use mobile media to negotiate marginalization and increase social mobility?
  • How does technology alter the landscape of human trafficking?

You can find an updated list of our scholarly work here. We are regular contributors to the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR), The International Communication Association (ICA), The American Anthropological Association (AAA), the American Sociological Association (ASA), and The Society for the Social Study of Science (4S). We are also deeply involved with the Data & Society Research Institute, founded by danah boyd in 2014.

We also aim to play a role in shaping public conversations about the intersection of technology and society through public speaking and commentary. We’ve written numerous op-eds in venues like the New York TimesWired, and the Atlantic. We have also given public lectures at a variety of venues including World Economic Forum, O’Reilly’s Strata Conference, the Federal Trade Commission, and European music industry conventions. Our efforts are intended to help people get past mistaken assumptions and persistent fears, to better understand the role of technology in society.

We typically support 1-2 two-year postdoctoral researchers, and 2-4 advanced PhD students as summer interns. Follow our blog, Socialmediacollective.org, for announcements of these and other opportunities, as well as scholarship from the permanent researchers and our broader ‘collective’ of visitors and colleagues.