How can junior faculty advance a public mission when it’s not always part of the job?

Many researchers want to do work that makes a difference in the world. That’s sometimes tricky in communities that aren’t sure if engaged research is legitimate work for academics.

I saw that first-hand as a PhD student when three of my mentors were denied tenure. Each did life-changing research, published books/papers, raised significant funds, and spun out organizations that further grew their impact. Each was featured prominently by their universities for transforming diversity in higher education. And when their tenure cases came up, they were denied.

When I went on the job market, I knew I wanted to be at…

What do stories do in the world, and can they move us to behave in pro-social ways?

Speaking today at the Cornell Department of Communication is, Melanie C. Green (@narrprof), a Professor in Communication at the University at Buffalo. Her work has focused on persuasion and belief change. Melanie’s research examines how narratives can change the way individuals think and behave, including the effects of fictional stories on real-world attitudes and the persistence of belief change over time.

Melanie starts with a quote by Jens Eder: stories “make children go to sleep and soldiers go to war.” We tend to think that stories are simple things that have big effects.

To start, what is a narrative? Melanie…

How can organizations grow participation in science that protects our world? And how can we design research to study behaviors that matter?

Contributors to the Great Backyard Bird Count. Photos clockwise from top left: Cindy Brown/GBBC; Saneesh CS/GBBC; Lynette Spence/GBBC; Pete Davidson/GBBC.

Four days in every February, tens of thousands of people around the world join together in the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC). By observing birds and entering “checklists” into the eBird database, people are contributing to the world’s largest biodiversity-related community science project. At the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, scientists hope that the GBBC can inspire first-time bird-watchers to continue bird-watching in ways that advance science and help protect our world.

How do environmental and community science organizations decide what kind of messaging to use? In the book Analytic Activism, David Karpf explains that many organizations brainstorm ideas and just…

How can researchers overcome stigmas in science toward communities of color? And how can we establish partnerships that are valuable to everyone involved?

Speaking today at the Cornell Communication department is Dr. Robin Stevens (@drrobinstevens), a health communication scholar focused on achieving health equity in African American and Latinx communities in the US. Dr. Stevens uses digital epidemiology to investigate sexual health, mental health and substance use in the context of the digital neighborhood. She uses interdisciplinary community-engaged approaches to improve the health and well-being of youth of color. Dr. Stevens is an Associate Professor of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication, USC and the Director of the Health Equity & Media Lab.

Robin opens by telling us about a billboard posted…

How racism defines which students are seen as creative, and which students are seen as threats

LEGO WeDo. Photo by Noratheone

Even as youth creativity flowers online, technologies of play have become caught up in society’s deep divisions, often reinforcing them. How does that happen?

Speaking today at the Cornell Department of Communication is Matt Rafalow (@mrafalow), a sociologist, researcher at Google, and a visiting scholar at UC Berkeley’s Center for Science, Technology, Medicine & Society. Before working at Google, Matt was an ethnographer for many years with the Connected Learning Research Network. Matt has also been a researcher at Yahoo! Labs and GovLab. …

In a crisis, we wrongly think that talk is cheap and action matters most. By improving coordination, slowing down can speed us up.

Dr. Dawna Ballard, Associate Professor at the University of Texas Department of Communication Studies

How would you like to do work that is highly-traumatic, fast-paced, under-resourced, and never ending? That’s the everyday life of people who work at children’s advocacy centers. How does this work shape people’s experience of time, and can slowing down actually help teams work more efficiently?

Speaking today at the Cornell Communication department is Dr. Dawna Ballard(@dawnaballard), an associate professor of organizational communication and technology at the University of Texas at Austin and an expert in chronemics — the study of time as it is bound to human communication. She researches what drives our pace of life and its impact…

When 70 people died in her hometown, Dr. Mary Amdur decided to find out why. Her funder? The firm accused of causing it.

The Donora Zinc Works. Source: Donora Historical Society

In October 1948, a thick, yellow fog descended on Donora Pennsylvania, a small factory town near Pittsburgh. When the haze slid out of homes and hospitals four days later, twenty people were dead and a third of the town was sick. The death toll soon rose to 70. What had caused this plague? The weather? Pollution? Experts blamed a freak weather incident.

One year later, when biochemist Dr. Mary Amdur graduated from Cornell and joined the Harvard School of Public Health, she decided to investigate. The American Smelting and Refining Company funded the lab that hired her. They knew she…

How did Black Lives Matter come into being? This movement changed how we push for racial justice, but surely it didn’t begin in 2012 when the hashtag was created. What’s the longer genealogy of black technology?

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Strand Books to hear Ruha Benjamin interview Charlton D. McIlwain about his new book Black Software. This post is a liveblog of that talk.

Charlton McIlwain (@cmcilwain) is a Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University, where he is Vice Provost for Faculty Engagement and Development. Author of multiple books on race and the…

Help us advance human understanding by studying this massive dataset of headline A/B tests

Remember these headlines?

2014 was the year that the digital media company Upworthy “broke the internet” in the words of cofounder Peter Koechley. By publishing positive, progressive news stories and optimizing them with A/B testing, Upworthy came to dominate online attention.

What can we learn from all those A/B tests? Today, Good & Upworthy and our team of J. Nathan Matias (Cornell), Kevin Munger (Penn State), and Marianne Aubin Le Quere (Cornell) are announcing The Upworthy Research Archive, a dataset of 32,487 A/B tests conducted by Upworthy from January 2013 to April 2015. …

A guide to interdisciplinary PhD programs

Maybe your community has been affected by technology and you want to understand and reshape those impacts. Or you’re in the tech industry and know how few problems can be solved with engineering alone. Maybe you studied the social sciences and want to understand digital environments. Above all, you are looking for a way to create usable knowledge that matters in people’s lives.

In this post, I’m sharing what I’ve learned over 8 years of answering questions about PhD programs in technology, democracy, and social change.

Ways of Knowing And Doing

As you think about the issues and questions you care about, think about your…

J. Nathan Matias

Citizen social science to improve digital life & hold tech accountable. Assistant Prof, Cornell. Prev: Princeton, MIT. Guatemalan-American

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