Join us at 4 p.m. Thursday, December 3, for a Info Sci Colloquium on Digital Governance with guest speaker Nathan Matias, who will present "Science, Accountability, and Creativity in the Governance of Human and Machine Behavior."

Dr. J. Nathan Matias (@natematias) organizes citizen behavioral science for a safer, fairer, more understanding internet. A Guatemalan-American, Nathan is an assistant professor in the Cornell University Department of Communication.

Nathan is founder of the Citizens and Technology Lab (formerly CivilServant), a public-interest research group at Cornell that organizes citizen behavioral science and behavioral consumer protection research for digital life. CAT Lab has worked with communities of tens of millions of people on reddit, Wikipedia, and Twitter to test ideas for preventing harassment, broadening gender diversity on social media, responding to human/algorithmic misinformation, managing political conflict, and auditing social technologies. Nathan is also pioneering industry-independent evaluations on the impact of tech platform policies in society.

From 2017-2019, Nathan was an associate research scholar at Princeton University in Psychology, the Center for Information Technology, and Sociology. In 2017, Nathan completed his Ph.D. at the MIT Media Lab with Ethan Zuckerman on the governance of human and machine behavior in an experimenting society (video) (thesis). Nathan also spent several years as a fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society. Before MIT, Nathan worked in tech startups that have reached hundreds of millions of phones, helped start a series of education and journalistic charities, and studied English/postcolonial literature at the University of Cambridge and Elizabethtown College. His writings have appeared in The Atlantic, PBS, the Guardian, and other international media.

Nathan’s work is regularly covered by international media, including the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, NPR All Things Considered, WIRED, The Atlantic, The Guardian, Boston Globe, Canadian Broadcasting Company, FastCompany, Fortune, Chronicle of Higher Education, Nieman Journalism Review, and the Columbia Journalism Review, to name a few.

When not doing research, teaching, and organizing, Nathan enjoys sailing, facilitating gatherings for creative learning, having conversations about technology and faith, and working on projects that make you laugh, then think.

Watch this talk

Title: "Science, Accountability, and Creativity in the Governance of Human and Machine Behavior"

Abstract: As algorithms observe and intervene in people’s lives at scale, researchers and policymakers have attempted to monitor and govern them. Yet even as accountability research finds problems with algorithms, society is struggling to understand their impact and govern them effectively. To understand and manage algorithms in society, we need to re-visit basic questions about the role of research as science, engineering, policy evaluation, and product testing.

For digital governance to be evidence-based and accountable to the public, we need to innovate on the design and power relations of research methods. To show how this can work, Citizens and Technology Lab founder J. Nathan Matias will report a series of field studies in the governance of human and machine behavior at scale. One study considers the behavioral impact of automated law enforcement on freedom of expression. Another study reports the second-order effects of human nudges on the algorithmic spread of unreliable news. A third study reports on behavioral interventions to mitigate the role of recommender systems to inflame online harassment. 

Taken together, these studies show how creativity in how we think about science and how we do science can advance society’s ability to understand and govern the power of algorithms.