J. Nathan Matias Dissertation Defense

Governing Human and Machine Behavior in an Experimenting Society


Ethan Zuckerman
Professor of the Practice
Director, MIT Center for Civic Media
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Tarleton Gillespie
Principal Researcher
Microsoft Research

Elizabeth Levy Paluck
Associate Professor, Department of Psychology
Woodrow Wilson School
Princeton University

We live in a culture that depends on technologies to record our behavior and coordinate our actions with billions of other connected people. Many of these actions include deep-seated injustices by humans and machines. Our abilities to observe and intervene in other people's lives also allow us to govern, forcing us to ask how to govern wisely and who should be responsible.

In this dissertation, I argue that to govern wisely, we need to remake large-scale social experiments to follow values of democracy. Using qualitative and quantitative methods, I spent time with hundreds of communities on the social news platform reddit, learned how they govern themselves, designed novel software for community-led experiments, evaluated policies on harassment and misinformation by humans and machines, and studied the uses of this evidence in community policy deliberation.

As we develop ways to govern behavior through technology platforms, we have an opportunity to ensure that that the benefits will be enjoyed, questioned, and validated widely in an open society. Despite common views of social experiments as rare knowledge that consolidates the power of experts, I show how community experiments can scale policy evaluation and expand public influence on the governance of human and machine behavior.

More Events