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Dr. J. Nathan Matias

I am a researcher at Cornell University who studies behavior change in contexts shaped by algorithms. I work alongside the public to test ideas for a flourishing internet.


Are They Watching Me? Internet Surveillance Permalink

(Global Voices)

Jillian York (Global Voices and Electronic Frontier Foundation) starts off this session by asking participants if they think their government is monitoring their electronic communications.

Vote for 1book140’s December Read: 2013’s Also-Rans Permalink


New Press, Houghton Mifflin, Penguin, Harper Collins, Knopf, Random HouseFrom parties to prisons, narratives of a single place or remarkable journeys, the past year at our Twitter book club, @1book140, has sparked great conversations.

1book140’s April Read: Middlemarch Permalink


Middlemarch, by George Eliot, has been called “the greatest English novel,” labeled “the death knell for a book club,” and, according to Virginia Woolf, who loved it, “one of the few novels written for grown-up people.

1book140’s July Read: A Highly Unlikely Scenario Permalink


After a month of discussion on healthy, ethical food at #1book140, our Twitter book club’s July pick is a dystopian fast-food space comedy with A Highly Unlikely Scenario, or a Neetsa Pizza Employee’s Guide to Saving the World by Rachel Cantor.

Gratitude and its Dangers in Social Technologies Permalink

(MIT Center for Civic Media)

How do our designs change when we start emphasizing people and community and not just the things they do for us? Over the next year of my research, I’m exploring acknowledgment and gratitude, basic parts of online relationships that designers often set aside to focus on the tasks people do online.

To Read This Month: A Wrinkle in Time Permalink


In celebration of Banned Book Month at @1book140, join our Twitter book club to read the classic sci-fi fantasy novel and illicit classic A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle.

Don’t Stop Inferring: An AI Rock Ballad Permalink


Memories aren’t made to last. With no apologies to Journey, and much gratitude to TheInspiroBot, Rochelle LaPlante, Andromeda Yelton, Caroline Sinders, Sydette Harry, Renee Teate, Gina Neff, and Andrew Losowsky, for egging me on last July.

Why I’m Going on the Academic Job Market Permalink


I believe my best contribution to a flourishing internet is through public-interest research and teaching in a university settingAs society discovers the power and risks from digital communications, how can democracies manage this power for the common good?

I’m joining the Cornell University Department of Communication! Permalink


Why I’m excited to start as an assistant professor and what it means for the research nonprofit I startedDuring my academic job search, I have been reflecting on the tremendous opportunity and responsibility for faculty to contribute to society, scholarship, and students (read more here).

Leaving the MIT Media Lab Permalink


Last Thursday, August 15, I heard for the first time about Joi Ito’s business relationship with Jeffrey Epstein and the ties between Epstein and the MIT Media Lab, which occurred after his appalling crimes were already known. In my research, I study ways to protect women and other vulnerable people online from abuse and harassment. I cannot with integrity do that from a place with the kind of relationship that the Media Lab has had with Epstein. It’s that simple. Read more about my decision in this post.

So you want to study technology, democracy, and social change? Permalink


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.

6 Ideas to Strengthen Wikipedia(s) with Citizen Behavioral Science Permalink

(Citizens & Tech Lab)

At our Community Research Summit, the CAT Lab team and other researchers discussed and developed studies to help Wikipedia thrive. By working alongside Wikipedians from eighteen communities – from Azerbaijani to Women in Red – we developed dozens of possible research ideas for the future.

Universities Say They Want More Diverse Faculties. So Why Is Academia Still So White? Permalink


Academia is a place where, to use the language of sociologist Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, there is racism without racists. By that, we mean that although most people prefer to think that they or their colleagues are good people who would not intentionally discriminate, there is plenty of evidence suggesting that racism plays an important role in the structure and function of academic institutions.

Pilgrimage for a Million Lives Permalink


Marking what we have lost and what might be next. Last Month, Ed Yong asked in The Atlantic why American society and government could not or would not acknowledge the magnitude & urgency of nearly a million lives lost to COVID.

Au Revoir Ithaca Permalink


Reflections on home and place as I depart for a year at StanfordLast Saturday, I cycled from Ithaca to Chittenango and back, my last ride before moving to California for a year-long fellowship at CASBS.

How to Avoid Social Media Blight Permalink

(Knight First Amendment Institute)

When Elon Musk fired Vijaya Gadde, Twitter’s legal, public policy, trust and safety lead, at the start of an avalanche of firings and departures, the Tesla CEO’s actions were reminiscent of another automaker in crisis. After General Motors closed its Flint, Michigan, factories in 1997, it posted signs on the empty buildings: “Demolition Means Progress.” Even if Twitter limps along after its recent self-immolation, we can expect to see more and more signs of something like urban decay on the platform. As a scientist who has studied online safety and discrimination for more than a decade, I’m deeply worried about the safety risks of half-failing infrastructure.

Arvin, California: Lost futures, past hopes, deferred promises Permalink

(Global Voices)

When Francisco Gonzales moved to the town of Arvin, California from the Los Angeles suburbs in 2005, he was captivated by the mountain vistas, the green fields, and orange trees that surround the town. “I thought it would be clean,” he said, pointing to the small housing development where he had invested his retirement savings after decades working as a handyman. Then Francisco points to the oil derrick across the street from him and shrugs.

César Chávez, American Permalink

(Global Voices)

Each time a community changes a street name, adds a new class to the curriculum, or publishes in a new language, they are making a statement about who belongs.


Minus Context

Tweet sentences minus context to Twitter



Unpacking Impact

Undergraduate and Graduate Class, MIT Media Lab, 2015

Creating impact is a hallmark goal of many projects and collaborations with the Media Lab. What does this impact look like to you? What are its boundaries, contexts, and possible unintended consequences? How can students learn to design with this awareness?

Designing Field Experiments at Scale (Seminar)

Undergraduate Class, Princeton University, Sociology, 2019

Online platforms, which monitor and intervene in the lives of billions of people, routinely host thousands of experiments to evaluate policies, test products, and contribute to theory in the social sciences. These experiments are also powerful tools to monitor injustice and govern human and algorithm behavior. How can we do field experiments at scale, reliably, and ethically?

Governing Human-Algorithm Behavior

Grad/Undergrad Project Class, Cornell University, Communication and Information Science, 2022

Algorithms that monitor and influence human behavior are everywhere—directing the behavior of law enforcement, managing the world’s financial systems, shaping our cultures, and flipping a coin on the success or failure of movements for change. Since human-algorithm feedback is already a basic pattern in society, we urgently need ways to assess the impact of attempts to steer that feedback toward justice.

COMM 2450 - Communication and Technology

Undergraduate Lecture Class, Cornell University, Communication and Information Science, 2023

This large lecture course sets out to create intellectual pathways for students interested in technology and society questions by supporting them to carry out a scavenger hunt in the world and in their lived experience. As they encounter examples and challenging questions about Communication & Technology, we will support students to learn about scholarly concepts that can help them understand, reason, and take action as designers, researchers, and citizens.