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Cyberscholar Working Group at Yale

Wednesday, June 11, 2014 at 4:00 pm
Yale Law School

The Cyberscholar Working Group is a forum for fellows and affiliates of MIT, Yale Law School Information Society Project, Columbia University, and the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University to discuss their ongoing research.. Each session is focused on the peer review and discussion of current projects submitted by a presenter. Meeting alternatively at Harvard, MIT, Yale, the working group aims to expand the shared knowledge of young scholars by bringing together these preeminent centers of thought on issues confronting the information age. Discussion sessions are designed to facilitate advancements in the individual research of presenters and in turn encourage exposure among the participants to the multi-disciplinary features of the issues addressed by their own work.

This month's presentations include:

(1)  Five Algorithmic Cultures and Their Ontologies: A Performative Critique

Abstract: In this article I present a “performative critique” of five algorithmic cultures through their underlying ontologies. By “performative critique” I mean a purposively negative account of an abstraction consciously elaborated for its own sake. Algorithms are treated as quintessential contemporary instantiations of “vulgar time”: their ontologies are based on a renewed reification of “authentic time” that gets inscribed into the collective imaginary. Security Algorithms promise a "quick" reconstruction of fanciful collective realities pierced during social and personal events. Evolutionary Algorithms engage societies into renewed tautological understandings of "progress". Posterity Algorithms democratize the illusion of being eternally "searched and found" after death. Moral Algorithms promise “quicker” ethical answers from an external authority. Algorithms of the Self promise easy access to authentic time itself.

Previous work: Sanz and Stancik (2014). "Your Search "Ontological Security" matched 111,000 Documents: An Empirical Substantiation of the Cultural Dimension of Online Search" New Media and Society:

Esteve Sanz is a Thomson Reuters Fellow at the Information Society Project of the Yale Law School. Previously he worked at the Information Society Unit of the IPTS, a research center of the European Commission. He holds a Ph.D. in Sociology and a M.Phil. in Government. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT and at the Sociology Department of Yale University.

(2) Social Patterns of Digital Thanks, Acknowledgment, and Attribution 

Research on digital acknowledgment has mostly been driven by commercial and academic interests, focusing on reputation systems, academic citation, and attribution in copyright.   Acknowledgment and gratitude, however, express a wider range of relationships and motivations within creativity and society.  In this talk, I offer a critique of the attribution model of acknowledgment, report early results from large-scale analyses of informal gratitude networks inside Fortune 500 companies, and present early stage thinking on design principles for gratitude and agreements about public acknowledgment for creative work.

Nathan Matias, a PhD student at the MIT Media Lab, designs and researches civic technologies for cooperation across diversity. At the Berkman Center, he will be applying data analysis and design to the topics of peer-based social technologies, creative learning, civic engagement, journalism, gender diversity, and creative learning.

Nathan's current projects include Open Gender Tracker,, NewsPad, and Sambyuki Watts. A full project list is at

At Texperts, Nathan was on the startup team that scaled microwork systems to reach customers and workers on four continents. At SwiftKey, he helped develop one of the premier text entry systems for mobile, currently used by millions of people. At Microsoft Fuse Labs, he developed novel systems for collaborative neighborhood journalism. Nathan was also the founding Chief Technical Advisor of the Ministry of Stories, a creative writing center in London.

Nathan regularly liveblogs talks and events. He also publishes data journalism with the Guardian Datablog and PBS IdeaLab. He also facilitates #1book140, The Atlantic's Twitter book club, and frequently hosts live Twitter Q&As with prominent writers. He coordinated the Media Lab Festival of Learning in 2012 and 2013.

Before MIT, Nathan completed an MA in English literature at the University of Cambridge, where he was a Davies Jackson scholar and wrote two theses on African literature and the psychology of interactive fiction. In earlier years, he was Riddick Scholar and Hugh Cannon Memorial Scholar at the American Institute of Parliamentarians. He won the Ted Nelson award at ACM Hypertext 2005 with a work of tangible scholarly hypermedia. He was made a fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts, Sciences, and Manufacturing in 2013.


Abstract: Existing copyright policy is based largely on the utilitarian theory of incentivizing creative works. This study looks at content production incentives in the online adult entertainment industry. Qualitative interviews with industry specialists and content producers support the hypothesis that copyright enforcement is not cost effective. As a result, many producers have developed alternative strategies to recoup their investment costs. This study finds a shift toward services and experience goods. It also observes that some incentives to produce traditional content remain. The findings contribute toward a recent body of literature on information production in low IP industries and challenge some legislative assumptions of copyright policy.

Kate Darling is a Research Specialist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Media Lab and a Fellow at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet & Society and the Yale Information Society Project, as well as an Affiliate Scholar at the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET). She survived law school and holds a Doctorate of Sciences from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich). Her primarily interest is in how technology intersects with society. Kate’s scholarly work has covered economic issues in intellectual property systems and she has served as an IP expert and advisor for multiple academic and private institutions. More recently, her work has focussed on the near-term effects of robotic technology, with a particular interest in social and ethical issues.

Past Event
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM