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Dr. Elisabeth (“Lis") Sylvan is the Managing Director of the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University. Dr. Sylvan’s lifelong interest is in sociotechnical systems that support creativity, shared knowledge, and collaboration. At BKC she has launched new educational initiatives such as the Summer Institute and BKC Research Sprints, which include Digital Identity in Times of Crisis, Digital Ethics in Times of Crisis: COVID-19 & Access to Education Learning Spaces, Digital Self Determination, and AI Policy Research Clinic. She leads multiple initiatives within the Policy Practice on AI on topics related to education, youth, and technology. Dr. Sylvan also co-organizes the Tech through Spec working group.

Before joining BKC, Dr. Sylvan worked for herself and for multiple nonprofits. She was the Vice President of Education at The Tech Museum in Silicon Valley (now The Tech Interactive) where she created a new education department. While Maker in Residence at the Krause Center for Innovation at Foothill College, she launched a makerspace for K14 educators and community college students and taught classes on makerspace practices and instructional design. As a Fellow and Director of Learning and Community at Manylabs she developed programs for communities to use environmental and social sensors for civic action. As a Researcher Scientist and Project Director at TERC, she project directed a web-based community of practice focused on data literacy and researched both the creative design processes of game design teams and the diffusion of ideas in communities of science inquiry within games. Her consulting practice focused on research, education, and technology for nonprofits and museums.

Dr. Sylvan’s M.S. and Ph.D. are from the MIT Media Lab where her work addressed how sociotechnical systems support shared knowledge and group action. There, Dr. Sylvan received fellowships from Highlands and Islands (2005-2006) and Media Lab Europe (2003-2004.) She was also a fellow with International Society for Design and Development in Education (2011) and served on the advisory boards of the Silicon Valley Education Foundation, the Krause Center for Innovation at Foothill College, zSpace, and the Stanford d-school Build Lab.

Projects & Tools

Advising Governments: Public-Interest Taskforce

Through this project we assist people working in governments across the globe in dealing with pressing challenges related to innovative digital technologies.

Artificial Intelligence Initiative

Tackling short- and long-term questions related to the social impact, governance, and ethical implications of artificial intelligence.

Digital Identity

Exploring the ethical and human rights considerations of digital identity.

Metaverse: Centering Inclusion

Bringing together experts from various sectors, conducing research to inform decision-making, and contributing to the development of a metaverse with thoughtful values and…

Network of Interdisciplinary Internet & Society Research Centers

A collaborative initiative focused on interdisciplinary research on the development, social impact, policy implications, and legal issues concerning the Internet.

Youth and Media

Youth and Media (YaM) encompasses an array of research, advocacy, and development initiatives around youth (age 12-18) and digital technology.

Co-Designing Generative Futures

As generative AI technologies have advanced, so too has their potential to transform how people worldwide create, think, work, learn, problem solve, and govern. Given these far…

International Digital Self-Determination Network

BKC is a founding partner in an international network that is defining the concept of digital self-determination and working to ensure that people everywhere are legally, socially…

Alternative Data Futures: Cooperative Principles, Data Trusts, and the Digital Economy

The New School's Platform Cooperativism Consortium and the Berkman Klein Center ran a Research Sprint to explore new pathways for democratic governance of collective data.


Digital Ethics in Times of Crisis: COVID-19 & Access to Education and Learning Spaces

A global research sprint explores digital transformation at a pivotal moment in time


Digital Self-Determination Research Sprint

From March to May 2021, we co-hosted a virtual program that convened 25 student participants from 21 countries spread over six continents.

Research Sprint on Takedowns and Transparency with Lumen

Sprint participants worked with members of the Lumen Database team and Berkman Klein Center staff, as well as outside experts to tackle pressing issues concerning online…


Web Integrity Project

The Web Integrity Project (WIP) monitors changes to government websites

AI: Policy Research Clinic with the City of Helsinki

During the summer of 2021, the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society collaborated with the City of Helsinki’s Education Division and their subcontractor, Saidot, to explore…

The Ethics of Digitalization

Led by the Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society (HIIG), the Berkman Klein Center, and the Digital Asia Hub, and in collaboration with the Global Network of…


Mar 30, 2023

Digital Identity During Times of Crisis

What We Learned During the Fall 2022 Research Sprint

BKC hosted a 10-week Research Sprint from October to December 2022 investigating Digital Identity in Times of Crisis, in collaboration with partners metaLAB at Harvard, the…

Fast Company
Jun 25, 2021

What we learned about the future of education from COVID-19

What is learning and where and how does it happen? The pandemic let us consider these questions in new ways.

What is learning and where and how does it happen? The pandemic let us consider these questions in new ways.

Dec 17, 2020

BKC Policy Practice on AI Hosts Expert Review of Colombia’s AI Ethical Framework with Focus on Youth

Colombia President Iván Duque Márquez launches AI framework; BKC’s Urs Gasser delivers keynote

Colombia President Iván Duque Márquez launches AI framework; BKC’s Urs Gasser delivers keynote

Apr 29, 2020

Berkman Klein expands communications, public programming, and community efforts

Joy A. Lo and Lance Eaton join BKC staff, Rebecca Tabasky promoted to Director of Community

Two hires will help shape the future of BKC’s educational programming, outreach, and public messaging.

Jul 31, 2019

Elisabeth Sylvan joins Berkman Klein Center as Managing Director

Sylvan brings a wealth of experiences, perspectives, skills, and networks to BKC


Beaumont Enterprise

Elisabeth Sylvan on public schools and distance learning

BKC's managing director weighs in on the challenges that school districts face

Mar 14, 2020


Jun 28, 2022 @ 11:00 AM

Empowering People in Their Digital Lives: A Conference on Digital Self-Determination

Hosted by the Directorate of International Law of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, in collaboration with the Federal Office of Communications and the International…