Ethan Zuckerman

Ethan Zuckerman served a fellow of the Berkman Center from 2003 through 2009. Since 2009, he's been a senior researcher at the center, working on projects that focus on the impact of technology and media on the developing world and on quantitative analysis of media. With Hal Roberts, he is working on comparative studies of tools for censorship circumvention, techniques for blocking-resistant publishing for human rights sites and on the Media Cloud framework for quantitative study of digital media.

Ethan and Berkman fellow Rebecca MacKinnon founded Global Voices, a global citizen media network. Beginning at a Berkman conference in 2004, Global Voices has grown into an independent Netherlands-based nonprofit with over 200 employees and volunteers in over 100 countries. Global Voices maintains an international citizen media newsroom, tracks censorship and advocates for freedom of speech online, supports grassroots citizen media efforts and is a pioneer in the space of social translation. Global Voices' work has been supported by the MacArthur Foundation, Ford Foundation, Knight Foundation, Hivos, Open Society Institute as well as Google, Reuters and private donors. Ethan chairs Global Voices' global board of directors.

In 2000, Ethan founded Geekcorps, a non-profit technology volunteer corps. Geekcorps pairs skilled volunteers from US and European high tech companies with businesses in emerging nations for one to four month volunteer tours. Volunteers have served in 14 nations, including Ghana, Senegal, Mali, Rwanda, Armenia and Jordan, completing over a hundred projects. Geekcorps became a division of the International Executive Service Corps in 2001, where Ethan served as a vice president from 2001-4.

Prior to founding Geekcorps, Ethan helped found Tripod, an early pioneer in the web community space. Ethan served as Tripod's first staff geek, and later as VP of Business Development and VP of Research and Development. After Tripod's acquisition by Lycos in 1998, Ethan served as General Manager of the division and as a member of the Lycos mergers and acquisitions team.

In 1993, Ethan graduated from Williams College with a BA in Philosophy. In 1993-4, he was a Fulbright Scholar at the University of Legon, Ghana and the National Theatre of Ghana, studying ethnomusicology and percussion.

Ethan was given the 2002 Technology in Service of Humanity Award by MIT's Technology Review Magazine and named to the TR100, TR's list of innovators under the age of 35. Ethan was named a Global Leader for Tomorrow and a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum.

He lives the Berkshire Mountains of western Massachusetts with his wife Rachel and son Drew. He serves on the boards of regional and international organizations that focus on technology and social change, including Ushahidi and Open Society Institute's US Programs Board.

Current Projects:

 * Media Cloud: The adoption of digital distribution technologies by newspapers and other media outlets opens new avenues for quantitative media analysis. It is now possible to track media attention to nations, individuals or topics by counting the number of stories that appear on a set of websites over time. Media Cloud is creating a massive, open database of quantitative media information, capturing every story that appears on thousands of professional media websites and blogs, using machine learning techniques to filter story text from accompanying information and to extract information on entities mentioned in stories, and indexing the results. Using Media Cloud, researchers are able to track the prevalence of stories over time, compare the language used in different media outlets associated with stories and group media sources in terms of their coverage similarity on given topics.

A project overview and downloadable code is available at the Media Cloud website

Josh Benton interviews Ethan Zuckerman about Media Cloud.

* The Future of Censorship: The Berkman Klein Center has been a pioneer in the study of internet filtering and censorship, through projects like the Open Net Initiative and Herdict. New research is looking at forms of censorship that don't involve national authorities operating firewalls. This research looks at use use of hacking attacks, distributed denial of service attacks, lawsuits and other legal techniques to prevent the dissemination of controversial content, and strategies publishers can use to make their content less vulnerable to all forms of internet censorship.

* (dis)connect: Ethan is working on a long-term book project to explore the internet's potential to build connection and collaboration across barriers of language, nationality and culture. The book considers how a human tendency to flock with like-minded individuals (homophily) can lead to an experience of the internet that's parochial and disconnected from other users, and looks at how cultural bridge figures and tools that encourage serendipitous exploration could lead to more connected and global use of the internet.

See the blogpost Homophily, Serendipity, Xenophilia or this Berkman Klein lecture for more information on this project.

Weblog: ...My Heart's in Accra
Personal web page:
PGP public key:

Last updated

July 5, 2016