2017 Guest Scholar J. Nathan Matias


Ph.D. Scholar
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Nathan Matias recently completed a PhD at the MIT Media Lab Center for Civic Media and is an affiliate at the Berkman-Klein Center. Starting in September 2017, Nathan will be a post-doc at the Princeton Center for Information Technology Policy, the Psychology, and Sociology departments.

Nathan conducts independent, public interest research on governing human and machine behavior online. With the CivilServant nonprofit, Nathan is supported millions of people to test ideas for improving social life online. By conducting large volumes of novel experiments on the governance of human and machine behavior, his research contributes practical knowledge and theory in the social sciences.

Nathan recently tested an “AI Nudge” with a 16-million news discussion community. Working with this community to monitor news-recommendation algorithms on reddit, he tested the effect on those algorithms of encouraging readers to fact-check news articles. By influencing collective human behavior, the community was able to reduce the algorithmic promotion of unreliable news articles by four percentage points on average.  This AI nudge study offers a working example of an intervention that governs a black box algorithm with citizen transparency and accountability.

Nathan has extensive experience in tech startups, nonprofits, and corporate research, including SwiftKey, Microsoft Research, and the Ministry of Stories. A graduate of MIT, Cambridge University, and Elizabethtown College, with two degrees in the humanities, Nathan brings a liberal arts perspective to his technical and social research. His work has been covered extensively by international press, and he has published data journalism and intellectual history in the Atlantic, Guardian, PBS, and Boston Magazine.