CivilServant Director J. Nathan Matias is Moving to Cornell UniversityFebruary, 2019
I’m pleased to announce that last week, I accepted a position as assistant professor with the Department of Communication at Cornell University, in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS).
I couldn’t be more excited, and I’m eager to learn together with this amazing community and contribute to it as faculty.
At Cornell, I will have colleagues whose scholarship contributes to communication, human computer interaction, social psychology, and science/technology studies, among others. The department has deep experience working across disciplines and a culture of scholarship in the public interest.
I’m also excited to join a cluster of closely collaborating departments that collectively produce world-changing research on technology and society. Communication faculty share field affiliations with information science, computer science, psychology, and science/technology studies, among others. Having spent years at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center, I hope to connect with Cornell’s law school (home to the society of empirical legal studies) and the great community of researchers at Cornell Tech.
Next Steps for CivilServant
This is also good news for CivilServant, the research nonprofit that I started as a PhD student at the MIT Media Lab. CivilServant advances a world where digital power is guided by evidence and accountable to the public. We achieve this vision by collaborating with the public on scientific research that tests ideas for change and evaluates the impact of tech products in our lives. CivilServant now has community collaborators across Wikipedia, reddit, and Twitter, and we have exciting plans to grow in 2019 and beyond.
CivilServant advances a world where digital power is guided by evidence and accountable to the public
My decision to join Cornell will grow CivilServant’s impact and sustainability. If you’re currently working with us on a project, we’re now in an even better position to complete it well. If you have been thinking about working together, 2019 is a great year to start. While we are still defining the details of CivilServant’s arrangement with Global Voices and Cornell, all of the options involve expanding our work into 2020.
Cornell has a long record of innovation on inclusive, public-interest projects that advance scientific discovery. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, a 114-year-old citizen science project with 400k contributors, has been supported by CALS in many key ways over the last century. In parallel, Cornell also incubated home economics, a 20th-century feminist citizen science movement partly pioneered by Cornell’s College of Human Ecology. I have long admired Hugh DeHaven’s pioneering work at Cornell on crash tests, which transformed automotive safety. In our time, Engaged Cornell provides mentorship, funding, and institutional support to faculty who partner with communities on global issues.
Cornell also has a critical mass of researchers who pursue justice and knowledge together, in collaboration with the people most affected. For example, the Worker Institute at Cornell recently worked with Sol Aramendi and NICE to develop Journalera, a mobile app that day laborers use to keep payment records and track wage theft (see this video by Project Luz).
Cornell provides mentorship, funding, and institutional support to faculty who partner with communities on global issues
Transitioning to Cornell
My start date at Cornell is July 1, and I plan to move to Ithaca sometime late in the summer. I’m excited to join the strong community of scholars in Ithaca. I’m also thinking about a rhythm of regular periods of a week or more in New York City, where I could work and convene events at Cornell Tech in Manhattan, especially in-between semesters.
Over the past year, the CivilServant team has worked with me to imagine and develop this project, and have collaborated on the details of the faculty offer. I’m immensely excited for every opportunity to work with Julia Kamin, Eric Pennington, and Max Klein, and I’m excited to take this next step together. I’m also grateful to every community and research participant who has trusted us enough to work together.
I wouldn’t have reached this point if it weren’t for the funders who have believed in me and in the work that CivilServant is doing. I’m excited to start a new chapter for this work together:
- Major Funders: The AI Ethics Initiative, The Templeton World Charity Foundation, The Ford Foundation, The Mozilla Foundation, and private donors
- Other financial supporters: The Knight Foundation, The MacArthur Foundation, and The Tow Center for Digital Journalism