Hi! My name is Jonathan Zong (website) (@ohnobackspace), and I’m extremely delighted to be joining the Citizens and Technology Lab this summer as its very first Graduate Research Fellow.

I spent a lot of time on the internet growing up, and hanging out online informed a lot of important aspects of my life—from friendships, to learning, to creative expression. When I learned how to create software, it felt like a pursuit that neatly synthesized my technical, social, and graphic arts interests. As I grew in my thinking, I came to understand that the way that digital tools are designed have effects on the way people think about and access information and services online. Having the means to create software, then, felt like a big responsibility, and a source of authority and power that I didn’t always feel comfortable with.

As an undergraduate at Princeton, I had the privilege of working with Nathan Matias on software interfaces that help researchers conduct online research ethics procedures for large-scale data collection. Over the years, we have continued to think together about power, accountability, and autonomy in online data collection. Now I’m a PhD student at MIT, where I work with Arvind Satyanarayan as part of the MIT Visualization Group to study how systems help facilitate cognition and creativity while respecting human agency. I’m excited to bring all of these ideas in conversation with the work CAT Lab does with online communities. With the CAT Lab team, I look forward to working with partner communities and organizations to reimagine and rebuild power in online space around public accountability. 

This summer, I plan to:

  • Finish and share a new article, “Collective Refusal and the Limits of Informed Consent for Data Protection.”
  • Release open source software for research ethics, and publish a paper evaluating the software’s effectiveness in helping research participants manage their privacy.
  • Develop a new research project with CAT Lab!

Previous Projects