I’m Sarah Gilbert, joining CAT Lab as its Research Manager, where I’ll be working closely with communities to improve health, equity, and justice in online spaces. If you’re a community member interested in collaborating with CAT Lab, I would love to hear from you!

Before joining the CAT Lab, I worked closely with online communities on Twitter and Reddit, focusing on why people contribute their time and expertise to open, online communities of practice. But before that, my first career was bartending. In addition to slinging beer and pouring cocktails I’d hang out with regulars, welcome new folks, and kick out the troublemakers. As I started working with online communities, I learned about the important role of online community moderators—folks who also hang out with regulars, welcome new folks, and kick out the troublemakers—and how they, like their analog analogues, shape spaces in which we find sources of comfort, knowledge, and fun. Since then it’s been my deep passion to learn more about what they do, the decisions they make, the impacts of technology design and policy on their work, and the impact of their work on people. To date, I’ve used collaborative methods to study the experiences of those who moderate the Reddit-based community, r/AskHistorians, and am also working with collaborators at the University of Maryland using Values Sensitive Design to develop tools that would support better working conditions for community moderators across platforms. 

In my prior role as a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Maryland, I explored how we can more ethically conduct research using social media data. I believe that research should not be extractive—that it should be conducted in collaboration with communities (when possible!) and the outcomes shared back with communities (when possible!). At the CAT Lab I’m excited to continue to conduct and scaffold research with online communities and help them reach their diverse goals. 

You can also find me on Twitter: @_sgilbert_ and on Reddit: u/SarahAGilbert