Mills Family Faculty Fellow
Department of Science & Technology Studies
313 Morrill Hall
Office hours: Tue, 3-5pm, please sign up here
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I am an Assistant Professor at the Department of Science & Technology Studies at Cornell University with a graduate field appointment in Information Science. Broadly based in science and technology studies, ethnography, and public policy, my research revolves around the practicalities of valuation, governance, and accountability in digitally networked environments — the dynamics at work, the values at stake, the design options at hand.
In my recent work, I have been looking at the practical politics of novel review, rating, and ranking schemes in healthcare and search engine optimization (SEO). I am especially interested in the everyday work of establishing, maintaining, and subverting these schemes and how new practices of evaluation challenge our understanding of care, accountability, and governance.
I have also been interested in algorithmic ordering; the history and performativity of internet governance; the nature and uses of "crowd wisdom" in regulation; and computational approaches to privacy. As Principal Investigator, I headed the ESRC-funded How's My Feedback? project, a collaborative design experiment to rethink and evaluate online review and rating websites.
Previously, I was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication and the Information Law Institute at New York University, a McCloy Fellow at Harvard University, and a Junior Researcher at the Hans Bredow Institute for Media Research. I hold a D.Phil. from Oxford University, an M.P.A. from Harvard University, and a First State Exam in Law from the University of Hamburg.
At Cornell, I am a Faculty Fellow at the Cornell Institute for Healthy Futures and a House Fellow at William Keeton House.
See also: Bio | CV (pdf) | Ask me anything
Science & technology studies; sociology of (e)valuation; governance and accountability relations; digital media; reviews, ratings, rankings; computational approaches to privacy; ethnography; ethnomethodology
Current projects & fieldwork
- Feedback Stories: What does it takes to capture the experiences of users and make them useful for improving care? This project explores how public reviews govern public services, using the example of the British healthcare system. Based on long-term fieldwork with Patient Opinion, a not-for-profit social enterprise that set out to change the National Health Service (NHS) through web-based patient feedback, I follow stories from the beds and living rooms of patients through the database and moderation systems back into the wards and offices of hospitals and trusts. Attending to how stories do their work in different settings and situations, I develop a novel way of thinking not only about claims about accountability, transparency, and participation, but also about the status of experience as a key trope in contemporary governance.
- Shadow Cultures: My second project explores the work of search engine optimization (SEO) consultants. How do these professionals makes sense of a technology often thought of as inscrutable? How is the line between legitimate optimization and illegitimate manipulation drawn in practice? And how does the presence of seemingly omnipotent corporation reconfigure the relations of governance and accountability among webmasters, marketers, users, designers, and technology? In order to answer these questions, I have been interning at an SEO agency, attending industry conferences, taking part in SEO trainings, following public outcries and scandals over search rankings.
- Spectacular algorithms: During my fieldwork in the search marketing industry, I became increasingly interested in the rise of "algorithms" as a topic and a resource in social science research. In 2011, we organized the Governing Algorithms conference at NYU. I recently guest-edited a special issue of Science, Technology, & Human Values on the same theme.
- How's My Feedback?: This was an ESRC-funded collaborative design experiment to rethink and evaluate web-based review and rating schemes. Specifically, we brought together users, designers, managers, critics, and regulators of review and rating schemes to design a feedback website for feedback websites.
–– Edited collections
- Ziewitz, M. ed. (2016). Governing Algorithms. Special Issue of Science, Technology, and Human Values 41(1).
–– Journal articles
- Ziewitz, M. (2016). Governing algorithms: Myth, mess, and methods. Science, Technology, and Human Values 41(1): 3-16.
- Ziewitz, M. and C. Pentzold (2014). In search of internet governance: Performing order in digitally networked environments. New Media & Society 16(2): 306-322.
- Ziewitz, M. (2011). How to attend to screens? Technology, ontology and precarious enactments. Encounters 4(2): 203-228. (Special Issue on Screens, eds. Brit Ross Winthereik, Lucy Suchman, Peter Lutz, Helen Verran)
- Mayer-Schönberger, V. and M. Ziewitz (2007). Jefferson rebuffed: The United States and the future of internet governance. Columbia Science and Technology Law Review 8: 188-228.
–– Book chapters
- Ziewitz, M. and I. Brown (2013). A prehistory of internet governance. In Research Handbook on Governance of the Internet, ed I. Brown, 3-26. Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
- Ziewitz, M. (2008). Viel Ordnung, wenig Recht: Kollaborative Selbstkontrolle als Vertrauensfaktor am Beispiel Wikipedias. In Informationelles Vertrauen für die Informationsgesellschaft, eds D. Klumpp, H. Kubicek, A. Rossnagel and W. Schulz, 173-188. Heidelberg: Springer.
- Schulz, W. and M. Ziewitz (2004). Extending The Access Obligation to EPGs and Service Platforms?. In Regulating Access to Digital Television: Technical Bottlenecks, Vertically-Integrated Markets and New Forms of Media Concentration, eds W. Closs and S. Nikolzchev, 47-58. Strasbourg: IRIS European Audiovisual Observatory.
–– Discussion papers
–– Research reports
- Nissenbaum, H., Stark, L. and M. Ziewitz (2013). Values in Design Council: An End of Project Report. NSF Eager: Values in Design in the Future Internet Architecture, CNS/NetS 1058333.
- Ziewitz, M. and C. Pentzold (2010). Modes of governance in digitally networked environments: A workshop report. OII Forum Discussion Paper 19.
- Schroeder, R., Ziewitz, M. and E. Meyer (2009). Social, ethical, and legal issues in presence research and applications. Peach FP6 Coordination Action No 33909.
- OECD Working Party on the Information Economy, Digital Broadband Content: Online Advertising, DSTI/ICCP/IE(2007)77, Paris, 20 March 2007 (unpublished).
- Schulz, W. and M. Ziewitz (2005). Chapter 6: “Regulierung: Technische Aspekte und Politikoptionen”. In Die Zukunft des deutschen Kabelfernsehnetzes, eds B. Beckert et al., 65-86. Heidelberg: Physica Press.
–– Work in progress
- "Shady cultures," Cultural Anthropology: Fieldsights. Forthcoming.
- "Blowing up STS," Chapter for 40th Anniversary of the Science Studies Unit, Edinburgh. Accepted.
- "A not quite random walk: Experimenting with the ethnomethods of the algorithm." Under review.
- "Experience in action: Moderating care in web-based patient feedback." Under review.
- "Enginology: Revealing and concealing the unknowable in search engine optimization." Preparing for submission.
Invited talks and conference papers
- “Black Hat, White Hat: Ethicizing Participation in Search Engine Optimization,” 4S/EASST Conference, Barcelona, Spain, September 2, 2016
- “Enginology: Revealing and concealing the unknowable in search engine optimization,” Workshop on Revelation, Linköping University, Sweden, April 7, 2016
- “Spectacular algorithms,” Colloquium talk, Center for Science, Technology, Medicine and Society, UC Berkeley, November 5, 2015
- “The ironies of algorithms,” Algorithm Studies Network workshop, Linköping University, Stockholm, Sweden, May 12, 2015
- “A not quite random walk: Steps towards a mundane sociology of algorithms,” Information Science Colloquium, Cornell University, Ithaca NY, November 19, 2014
- “A not quite random walk: Experimenting with the ethnomethods of the algorithm,” Science Studies Research Group, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, November 3, 2014
- “The Grammar(s) of Governance,” Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S)/ESOCITE Annual Meeting, Buenos Aires, Argentina, August 21, 2014
- “Accounting for rankings: Notes from an ethnography with SEO consultants,” ISTC-Social All-hands Meeting, Georgia Tech, Atlanta, GA, May 21, 2014
- “Encoding privacy as, in, and through practice,” ISTC-Social All-hands Meeting, Georgia Tech, Atlanta, GA, May 20, 2014
- “Unscaling ethnography,” Big: Culture and Data in the Digital Field, UC Irvine, Irvine, CA, April 11, 2014
- “Encoding privacy,” ILI Fellows Meeting, New York University School of Law, New York, NY, February 12, 2014
- “Encoding privacy,” Big Data and Differential Privacy workshop, Rump Session, Simons Institute for the Theory of Computing, Berkeley, CA, December 12, 2013
- “What does transparency conceal?,” Privacy Research Group, New York University, New York, NY, December 4, 2013 [discussion paper | slides ]
- “Tools of the trade: Mechanizing understanding, big data, and a slow science,” Keynote lecture (with Christian Pentzold), World Social Science Forum, Montreal, Canada, October 15, 2013
- “Spectacular algorithms,” Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S) Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA, October 10, 2013
- “Enacting governance,” Social Media Governance workshop, Faculty of Law, University of Haifa, Haifa, Israel, July 24, 2013
- “Governing algorithms: An introduction,” New York University, New York, NY, May 17, 2013
- “Spectacular algorithms: Secrecy, obscurity, and inscrutability in Search Engine Optimization (SEO),” Microsoft Research New England, Cambridge, MA, April 26, 2013
- “Evaluation as governance: The practical politics of web-based patient feedback,” Department of Science & Technology Studies, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, April 8, 2013
- “Spectacular algorithms,” Algorithms and Markets Workshop, London School of Economics and Political Sciences, London, UK, March 19, 2013
- “Rating in action: Governance, accountability, and web-based patient feedback,” Information Science Colloquium, Cornell University, Ithaca, USA, February 20, 2013
- “Can stories change the world? Notes from an ethnography of web-based patient feedback,” Management in Healthcare speaker series, Green Templeton College, Oxford, UK, November 12, 2012
- “In search of the algorithm: A not quite random walk,” Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S)/EASST Annual Meeting, Copenhagen, Denmark, October 18, 2012
- “Descriptions as companions? Notes from an uneasy relationship,” American Anthropological Association (AAA) Annual Meeting, Montreal, Canada, November 20, 2011
- “Ambiguous analytics: Achieving relevance in search engine optimization,” Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S) Annual Meeting, Cleveland, OH, USA, November 3, 2011
- “Can crowd wisdom solve regulatory problems?”, 1st Berlin Symposium on Internet an Society: Exploring the Digital Future, Alexander von Humboldt Institute for Internet and Society, Berlin, Germany, October 27, 2011 [summary by snurb.info, report by Mathieu O′Neil]
- “Evaluation as Governance?”, InSIS and ValueS Workshop, Saïd Business School, Oxford, UK, October 22, 2011
- “Algorithm: In search of the invisible hand,” Symposium Knowledge Machines between Freedom and Control, Institute for Media Archeology, Hainburg, Austria, October 7, 2011
- “How’s my feedback?,” STS Summer Workshop and How’s My Feedback? Conference, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK, June 28, 2011 (with Steve Woolgar)
- “How’s my feedback? Six puzzles and some thoughts on web-based review and rating schemes,” Harvard-Yale-MIT Cyberscholar Working Group, MIT Media Lab, Cambridge, MA, May 11, 2011
- “What architecture for multi-stakeholder participation and policy-making?,” Internet Freedom Conference, Panel Speaker, Council of Europe, Strasbourg, France, April 19, 2011
- “What is it with experience? Postings, governance and multiplicity in web-based patient feedback,” Knowledge, Innovation and E-health Research Group Seminar, Warwick Medical School, United Kingdom, March 2, 2011
- “Researching search: Ethnographic stories from the search marketing industry,” Business School, University of Exeter, United Kingdom, February 2, 2011
- “How to attend to screens? Mundane encounters at the int(er/ra)face,” PhD Workshop “Framing Screens: Knowledge, Interaction, Practice”, IT University of Copenhagen, Denmark, September 29, 2010
- “Accountability multiple? The practical politics of web-based patient feedback,” Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S) Annual Meeting, Tokyo, Japan, August 26, 2010
- “‘This is not science’: A student’s experience of STS practices at Oxford”, Workshop on Practices of Science and Technology Studies: Reflexive Takes on Cross-context Collaboration, Graduate University of Advanced Studies, Tokyo, Japan, August 24, 2010
- “Innovation in governance as a practical accomplishment,” First Berlin Forum Innovation in Governance, Technical University Berlin, Germany, May 20, 2010
- “‘Don’t push your politics on me, pal’: Understanding database practices through humour,” Values in Design Workshop 2K10, New York University, New York, USA, May 7, 2010 (with Theo Roehle)
- “Order without law? Exploring modes of governance in digitally networked environments,” Games Convention Online Conference 2009, Leipzig, Germany, August 1, 2009
- “Governance and accountability in, of, and through internet-based rating schemes,” Postgraduate STS Conference 2009, University of Nottingham, United Kingdom, July 28, 2009
- “Modes of governance in digitally networked environments: Perspectives from an interdisciplinary workshop,” 2nd GigaNet Workshop on ‘Global Internet Governance - An Interdisciplinary Research Field in Construction,’ Vrije Universiteit Brussels, Belgium, May 11, 2009
- “Governance and accountability in/of/through internet-based rating systems,” ESRC Workshop ‘Imagining and Demystifying Empirical Socio-Legal Research,’ Loughborough University, United Kingdom, April 6, 2009
- “Let’s play: What policymakers can learn from game design”, Annual Meeting of the German Academic Merit Foundation, Oxford University, United Kingdom, Nov. 8, 2008
- “Breaking new grounds: Non-legal master programs for lawyers in the U.S.”, German-American Lawyers’ Association, Bad Neuenahr-Ahrweiler, Germany, June 30, 2007
Conference and seminar organization
- Experience as Evidence? The Sciences of Subjectivity in Healthcare, Policy and Practice, Symposium at Oxford University, October 13-14, 2014, Oxford, United Kingdom (with Fadhila Mazanderani)
- Algorithmic Living, Session at Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S) Annual Meeting, San Diego, CA (with Phoebe Sengers and Kaiton Williams)
- Governing Algorithms, Conference at New York University, May 16-17, 2013, New York, NY, USA (with Solon Barocas, Sophie Hood, and Helen Nissenbaum)
- The “What is data?” Walk, Walking seminar at Microsoft Research New England, Social Media Collective, April 22, 2013, Cambridge, MA, USA (with Megan Finn)
- Encountering Science and Technology Studies: Situated Seminars, Trinity Term 2012, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford (with Tanja Schneider)
- Science and Technology Studies (STS) and Anthropology: What is the Status of our Descriptions?, Session at the American Anthropological Association (AAA) Annual Meeting, Montreal, Canada, November 20, 2011 (with Helene Ratner)
- Doing the Digital: Data, Devices and the Performance of Sociality, Session at Society for the Social Studies of Science (4S) Annual Meeting, November 4, 2011, Cleveland, OH, USA (with Evelyn Ruppert)
- How’s My Feedback?, Conference, June 28, 2011, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford (with Steve Woolgar and James Munro)
- Storying: A Workshop, March 5, 2011, Saïd Business School, University of Oxford (with Fadhila Mazanderani)
- The STS Talk-Walks, A monthly walking seminar at the University of Oxford, 2010-2011, Oxford, United Kingdom
- Modes of Governance in Digitally Networked Environments, International and Interdiscplinary Workshop, March 26, 2009, Oxford, supported by the ‘Networks for Web Science’ grant, EPSRC (EP/FO/3701/1) (with Christian Pentzold)
STS 2761 - Governing Everyday Life
| Info sheet
| Cross-listed as SOC 2760
Traffic lights, elevators, and recycling bins seem rather boring and irrelevant. Yet, while not usually on our minds when thinking about governance and regulation, these seemingly mundane technologies are important features of our lives. This course will take a closer look at everyday solutions to public problems. Combining hands-on exercises with readings from STS, sociology, and politics, we shall explore the role of everyday devices and technologies in establishing, maintaining, and disrupting social order. How to think about these “small” solutions to “big” problems? What are tools and tricks for analyzing things we take for granted? How might these insights challenge longstanding ideas about accountability, technology, and governance? Working through these questions will be particularly useful for students interested in sociology, design, and public policy.
STS 3561 - Computing Cultures
| Previous versions: Spring 2015
Computers are powerful tools for working, playing, thinking, and living. Laptops, PDAs, webcams, cell phones, and iPods surround us. They are not just devices. They also provide narratives, metaphors, and ways of seeing the world. Computers have a long history in the workplace but, in the last 20 years, they have also become inextricably bound up in all aspects of our everyday lives. This generation of college students is the first for whom instant messaging, mobile phones, and on-line networking are a normal and an essential part of social life. How are the lives of people in the United States and elsewhere changing, for better and for worse, with these technologies? What cultural trends and political forces do they embody? And how could we design, engage, use, or not use them in ways that improve our lives and our societies?
STS 4561 - Evaluation and Society
Syllabus coming soon! | Cross-listed as SOC 4560, INFO 4561
Evaluation is a pervasive feature of contemporary life. Professors, doctors, countries, hotels, pollution, books, intelligence: there is hardly anything that is not subject to some form of review, rating, or ranking these days. This senior seminar examines the practices, cultures, and technologies of evaluation and asks how value is established, maintained, compared, subverted, resisted, and institutionalized in a range of different settings. Topics include user reviews, institutional audit, ranking and commensuration, algorithmic evaluation, tasting, gossip, and awards. Drawing on case studies from science, technology, culture, accounting, art, environment, and everyday life, we shall explore how evaluation comes to order our lives – and why it is so difficult to resist.
STS 6561 - Technologies of Valuation
| Previous versions: Spring 2015
| Cross-listed as INFO 6561
Valuation is a pervasive feature of contemporary life. Professors, universities, hotels, markets, movies, user experience, intelligence: almost everything is subject to some form of review, rating, or ranking these days. This course examines valuation as a key techno-scientific practice and asks how value is established, maintained, compared, subverted, resisted, and institutionalized in a range of different settings. Through a mix of reading, writing, and practical exercises, we shall engage with theoretical, historical, and ethnographic studies of (e)valuation in science & technology studies, but also draw on related areas like economic sociology, the sociology of evaluation, accounting studies, anthropology, and information science.
STS 7111 - Introduction to Science & Technology Studies (with R. Slayton)
| Previous versions: Fall 2015
, Fall 2014
Provides newcomers to STS an overview of some of the major themes and issues in the field, and an opportunity to investigate how scholars in the field go about their work.
Popular writing, commentary, interviews
- Three stories about algorithms that might appear in The Onion (December 2015):
- Adrian Lobe (2015) Brauchen wir noch Gesetze, wenn Rechner herrschen? Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 7th January, Nr. 5, p. 13
- Interview mit Dr. Malte Ziewitz: "Regeln werden immer ausgehandelt" [in German], DIVSI Report "Braucht Deutschland einen Digitalen Kodex?", June 30, 2014
- Governing Algorithms - An Introduction [VIDEO], Introduction to the Governing Algorithms conference, May 17, 2013
- Q&A with the Organizers of the Governing Algorithms conference, NYU Steinhardt News, May 15, 2013
Department of Science & Technology Studies
313 Morrill Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853
Tel. +1 (607) 255-3810