Malte Ziewitz

Malte Ziewitz

Associate Professor, Department of Science & Technology Studies
Director, Digital Due Process Clinic
Department of Science & Technology Studies
Cornell University


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I am an Associate Professor at the Department of Science & Technology Studies at Cornell University with a graduate field membership in Information Science. An ethnographer and sociologist, I study the changing role of governance and regulation in, of, and through digitally networked environments – the dynamics at work, the values at stake, the design options at hand.

My work has been supported by an NSF Career Award, a McCloy Fellowship, a PGP Corporation Scholarship, and grants from the Economic and Social Research Council, the Foundation for the Sociology of Health & Illness, the German Academic Exchange Service, and the NSF.

At Cornell, I direct the Digital Due Process Clinic. I am also a member of the Algorithms, Big Data, & Inequality project, the Artificial Intelligence, Policy, and Practice (AIPP) group, and a Faculty Fellow at the Milstein Program for Technology & Humanity. During the 2023-2024 academic year, I will be a member at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ.

Previously, I was a postdoctoral fellow at New York University's Department of Media, Culture, and Communication and Information Law Institute. I also worked as a junior researcher at the Hans Bredow Institute for Media Research. I hold a D.Phil. from the University of Oxford, an M.P.A. from Harvard University, and a First State Exam in Law from the University of Hamburg. In my previous life, I was a radio reporter, copywriter, and one of the team building Free Cakes for Kids UK.

Pronouns: he/him | Pronunciation: ['mull-teh 'zee-wits]

Current Research

social, organizational, and ethical aspects of data-driven technologies; audit cultures, esp. scoring, rating, ranking schemes; new forms of governance and regulation; politics of provocation; science & technology studies; ethnomethodology; ethnography

Merchants of Clout | This project explores the cultural work of optimization in the shadow of an algorithmic system. Based on long-term fieldwork with the search engine optimization (SEO) industry in the U.S. and the UK, I trace how a new cast of marketing professionals helps businesses, activists, and individuals to improve their standing in Google search rankings. Often dismissed as spammers, evildoers, and opportunists, these self-taught experts turn out to play a crucial role in mediating the relations between data subjects and machines seen as inscrutable.

Restoring Credit: How People Understand and Interact with Credit Scoring Systems | Recovering from a broken credit score can be an existential challenge. While credit bureaus, banks, and regulators tend to suggest that errors can be fixed and scores improved without the need for special expertise, especially low-income Americans and traditionally disadvantaged groups are struggling with these systems. How do ordinary people make sense of, understand, and challenge credit scoring? What kind of strategies and tactics do they use to remedy the situation? What is the role of tools and intermediaries, such as credit repair consultants, in this process? Following the credit repair practice of a small number of Upstate New Yorkers over an entire year, Ranjit Singh and I develop a new way of studying and understanding the concerns of data subjects in teh shadow of the system.

Governing Algorithms | Algorithms have become a widespread trope for making sense of social life. Science, finance, journalism, warfare, and policing—there is hardly anything these days that has not been specified as “algorithmic.” Yet, although the trope has brought together a variety of audiences, it is not quite clear what kind of work it does. Often portrayed as powerful yet inscrutable entities, algorithms maintain an air of mystery that makes them both interesting and difficult to understand.

Feedback as Governance | What does it takes to capture the experiences of patients 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 places, I develop a novel way of thinking about the status of experience as a key trope in contemporary governance.

On Data, Methods, STS

Additional bibliographic information on Google Scholar.

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Department of Science & Technology Studies
313 Morrill Hall
Cornell University
Ithaca, NY 14853

Tel. +1 (607) 255-3810 (department office)