Joan Donovan is the research director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University's Kennedy School. Donovan leads the field in examining internet and technology studies, online extremism, media manipulation, and disinformation campaigns.
Donovan also leads The Technology and Social Change Project (TaSC) which explores how media manipulation is a means to control public conversation, derail democracy, and disrupt society. TaSC conducts research, develops methods, and facilitates workshops for journalists, policy makers, technologists, and civil society organizations on how to detect, document, and debunk media manipulation campaigns.
Donovan's research and teaching interests are focused on media manipulation, effects of disinformation campaigns, and adversarial media movements. She teaches a graduate-level course on Media Manipulation and Disinformation Campaigns (DPI-622) with a focus on how social movements, political parties, governments, corporations, and other networked groups engage in active efforts to shape media narratives and disrupt social institutions.
Her research can be found in academic peer-reviewed journals such as Social Media + Society, Journal of Contemporary Ethnography (JCE), Information, Communication & Society, Social Studies of Science, and Online Information Review. Her contributions can also be found in the books, Data Science Landscape: Towards Research Standards and Protocols and Unlike Us Reader: Social Media Monopolies and Their Alternatives. Donovan's research and expertise has been showcased in a wide array of media outlets including NPR, Washington Post, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, and more.
Prior to joining Harvard Kennedy School, Donovan was the research lead for Data & Society’s Media Manipulation Initiative, where she led a large team of researchers studying efforts to manipulate sociotechnical systems for political gain. She continues to hold an affiliate appointment with Data & Society. Donovan received her Ph.D. in sociology and science studies from UC San Diego, and was a postdoctoral fellow at the UCLA Institute for Society and Genetics, where she studied white supremacists' use of DNA ancestry tests, social movements, and technology.
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