Robot companions are designed to elicit our trust and affection -- and are potentially quite persuasive. How influential will they be? What will our robot companions want us to do? "Why play fetch with a robot dog?"
Discussion at We Robot 2017, March 31, New Haven, CT. [Video|panel].

The Pew Research Institute asked experts: "Will public discourse online become more or less shaped by bad actors, harassment, trolls, and an overall tone of griping, distrust, and disgust?" My response: Yes, bad behavior is pervasive online, but that need not be the case:" there are designs and technological advances that would help tremendously. We need systems that support pseudonymity..."
They also asked if the overall effect of algorithms will be positive or negative for individuals and society. My answer: "The algorithm should not be the new authority; the goal should be to help people question authority..." [Short essays]

How (Not) to Refute a Lie. Useful do's and don't's for the Trump era. [short essay].

Panel: What is needed to make augmented reality into a popular, easily authored medium? What changes in society when informaiton is attached to everything and everyone? Panel at Versions, a VR/AR conference @ the New Museum, NYC. Feb 25, 2017.

Invited to answer questions such as "How should we think about machine learning and AI?", "What should people understand about signaling theory?" and "Are there viable solutions to the circulation of fake news?" for a Quora session, Dec 12, 2016.[short essays]

Op ed "Why fake news stories thrive online" When news stories are used to signal identity (as when posting them on FB), fake can be even better than real. CNN Opinion, Nov 20, 2016.

Talk"Technology, Trust, and Ethics">, Hebrew College, Jan 2017

Econtalk with Russ Roberts, talking about online and face-to-face signaling. He's a great interviewer, and our discussion ranged from identity to fashion, first impressions to privacy. And kale. [Podcast | transcript]

Technology and Deception at UC Irvine's Trends in Society and Information Technology speaker series. Oct 28, 2016.[Video | talk]

Essay about signatures as visible indicators of claims to ownership and of promises about future acts and past beliefs. What makes them reliable - and how is technology changing them? (Afterword to Orkan Telhan's upcoming book, Designatures.

In conversations about lie detection, counter-surveillance, cyber-insecurity, etc. -- at Security and Human Behavior, May 31-June 1

Keynote panel on Automated Personality at Theorizing the Web, April 15, 2016

Video | talk: Trust and the Cute Machine - about our relationships with sentient-seeming software agents and robots. How do they affect us? And what do they tell us about how we relate to other people - and to other non-human but sentient beings? Stanford Human-Computer Interaction Seminar, Feb 12, 2016

Video | talk: "First Impressions". What signals do we pick up on at first glance, in person and online? TED Salon, NYC.

Video | talk: Apparent Agency & Invisible Agendas Software agents and social robots are designed so that we imbue them with personality and intention. When this impression diverges - inevitably - from reality, what ethical issues should designers and users consider? At Microsoft's Social Computing Symposium, January 12,2016.

"The Regard of Robots: Impressions, empathy and engineered minds" -- when does it matter what robots think of us -- or that they do not "think" at all? America Psychological Association annual meeting keynote. Sept 19, 2015,

Book review: "The Social Machine: Design for Living Online is a designer's thoughtful exploration of the ways interfaces can bring about meaningful social interaction in a networked world." Review in Leonardo.

Article: "Live-Streaming: Social Control from Afar": How live-streaming apps give distant audiences the ability to reach in and affect the world (in Technology Review, July 2015).

"Designs for Living Online", Cornell Tech, NYC, March 11, 2015.

"Fashion signals in the information society", Data + Society, NYC, March 12, 2015

"Algorithmic Portraits", Betaworks, Mar 13 2015

Essay: Just finished writing "Slow Machines and Utopian Dreams", the epilogue to Social Media Archeology and Poetics (Judy Malloy, editor). "There is a special time in the development of a major new technology, when the technology is yet crude and barely developed, but exists and is real, touchable, usable, when the promises of that technology are still shiny and bright, when the future we see it bringing is a reflection of grand ideals and prayed for salvation, when the technology is still seen as savior. It's not been used enough to be tarnished, we haven' t seen the way it will be refitted for criminal use, nor the unexpected ways it will kill off a beloved culture or foul the ocean or corrupt the young." Cambridge, MA March 10, 2015.

talks: Feb 5 @ UCSD theater department, on fashion; Feb 3 @ UCLA (Design, Media, Arts); Jan 22, Panel @ Harvard in Asia conference"; Jan 20 Panel @ MIT Hillel: "Are we real when we are online?".

Book review: Nice review of The Social Machine in Science."For anyone with interest in this field, either as a technology designer or just as someone who loves beautiful technology,this is destined to become the definitive text. It is eloquent, well organized, and thorough." Jan 2, 2015.

Essay: "The Ugly Sweater (a holiday season essay)" -- unraveling the insights about irony and authenticity woven into its every snowflakes and Santa. Dec 23, 2014

talks at the Harvard Women in Technology forum and the Boston Geek Girls Dinner, nov/dec 2014

Interview | audio: Will Facebook last - and what's next? Don Maduri Show interview, Nov 20, 2014.

Video | dicussion Online, identity is slippery, with changeable names and unverified claims; yet it is also exceedingly persistent, your name linked to every word you've written, every person you've encountered. Here I trace the history of online identity, showing how various te chnologies have affected privacy, security and sociability. MIT Enterprise Forum: Online Identity: A Fireside Chat with Judith Donath "" >video). Nov 11, 2014.

Talk at USC's Interactive Media & Games Division on "Designing Identity". Oct 29, 2014.

Video: "Designer Framings". Is leaving the dinner table to care for a virtual pet an act of nurturance or rudeness? Should a person be able to remove regrettable material from their data history? Is revealing (or hiding) the identity of a document's readers a violation of privacy? When the conceptual frames through which you view these questions are ambiguous, misunderstandings arise - about the workings of an application, the intentions of another person, or the ethical way to behave.UCSD, Oct 27, 2014.

The Boston Book Festival . On a panel with Howard Gardner and Vikram Chandra. Oct 25, 2014.

Video: "Algorithmic Likeness: The Design and Control of Data Portraits". The tension between subject, artist and audience shapes a portrait - even when the subject is represented through data... and the artist is a machine. Oct 1, 2014, (Northeastern University)

Spoke about the design and performance of identity online from the '70s til now, and looking into the future. The 2014 Lucile Kelling Henderson Lecture, Sept 22, 2014 at the University of North Carolina.

Essay: The Room for Debate column asked "what does it mean when geek culture becomes mainstream?". My answer commended the good that comes from logical, scientific thinking -- but not the consumerist binging on every new gadget. Sept 19, 2014.

From demarcating the boundaries between public and private space to managing identities and reputations, interface design plays a fundamental -- yet under-utilized -- role in securing online privacy. "Designs for Privacy" at the conference of the International Association of Privacy Professionals. Sept 18, 2014 (San Jose).

Interview: "Can pseudonyms make better online citizens?" - an interview in Harvard Magazine (Sept/Oct issue)

Interview: "As people learn more about how interface design shapes society, how it affects how they are seen by and perceive others, they will, I hope, demand greater control over their data. And not just to hide it, but to also embrace also the ways that more knowledge of each other can enrich and strengthen society." from MIT Press's Five Minutes with Judith Donath

Radio showWill robots bring a utopia of leisure and lifelong learning - or a dismal, dangerous future of vast unemployment dotted with tiny, super-rich, armed and gated islands? (Discussion on NPR's The Exchange on "Robots And The Future Of Work"), with Teresa Fort and Aaron Smith. Aug 21, 2014.

Short essay:As more daily activities are automated, "live, human salespeople, nurses, doctors, actors will be symbols of luxury, the silk of human interaction as opposed to the polyester of simulated human contact." (my prediction for Pew Research's Future of the Internet report).

August 12, 2014 (New York City): What is the role of art and culture in creating "a more technologically advanced public realm"? Come to this panel discussion - part of the "Big Ideas for Smart Cities" talk series.

July 23, 2014. Reinventing social media - what works, what doesn't, what have we not tried? "Donath thinks about the notion of balance in the digital world: balance between identity and anonymity, between text and graphic, and between connection and isolation." MIT Alumni interview about about The Social Machine

July 19, 2014. "You really want to start with an understanding of what motivates people, what do they pay attention to, how they make sense of other people." Jasmine McNealy of New Books in Tech asked thoughtful questions in this in-depth interview about how design - good or bad - shapes online society.

July 10, 2014. "We are entering into a very new era, where there's tremendous amounts of information about people that other people have, that governments have, that employers have... once something is out there it is out forever... but we can control how it is used." I was a guest on on Christopher Lydon's Open Source show "One Nation under Surveillance" along with Ashkan Soltani, Benjamin Walker, and Trevor Paglen.

June 12, 2014. Are we moving towards a world where we'll be suspicious of anyone without a substantial online presence? How many of the "people" you link to online are bots? These are some of the questions Joi Ito, Ethan Zuckerman and I discussed during a during a Media Lab Conversation talk. (And a storified version for speedy reading)

June 9, 2014: How the virtual and physical worlds relate? - a discussion on The Digital Showwith Kevin Werbach on SiriusXM Radio channel 111.

May 20, 2014. The book launch for The Social Machine at the Berkman Center was quite fun, including great discussion with the audience. David Weinberger generously live-blogged it and so did Nathan Matias; Robert Richards storified the tweet stream.

Apr 25, 2014: My op-ed in Wired on the importance of pseudonymity, and how to design for it: "Online, I use my real name for many things. But sometimes, I prefer to use a pseudonym. Not because I want to anonymously harass people or post incendiary comments unscathed; no, I simply want to manage the impression I make, while still participating in diverse conversations and communities."

Mar 5, 2014: "Joyriding - stealing a car for the fun of it - is a signature act of troublemaking teenagers. [But]... joyriding has a very 20th century feel to it. It is a physical crime - of keys, gears, metal, rubber, and speed on asphalt. What of the 21st century kids, proto-hackers whose hangouts are virtual spaces - online games, social network sites? Here, the thefts are not of objects, but of information -- including of other people's names." Read the rest on

Mar 5, 2014: I'll be on a panel tonight about gifts, cooperation, freeloaders, the lure of celebrity and - with Tim Berners-Lee, Lily Cole, Urs Gasser, Rosemary Leith and Jonathan Zittrain. (Update: Here's Nathan Mathias's write-up of the discussion, and a picture, too.)

Feb 4, 2014: "On facebook you read an extremely local newspaper made of updates from people you have some personal connection with. People are fascinated by (and irritated by in the same measure) the kind of mundane things about other people they know which they would not otherwise have been privy to." A short interview on WGBH's Greater Boston show, along with Sara Watson.

Dec 1, 2013: "This portrait is not evocative but provocative: it's essentially a picture of the instructions you need to create the person, but it tells us nothing of that person." On a panel about "Social Media History and Poetics" at Princeton. In the video starting at about the 1 hour mark.

talkNov 19, 2013: Talk: "Signaling Theory for Social Media Design" at UIUC's HCI seminar, 12:30 pm.

exhibit Oct 19, 2013: Store Echo Story is on display at the Boston Public Library today 10-5 and tomorrow 12-5

Oct 19, 2013: If it's on Amazon, it must be real... The Social Machine now available for pre-order

Sept 9, 2013: Turned in the final edits for The Social Machine: Designs for Living Online. Still to go... proofreading, indexing... but basically, it's done! It will be out in May 2014, from the MIT Press.

June 25, 2013: Happy to be one of the respondants at the launch of Rewire, Ethan Zuckerman's excellent new book.

May 11, 2013: Sent in the final draft of The Social Machine! Still to do: conclusion, book design, copy edits, indexing...

Mar 8, 2013: Interview with Moe Abdou of 33 Voices about online identity

November 13, 2012: Dramatic readings of Ignoble Prize caliber research - at the Berkman Center

October 25, 2012: How the election season is playing out in social med.ia - from registering voters to divisive partisan ranting - talking with Lee Rainie on MPR

October 3, 2012: giving a keynote talk "Trust out of Bounds: Signals of Reliability in Networked News-gathering", at the Neo-Journalism Conference, Brussels, Belgium.

July 27, 2011: being the (design-focused) backlash against the social media backlash. On the 51% show.

May 4, 2012 : I'll be on the "Anonymity, Identity and Online Speech" panel at this conference at Cardozo Law School.

December 16, 2011 : talking (on Marketplace Tech Report with Nicole Ellison) about how Facebook's new Timeline clears away the forgiving fog of time, bringing all of one's history into the bright visible present. Is meeting someone online becoming a richer experience than meeting face to face?

December 12, 2011 :From Social Butterfly to Engaged Citizen (for which I wrote the epilogue) is now available.

"[The new city's] camera eye are everywhere: in the convenience store, on the utility pole, and as part of the phone that nearly everyone carries. The camera eyes watch the cars at the stoplight, at the toll booth, and as they go over the bridge and through the tunnel. The city feels the weight of the cars on its traffic-monitoring sensors. It smells carbon, oxygen, and other compounds that float by in the air. It smells the bags of travelers at train stations."

"An appetite for growth and laws that support it was essential for keeping a town alive during times when decline was a greater threat than unsustainable expansion. Today we have sprawling, smoggy, traffic-snarled megalopolises: cities that are overspilling their jeans and splitting their seams, while gorging on rivers and chewing on mountainsides."

November 1, 2011: Speaking at the Paduano Symposium at NYU on Friday, on "Design and deception: How new social technologies reshape the economics of honesty"

Many videos from the Hyperpublic symposium are now online

August 18, 2011: I was on another NPR panel (KCRW, "To the Point"), this one talking about the role of social media in recent cases of social unrest, including the Arab Spring revolts, the riots in London, and the protests on the San Francisco BART. Is social media to blame? Where does the right to free speech factor into goverment desire to maintain control?

August 15, 2011: I'll be on an NPR panel talking about the incivility of online comments. If you have thoughts on this, there is live call in during the show.

August 1, 2011: Keynote for the Making Sense of Social Media summer school.

June 30, 2011: Talking about Google+ and Facebook on Marketplace Tech Report.

June 9-10, 2011: HyperPublic: Designing Privacy and Public Space in the Connected World is a conference at Harvard's Berkman Center about how technology is transforming privacy and reshaping what it means to be in public. I've been organizing this conference along with Jef Huang and many others at Berkman. How do we perceive what is public? How is technology changing the nature of these boundaries? Is a hyper-public world inevitable - and if so, what is the best society we can create in it? Even if you can't be there in person, join the online conversations.

May 20-July 19, 2011: Metropath(ologies), the Sociable Media Group's immersive installation about living in a world overflowing with information, is on exhibit at the Virtual Identities show in the Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, Italy. Here is a video of the original version, though the one currently on display is rather different.

May 3, 2011: After many years (9!) of wending it's way through the patent office, our patent for "Remote Collaborative Control and Direction" was granted. U.S. Pat. No. 7,937,285