Joan Donovan

research director Shorenstein Center Harvard University

Joan Donovan is the Research Director of the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School. She leads the field in examining internet and technology studies, online extremism, media manipulation, and disinformation campaigns. She is co-author with Emily Dreyfuss and Brian Friedberg of Meme Wars : The Untold Story of the Online Battles Upending Democracy in America (Bloomsbury, 2022).

Joan leads The Technology and Social Change Project (TaSC). TaSC 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.

Her 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 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.

Prior to joining Harvard Kennedy School, Joan was the Research Lead for Data & Society’s Media Manipulation Initiative, where she led a large team of researchers studying efforts to manipulate socio-technical systems for political gain. She continues to hold an affiliate appointment with Data & Society. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology and Science Studies from the University of California 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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