What does it mean to do one’s civic duty in our online lives? For at least 40 years, we have relied on volunteers to establish governance and resolve problems online. Unlike public services, our online civic labor supports platforms that govern but are not governed by their users. Yet platforms’ reliance on volunteer labor also makes them open to collective bargaining from the powerful volunteers who govern their commercial properties.

This talk presents research on the idea of civic labor, alongside quantitative findings about a successful social movement by moderators on the social news platform reddit. On reddit, moderators negotiate the meaning of their work as they face the corporate platform, manage relations with other moderators, and attempt to maintain legitimacy with the people they govern. Moderators also have expectations from the corporate platforms that benefit from their work. In July 2015, moderators of over 2,200 reddit communities joined a successful collective action against the platform; this talk will present recently published findings that test hypotheses for the social factors involved in successful large-scale online social movement by reddit moderators.

About the speakers

  • Nathan Matias

    Affiliation: PhD candidate at the MIT Media Lab Center for Civic Media with Ethan Zuckerman and a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society

    Nathan Matias (, ) is a PhD candidate at the MIT Media Lab Center for Civic Media with Ethan Zuckerman and a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. His research interests focus on social computing, collective action, and citizen-led social science. Nathan has collaborated with a wide range of companies, news organizations, and advocates to better understand issues of gender discrimination, harassment, and social movements online. As a PhD intern at the Microsoft Research Social Media Collective in 2015, Nathan studied the civic labor of online moderators. His PhD explores methods for digital citizens to conduct data science and field experiments to monitor problems and evaluate their responses to those problems online.

This page was last modified on 28 June 2016