Workshop: Propaganda and Media Manipulation

On May 19, 2017, Data & Society will host a workshop in NYC on the ways in which technology and algorithmic practices have altered dynamics of propaganda and media manipulation. The purpose of the D&S Workshop series is to enable deep dives with a broad community of interdisciplinary researchers into topics at the core of Data & Society’s concerns.

The structure of the D&S Workshop is designed to maximize scholarly thinking about the evolving and societally important issues surrounding data-driven technologies.  Participants will be asked to read three full papers in advance of the event and prepare comments for intensive discussion. Some participants will be asked to be discussants of papers, where they will lead the conversation and engage the room. Authors will not present their work, but rather participate in critical discussion with the assembled group about the paper, with explicit intent of making the work stronger and more interdisciplinary.

Participation in this event is limited. Those who are interested in participating should apply by February 15, 2017. This event is not open to practitioners or observers; it is designed to help researchers be reflective and candid about works-in-progress. (D&S will host other events on this topic that are open to broader constituencies.)

Propaganda and Media Manipulation

Social media has reconfigured the news media ecosystem, shaping both how people find and share information, as well as altering how mainstream media organizations seek to engage audiences and fund their enterprises. As a result of these shifts, new attempts to manipulate media coverage and propagate propaganda have emerged. Whether to accomplish economic or political objectives, or more broadly shift cultural norms, different actors around the globe are leveraging technology to alter how information is produced, disseminated, and consumed. Through this workshop, we hope to expand our collective thinking, and engage a group of researchers debating similar questions.

Example relevant topics for this workshop might include (but are not limited to):

  • What does the history of media and propaganda tell us about what is unfolding in a digital age?
  • How do media literacy efforts shape the public’s understanding of contemporary media?
  • How are bots being used to alter the news landscape?
  • What can be done to address manufactured and biased news propagated through social media?
  • How does distrust in information intermediaries affect what the public consumes?
  • How do shifts in the economic landscape of media create new vulnerabilities that can be exploited?
  • What new forms of disinformation are made possible through technology?
  • How can different technical interventions be deployed to enhance or prevent propaganda?

Participation requirements

All participants are required to read three papers in advance of the event and come ready to offer constructively critical feedback. We want researchers from different intellectual traditions to spar with and challenge one another to strengthen ourselves across the board. This is not an event for passive attendance, but an opportunity to engage each other substantively and from cross-disciplinary perspectives. 
If you participate in this event and are not an author, you may be asked to be a discussant.
A subset of participants will workshop papers they have written.  This is a fantastic venue for workshopping a paper.  If you have an appropriate paper in progress, you are strongly encouraged to submit it for consideration. Drafts of law review papers, journal articles, conference papers, and book chapters are all welcome.  Papers are expected to be at draft stage with room for improvement; the goal of this event is not to present largely finished work but to truly workshop work-in-progress. 
For this event, we are looking to bring together researchers from diverse disciplines ranging from computer science to law, economics to history, and anthropology to media studies.  As a result, attendees should expect to engage with scholars who are outside of their field.
We ask that attendees think of the D&S Workshop series as an opportunity to engage with a field, and to strengthen both relationships and research through participation in the workshop. While we see this as valuable for individual authors, we also see this as a field-building exercise that we hope will be valuable for all involved.


The day will be organized into three time slots, each 75 minutes long. One paper will be workshopped in each session. Multiple sessions will run in parallel so there will be a total of 9-12 papers, but each participant will only be responsible for 3. Within each group, a discussant will open with a critique of the paper before inviting participants to share their feedback. (If you participate in this event, you may be asked to be a discussant on one paper.) All are expected to share feedback, with author response towards the end of the session.


The event will take place on May 19, 2017, and will run from 8:45am to 6pm.  Paper sessions will run until 4pm; afterwards, there will be a reception for all participants. 
There is limited travel support for our out-of-town guests. If you are in need of travel support, please let us know. We will not be able to accommodate all travel needs so if you have grants or other means of covering your participation, please use that so that we can prioritize funding for those who have none.

Application to participate

If you are interested in attending this Workshop, you may either 1) propose a paper to be workshopped; or 2) describe how your research makes you a relevant discussant/participant. 
By February 15, 2017, please send a note to [email protected] with the following information: 

  1. Name, affiliation, email address, discipline.
  2. Either a 1-page (max) abstract of a paper or a 1-page (max) description of your work and relevance to the event. Please be explicit if you are submitting a paper.
  3. Let us know if you will need travel assistance in order to attend.  We will unfortunately not be able to accommodate everyone’s needs.


Application Deadline: February 15, 2017
Selection Decisions: March 1, 2017
Full Paper Deadline: April 14, 2017
Workshop: May 19, 2017