videoApril 23 2015

Civic Engagement, Bots, and the Internet of Things (IoT):

Phil Howard

Databite No. 34

Phil Howard presents his latest research and asks for advice on what to do next. His new book, Pax Technica: How the Internet of Things May Set Us Free or Lock Us Up, is about the impact of IoT on civic engagement. The next project is a large 5-year research effort on “computational propaganda” supported by the European Research Council. Social media can have an impressive impact on civic engagement and political discourse; yet, increasingly we find political actors using digital media and automated scripts for social control. Computational propaganda — through bots, botnets, and algorithms — has become one of the most concerning political impacts of technology innovation. If overtly political bots are a threat to public life, what should be on our research agenda for the next five years?

Philip N. Howard is a professor and writer. He has written numerous empirical research articles, and published in a number of disciplines, on the use of digital media for both civic engagement and social control in countries around the world. He is a statutory Professor of Internet Studies at the Oxford Internet Institute and a Senior Fellow at Balliol College at the University of Oxford. He has courtesy appointments as a professor at the University of Washington’s Department of Communication and as a Fellow at Columbia University’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism. Howard’s research and commentary writing has been featured in the New York Times, Washington Post, and many international media outlets. His B.A. is in political science from Innis College at the University of Toronto, his M.Sc. is in economics from the London School of Economics, and his Ph.D. is in sociology from Northwestern University. His website is, and he tweets from @pnhoward.

About Databites

Data & Society’s “Databites” speaker series presents timely conversations about the purpose and power of technology, bridging our interdisciplinary research with broader public conversations about the societal implications of data and automation.