Ethan Zuckerman


Hi! Thanks for visiting. My name is Ethan Zuckerman. I direct the Center for Civic Media at MIT, and teach at MIT’s Media Lab and MIT’s Comparative media Studies and Writing program, where I am associate professor of the practice. I’m the author of “Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection”, published by W. W. Norton in June 2013. I’m the co-founder of global blogging community Global Voices, and I work with social change nonprofit organizations around the world. I’m an alumnus of the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard, Geekcorps and Tripod.

I came to MIT in 2011 to take over the Center for Civic Media when co-founder Chris Csikszentmihalyi moved on. Center for Civic Media, supported by the John and James Knight Foundation, researches the relationship between media and social change, and builds tools to study how ideas spread in the media, and how citizens can better participate in their civic lives.

I work with extraordinary people at Center for Civic Media and have an increasingly long list of alumni who have moved on to wonderful things – Nathan Matias was my first PhD graduate, and Jia Zhang and Erhardt Graeff will join him in summer 2018.

I teach a class called News and Participatory Media each spring, which brings together journalists and technologists to develop new tools and techniques for reporting news. In the fall, I’ve collaborated with Alexis Hope and Emilie Reiser to teach a class on technology, ethics and social change – that class is under constant revision.

Much of my research centers on quantitative analysis of media: computational techniques to determine who, what and where feature in traditional and participatory media. This work builds on work I did almost a decade ago, Global Attention Profiles, and now is built on top of the Media Cloud platform, which we are co-developing with Yochai Benkler, Hal Roberts and other friends at Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center. A recent paper by Benkler, Roberts and Faris (I had a small assisting role) does a good job of displaying what the tool can do – this CJR article is a compact overview of its conclusions.

Global Voices:
Rebecca MacKinnon and I founded Global Voices in 2005 when we were both fellows at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society. Initially, we’d planned to build an aggregator of blogs from around the developing world, based on my interest in Africa and her focus on China. As more people got involved with the project, it’s become something much larger and more exciting: a global community of citizen media authors, an advocacy group that works to preserve freedom of speech online, a media development organization that promotes participatory media in developing nations, a vast and distributed translation project, and a crazy set of friends from every corner of the world. It’s been a joy to be involved with and is one of the projects I’m proudest of. Ivan Sigal and Georgia Popplewell have been capably running the project for years – I am proud to remain a board member of the Dutch stichting that oversees the community.

I enjoy public speaking as a way to develop new ideas, meet new people and see different parts of the world. My TED talk is a good introduction both to my public speaking and the ideas in “Rewire”. I am represented by Stern Speakers – please contact them if you’d like me to speak at your conference, meeting or bar mitzvah.

Dave Winer encouraged me to start blogging when I joined Berkman in 2003. Blogging taught me how to write, and has opened doors for me around the world. Encouraged by David Weinberger, I began blogging conferences, starting with Pop!Tech in 2004. I came to TED for the first time in 2005 as a blogger, and blogged every talk I heard. I now require my students to blog any lectures they attend, as I’ve discovered that I listen differently – and better – when I’m trying to turn someone else’s talk into a blog post.

I rarely liveblog these days, and I am writing more often for magazines and publications with more reach than I have here. The Atlantic has been very kind to me, as have CNN, Wired and others.
I write for academic journals and books as well. In addition to Rewire, here are some selected works:

Older work: Geekcorps
Geekcorps was a nonprofit organization that I founded with Elisa Korentayer in 1999 and co-led with Ana Maria Harkins from 2001-2004. It was an international non-profit organization that transferred tech skills from geeks in developed nations to geeks in emerging nations, especially entrepreneurial geeks who are building small businesses. In other words, a Peace Corps for geeks. I’ve had the pleasure of leading teams of extremely cool people in North Adams, MA, USA; Osu, Accra, Ghana; Dakar, Senegal and Bamako, Mali. I stepped down from the organization in April, 2004. The organization merged with IESC, and after the departure of our founding team, seems mostly dormant.

Much older work: Tripod
For many years, this page was hosted on Tripod, for a variety of sentimental reasons. (Now only a few side projects are.) In 1994, I dropped out of graduate school and joined a couple of friends in Williamstown, MA in building one of the first “pure” companies – Tripod. As the only person on the team who knew HTML, I got to be “tech guy” – outclassed by guys who could program circles around me, I became bizdev guy, legal guy, customer service guy and R&D guy before settling, briefly, on “retired guy”.

Contrary to popular belief, Tripod wasn’t originally intended to be a webhosting provider or homepage site. In its first incarnation, it was designed to be a collection of content and services for 20-somethings, described as “tools for life”. Discovering earlier than most that online content is a tough sell (check out some of our server logs from late 1995 if you don’t believe me), we moved into the growing area of user-created content before discovering (again, earlier than most) that fifteen million users a day weren’t particularly helpful if they didn’t buy anything or click on ads. We sold the company to Lycos in 1999, slightly before money paid for internet companies got way out of hand, but well before selling Internet companies was harder than selling ice in Siberia.

Those annoying pop-up windows? My fault, at least in part. I designed a vertically-oriented popup window that included navigation tools and an ad for inclusion on webpages at some point in late 1996 or early 1997. It was intended to be less intrusive than inserting an ad into the middle of a user’s homepage. I won’t claim responsibility (irresponsibility?) for inventing the damned things, and I disclaim any responsibility for cascading popups, popups that move to the top, and those annoying “bot” windows that open different popups every few minutes. Still, the fault is at least in part mine, and I’m sorry. :-)

People and Places:
I live in Lanesboro, MA, a rural town of about 3,000 in Berkshire County, MA, USA, with my partner Amy Price, and near my son, Andrew Wynn Kwame Zuckerman, better known as Drew, and his mother, Rachel Barenblat.

If you’d like to contact me, twitter and email are the best bets. My PGP public key is on the MIT keyserver.