J Nathan Matias General Exams Reading List

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This document is the reading list for my Spring 2015 general exams for my PhD in the MIT Center for Civic Media (learn more in this blog post: Civic Values in Technology Design). I'm using it to document my reading notes and share them under a Creative Commons license.

If you would like to suggest an addition to this list, please [Add it to the comments on this blog post]. Thank you so much for thinking of me! Other ways to get involved include:

  • Discuss my reading on Twitter (follow me at @natematias), where I will occasionally take votes on what I should read next.
  • Follow my contributions to AcaWiki (RSS)
  • Send or order me a copy one of the books on my list. In return, I promise to publish a Creative Commons summary of the book online, or if it's a statistics book, I'll post a as many open source examples of the methods described in the book as I can, in R or IPython. Send me a tweet or email if you're interested.
  • Add your own Literature Review to AcaWiki.
  • Be understanding when I say no to things this Spring!. Thanks!
  • Send me cute cats. It's going to be a long, hard semester!

--Natematias (talk) 02:16, 4 February 2015 (UTC)

When people in society come together to collectively perform a task ­­ from cleaning up a park to organizing around a cause­­ the benefits of their cooperation extend far beyond the specific task at hand. People grow relationships, argue their understanding of a situation, and often form long­lasting partnerships, organizations, and communities for learning and action. Within cooperation technologies, these civic and community values are not often computed. Elections, petitions, and media campaigns are measured in the count of people who participate. Collective action systems across crowdsourcing, citizen science, collective intelligence, and human computation are measured in terms of the quality and quantity of contributions they receive.

For these socio-technical systems to deliver their full potential in civic life, we need ways to link the profound power of collective action technologies with the civic values through which we negotiate our common political life, such as fairness, justice, rights, deliberation, transparency, participation, and affiliation. For my general exams, I plan to develop an understanding of important debates on these values within civil society and the intersection of those debates with computer supported cooperation, balancing out a quantitative, experimental approach with a deep exploration of the human experience of digital labor and minority experience online.

In my main area of Contested Civic Values in Social Technologies, I will be engaging in a wide overview of literature on those civic values, with particular attention to issues that overlap with the design and evaluation of socio-technical systems. I also consider literature on the contestation of those values; if code is law as Lessig argues, how have designers and activists contested and changed those laws through system design and collective action? In my technical area of Quantitative Analysis of Cooperation, I will focus on methods in statistics and econometrics for testing hypotheses about cooperation and online behavior. These methods will be considered in relation areas of particular importance to online cooperation systems. Finally, in the contextual area of Digital Labor and the Networked Publics of Marginalized Groups, I carry out readings that explore the nature of community-building work that occurs in online platforms, alongside literature on the experiences of marginalized groups as they form communities and conversations for civic identity online.

Primary Area: Contested Civic Values in Social Technologies

Examiner: Ethan Zuckerman
Principal Research Scientist,
MIT Media Lab & MIT Center for Civic Media


In my main area, I will examine classic texts on the range of civil society values that intersect with socio-technical systems. The list includes classic readings from participatory politics, collective action, social capital, networked cooperation, deliberation, rights, paternalism, and public sphere theory (which receives greater attention in the contextual area). In the second part of this reading, I examine literature on contestation of these values within socio-technical systems—ways that the values that prevail within a particular system are contested or reshaped through collective action and design.

Reading List

Civic Values

  • Haste, Helen, and Amy Hogan. 2006. “Beyond Conventional Civic Participation, beyond the Moral-Political Divide: Young People and Contemporary Debates about Citizenship.” Journal of Moral Education 35 (4): 473–93.
  • Schudson, Michael. 1998. The Good Citizen: A History of American Civic Life. New York: Free Press.


Civic Values: PUBLICS

Civic Values: COMMUNITY

Civic Values: NETWORKS



  • Anderson, David. 2010. The Age of Leverage. The Brookings Institution.
  • Banerjee, Abhijit, Abhijit Vinayak Banerjee, and Esther Duflo. 2011. Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty. PublicAffairs.
  • Sunstein, Cass R. 2014. The Ethics of Nudging. SSRN Scholarly Paper ID 2526341. Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network.
  • Scott, James C. 1999. Seeing like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. New Haven: Yale University Press.


  • Barr, Abigail, Frederick Mugisha, Pieter Serneels, and Andrew Zeitlin. 2012. “Information and Collective Action in Community-Based Monitoring of Schools: Field and Lab Experimental Evidence from Uganda.” Unpublished Paper.
  • Dietz, Thomas, Elinor Ostrom, and Paul C. Stern. 2003. “The struggle to Govern the Commons.” Science 302 (5652): 1907–12. doi:10.1126/science.1091015.
  • Eubanks, Virginia. 2011. Digital Dead End: Fighting for Social Justice in the Information Age. 1St Edition. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press.


  • Kleine, Dorothea. 2013. Technologies of Choice: ICTs, Development, and the Capabilities Approach. MIT Press.
  • Nussbaum, Martha C. 2004. “Beyond the Social Contract: Capabilities and Global Justice. an Olaf Palme Lecture, Delivered in Oxford on 19 June 2003.” Oxford Development Studies 32 (1): 3–18.
  • Sen, Amartya. 2005. “Human Rights and Capabilities.” Journal of Human Development 6 (2)
  • Rawls, John. 2001. Justice as Fairness: A Restatement. Edited by Erin Kelly. 2nd edition. Cambridge, Mass: Belknap Press.

Civic Values: POLITICS

  • Sifry, Micah L. 2014. The Big Disconnect: Why the Internet Hasn’t Transformed Politics (yet). OR Books, LLC.

Successor Systems

  • Akrich, Madeleine. 1992. “The de-Scription of Technical Objects.” Shaping Technology/building Society, 205–24.
  • Agre, Philip. 1997. “Toward a Critical Technical Practice: Lessons Learned in Trying to Reform AI.” Bridging the Great Divide: Social Science, Technical Systems, and Cooperative Work, Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum, 131–57.
  • Bowker, Geoffrey C., and Susan Leigh Star. 2000. Sorting Things Out: Classification and Its Consequences. MIT press. Chapters: "Some Tricks of the Trade in Analyzing Classification", "Classification, Coding, and Coordination", "Of Tuberculosis and Trajectories", "The Case of Race Classification and Reclassification under Apartheid", and "What a Difference a Name Makes: The Classification of Nursing Work"
  • DeTar, C. InterTwinkles: Online Tools for Non-Hierarchical, Consensus-Oriented Decision Making. PhD Thesis, MIT Media Arts and Sciences, 2013.
  • Dimond, J. Dye, M., LaRose, D., and Bruckman, A. Hollaback!: The Role of Storytelling Online in a Social Movement Organization In Proc CSCW 2013.
  • Dunbar-Hester, Christina. "Radical Inclusion? Locating' Accountability' in Technical DIY" from DIY Citizenship: Critical Making and Social Media, MIT Press 2014.
  • Haraway, D. A Cyborg Manifesto: Science, technology, and socialist-feminism in the late twentieth century. The cybercultures reader, (2000), 291.
  • Illich, I. "Convivial_Reconstruction" in Tools for Conviviality (ch2). Marion Boyars, London, 1973.
  • Irani, L. and Silberman, M. Turkopticon: Interrupting worker invisibility in amazon mechanical turk. In Proc CHI 2013.
  • Lessig, L. Code: And Other Laws of Cyberspace, Version 2.0. Basic Books, New York, 2006.
  • Goldsmith, Stephen, and Susan Crawford. 2014. The Responsive City: Engaging Communities Through Data-Smart Governance. 1 edition. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Morozov, Evgeny. 2012. "Why Kierkegaard Hates Slacktivism" and "Internet Freedoms and their Consequences" from The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom. Reprint edition. New York: PublicAffairs.
  • Neuwirth, Robert. 2012. Stealth of Nations: The Global Rise of the Informal Economy. Reprint edition. New York: Anchor.
  • Tactical Technology Collective, 2013. "Visualizing Information for Advocacy"

Technical Area: Quantitative Analysis of Cooperation

Examiner: User:Benjamin_Mako_Hill
Assistant Professor, University of Washington


This area examines statistical methods for the study of online cooperation. The requirements include two classes on statistics (S-40 and S-52 at the Harvard Graduate School of Education), alongside readings on experiment design, logistic regression, causal inference, and longitudinal data analysis. This area also connects two areas of theory within the study of cooperation that are open to these methods: social movement theory and theories of ladders of engagement. The readings on social movements address the recruitment, goals, and coordination activity of social movements, with the aim of linking them to questions open to statistical inference. The readings on ladders of engagement address the ideas about the journey that individuals might take through a community, offering cases of quantitative studies of engagement paths in online communities.

Reading List

Statistical Methods for Computational Social Science

Social Movement Theory

  • Andrews, Kenneth T., Marshall Ganz, Matthew Baggetta, Hahrie Han, and Chaeyoon Lim. 2010. “Leadership, Membership, and Voice: Civic Associations That Work.” American Journal of Sociology 115 (4): 1191–1242.
  • Benford, Robert D., and David A. Snow. 2000. “Framing Processes and Social Movements: An Overview and Assessment.” Annual Review of Sociology, 611–39.
  • Ganz, Marshall. 2001. “The Power of Story in Social Movements.” In Unpublished Paper for the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, Anahem, California
  • Ingram, Paul, and Hayagreeva Rao. 2004. “Store Wars: The Enactment and Repeal of Anti-Chain-Store Legislation in America1.” American Journal of Sociology 110 (2): 446–87.
  • McAdam, Doug. 1986. “Recruitment to High-Risk Activism: The Case of Freedom Summer.” American Journal of Sociology, 64–90.
  • McCarthy, John D., and Mayer N. Zald. 1977. “Resource Mobilization and Social Movements: A Partial Theory.” American Journal of Sociology 82 (6): 1212–41.
  • Rao, Hayagreeva. 1998. “Caveat Emptor: The Construction of Nonprofit Consumer Watchdog Organizations 1.” American Journal of Sociology 103 (4): 912–61.

Engagement and Participation in Online Communities

  • Arnstein, Sherry R. 1969. “A Ladder of Citizen Participation.” Journal of the American Institute of Planners 35 (4): 216–24.
  • Gordon, Eric, Jessica Baldwin-Philippi, and Martina Balestra. 2013. Why We Engage: How Theories of Human Behavior Contribute to Our Understanding of Civic Engagement in a Digital Era. SSRN Scholarly Paper ID 2343762. Rochester, NY: Social Science
  • Hart, Roger A. 1997. Children's Participation: The Theory and Practice of Involving Young Citizens in Community Development and Environmental Care. UNICEF, Earthscan Publications Ltd, London.
  • Lave, Jean, and Etienne Wenger. 1991. Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge university press.
  • Ofer Arazy, Felipe Ortega. 2015. “Functional Roles and Career Paths in Wikipedia.” doi:10.13140/2.1.4843.9685.
  • Panciera, Katherine, Aaron Halfaker, and Loren Terveen. 2009. “Wikipedians Are Born, Not Made: A Study of Power Editors on Wikipedia.” In Proceedings of the ACM 2009 International Conference on Supporting Group Work, 51–60. ACM.
  • Panciera, Katherine, Mikhil Masli, and Loren Terveen. 2014. “Cream of the Crop: Elite Contributors in an Online Community.” In Proceedings of The International Symposium on Open Collaboration, 21. ACM.
  • Preece, Jennifer, and Ben Shneiderman. 2009. “The Reader-to-Leader Framework: Motivating Technology-Mediated Social Participation.” AIS Transactions on Human-Computer Interaction 1 (1): 13–32.

Online Communities (addendum)

Kraut, R. E. & Resnick, P. 2012. Building successful online communities: Evidence-based social design. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Contextual Area: Digital Labor in Context

Examiner: Mary Gray
Senior Researcher, Microsoft Research


Reading List

Digital Labor in Context