My name is danah boyd and I'm a Principal Researcher at Microsoft Research and the founder/president of Data & Society. Buzzwords in my world include: privacy, context, youth culture, social media, big data. I use this blog to express random thoughts about whatever I'm thinking.

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Social Science PhD Internships at Microsoft Research New England (Spring & Summer 2011)

Due to overwhelming interest, we are no longer accepting applications for this year’s internships. Please apply next year!

Microsoft Research New England (MSRNE) is looking for PhD interns to join the social media collective for Spring and Summer 2011. For these positions, we are looking primarily for social science PhD students (including communications, sociology, anthropology, media studies, information studies, etc.). The social media collective is a collection of scholars at MSRNE who focus on socio-technical questions, primarily from a social science perspective. We are not an applied program; rather, we work on critical research questions that are important to the future of social science scholarship.

MSRNE internships are 12-week paid internships in Cambridge, Massachusetts. PhD interns at MSRNE are expected to devise and execute a research project during their internships. The expected outcome of an internship at MSRNE is a publishable scholarly paper for an academic journal or conference of the intern’s choosing. The goal of the internship is to help the intern advance their own career; interns are strongly encouraged to work towards a publication outcome that will help them on the academic job market. Interns are also expected to collaborate with full-time researchers and visitors, give short presentations, and contribute to the life of the community. While this is not an applied program, MSRNE encourages interdisciplinary collaboration with computer scientists, economists, and mathematicians. There are also opportunities to engage with product groups at Microsoft, although this is not a requirement.

Topics that are currently of interest to the social media collective include: privacy & publicity, online safety (from sexting to bullying to gang activities), transparency & surveillance, conspicuous consumption & brand culture, news & information flow, and locative media. That said, we are open to other interesting topics, particularly those that may have significant societal impact. While most of the researchers in the collective are ethnographers, we welcome social scientists of all methodological persuasions.

Applicants should have advanced to candidacy in their PhD program or be close to advancing to candidacy. (Unfortunately, there are no opportunities for Master’s students at this time.) While this internship opportunity is not strictly limited to social scientists, preference will be given to social scientists and humanists making socio-technical inquiries. (Note: While other branches of Microsoft Research focus primarily on traditional computer science research, this collective does no development-driven research and is not looking for people who are focused solely on building systems at this time. We welcome social scientists with technical skills and strongly encourage social scientists to collaborate with computer scientists at MSRNE.) Preference will be given to intern candidates who work to make public and/or policy interventions with their research. Interns will benefit most from this opportunity if there are natural opportunities for collaboration with other researchers or visitors currently working at MSRNE.

Applicants from universities outside of the United States are welcome to apply.


The collective is organized by danah boyd ( and includes postdocs Alice Marwick ( and Mike Ananny ( Full-time spring faculty visitors will include Nicole Ellison of MSU ( and Mary Gray of Indiana University ( Summer full-time faculty visitors are TBD.

Previous interns in the collective have included Amelia Abreu (UWashington information), Scott Golder (Cornell sociology), Alice Marwick (NYU media studies), Omar Wasow (Harvard African-American studies), Sarita Yardi (GeorgiaTech HCI). Previous and current faculty MSR visitors to the collective include: Beth Coleman, Bernie Hogan, Christian Sandvig, Eszter Hargittai, Helen Nissenbaum, James Grimmelmann, Judith Donath, Jeff Hancock, Kate Crawford, Karrie Karahalios, Lisa Nakamura, Nalini Kotamraju, Nancy Baym, and Tarleton Gillespie.

If you are curious to know more about MSRNE, I suspect that many of these people would be happy to tell you about their experiences here. Previous interns are especially knowledgeable about how this process works.


To apply for a PhD internship with the social media collective:

1. Fill out the online application form: Make sure to indicate that you prefer Microsoft Research New England and “social media” or “social computing.” You will need to list two recommenders through this form.

2. Send an email to dmb -at- microsoft-dot-com with the subject “PhD Intern Application” that includes the following four things:
a. A brief description of your dissertation project.
b. An academic article you have written (published or unpublished) that shows your writing skills.
c. A pointer to your website or other online presence (if available).
d. A short description of 1-3 projects that you might imagine doing as an intern at MSRNE.

We will begin considering internship applications on November 19 and consider applications until all social media internship positions are filled.

Due to overwhelming interest, we are no longer accepting applications for this year’s internships. Please apply next year!

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