Elena Maris and Aaron Shapiro Awarded Internships with Microsoft Research Labs

Doctoral Student Elena Maris and Doctoral Candidate Aaron Shapiro have both been awarded 2017 internships with Microsoft Research labs.

Maris will intern with the Social Media Collective (SMC), a network of social science and humanistic researchers. SMC is part of the Microsoft Research labs in New England and New York.

SMC’s primary purpose is to provide understanding of the social and cultural dynamics that underpin social media technologies. Its work is interdisciplinary in nature and involves researchers from many disciplines, including Nancy Baym, who will serve as Maris’ internship mentor.

As a digital media scholar, Maris is interested in the concept of fandom as it relates to media production. A term used to refer to a subculture composed of fans of a particular television show, movie, video game, or book series, fandom is largely enacted online, on sites like Tumblr and Wikia, and includes fanfiction, message boards, and quizzes. These sites even offer fandom ratings to measure which fandom is most popular.

During her 12-week, summer internship in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Maris will research how companies are interacting with fandoms. She’ll consider questions like: In what ways are companies measuring fandoms though metrics and analytics? What are their goals in collecting and distributing such data?

Shapiro will intern this Spring with the Society, Ethics and AI working group at the Microsoft Research lab in New York. The researchers in this working group focus on the complex social implications of artificial intelligence (AI) and aim to develop computational techniques that are both innovative and ethical. Shapiro will collaborate with principal researcher Kate Crawford, who leads the working group, and postdoctoral researcher Solon Barocas.

Drawing on his background in Anthropology, Shapiro studies the intersection of critical urban studies and media studies. His research interests include urban design and planning, collective action, mobs, and urban informatics.

At Microsoft, Shapiro will research bias in machine learning – a type of artificial intelligence that provides computers the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed – and consider how bias is conceptualized across different intellectual communities. The project will also compare how bias is imagined and operationalized in computer science and critical humanities.

"I'm really excited for Aaron and Elena to spend time at Microsoft Research labs,” says Annenberg Assistant Professor Jessa Lingel. “Doing a research internship at Microsoft was such a terrific experience for me.”

Lingel interned with SMC in 2011 and with a Microsoft lab in Cambridge, England in 2012. She was also a postdoctoral researcher at SMC prior to her appointment at the Annenberg School.

“I honed research skills, met a whole slew of researchers from a bunch of different disciplines, and gained a set of mentors who continue to help steer me through academic life,” Lingel says. “It's also a great opportunity for folks at Microsoft to support and learn from innovative and provocative junior scholars working on media, technology, and data ethics."