In Good Company
notecards, friendship bracelets
Many industry-independent researching technology and society are facing attacks for their work. In the last year, journalists and politicians have been subpoenaing university records and exposing them to journalists who will write hit pieces naming individual scholars--creating the conditions for targeted harassment. This is especially challenging for junior scholars, including undergraduates and graduate students, who have their lives and careers ahead of them. When people experience this harassment, it makes them feel afraid and alone. Research shows that people often reduce their public engagement, change the focus of their work, entirely, or even change careers as a result. Unfortunately, we expect to see more targeted harassment in 2024.

The Center for Ethics, Society, and Computing at University of Michigan (Sophia Brueckner); the Citizens & Technology Lab at Cornell (Nathan Matias); the Data + Feminism Lab at MIT (Catherine D’Ignazio); and the Institute for Data, Democracy, and Politics at George Washington University (Rebekah Tromble) are creating a kit for other scholars to send encouragement to people under attack.

In small groups, people will learn about the problem and create care packages to be sent to people under threat. This will include writing notecards that feature past scholars who have faced attacks for their work and handmade friendship bracelets. The care packages will be circulated to people who need them by a team at George Washington University and the Knight Institute who are also coordinating access to mental health support, privacy protections, and legal defense where needed. These recipients are kept anonymous to the senders. The senders will be known to the recipients, who can decide if they want to respond.

In the future, we hope to host panels and exhibitions based on this project to educate university administrators and others on campus about these threats.

Illustration and graphic design by Shannon Yeung.