2017 Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program Guest Scholars

December 18, 2017  • Communications and Society Program

As 2017 comes to a close, the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program invites you to join us as we celebrate and reflect over an exciting year marked by thoughtful, constructive discussions on a range of issues. The following “2017 Year In Review” series offers highlights from the various programs as well as insight into 2018 programming. For more information, please visit our homepage and or follow us on Twitter or Facebook

This summer the Aspen Institute Communications and Society Program announced the 2017 Guest Scholar recipients. The Guest Scholar Program began in 2001 as a scholarship initiative providing students of color the opportunity to develop their professional and academic careers in the field of media and technology policy. Each year doctoral (or other advanced graduate program) students of color are invited to apply for a Guest Scholarship to attend the annual Aspen Institute Conference on Communications Policy and, this year, the Roundtable on Artificial Intelligence in Aspen, CO.

The program received a number of applications and three scholars were chosen based on their academic excellence, experience and commitment to work in the field of communications policy and artificial intelligence. As a part of their scholarship requirement, each Scholar wrote a blog that reflects on their ideas and experience at their prospective conferences:

Joy Buolamwini
Ph.D. Student, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Joy Buolamwini is described as poet of code. She is on a mission to show compassion through computation. As a graduate researcher at the MIT Media Lab, she leads the Algorithmic Justice League to fight coded bias. Her research explores the intersection of social impact technology and inclusion. Through Filmmakers Collaborative, Buolamwini also produces media that highlight diverse creators of technology. Buolamwini is a Rhodes Scholar, Fulbright Fellow, Google Anita Borg Scholar, Astronaut Scholar, and a Stamps President’s Scholar. She holds a master’s degree in Learning and Technology from Oxford University and a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the Georgia Institute of Technology.

BLOG: Aspen in the August of Artificial Intelligence by Joy Buolamwini

Eric Karikari
Ph.D. Candidate, University of New Mexico – Albuquerque

Eric Karikari is a Ph.D. candidate in the Communication and Journalism Department of the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. His dissertation project is focused on analyzing the role of neoliberalism in the creation and consolidation of media and communications policies. In this project, Eric analyzes how neoliberalism simultaneously inhibits and enables certain forms of cultural expression, particularly among socially and economically marginalized populations. He has a Master’s degree in Communication Studies from the Minnesota State University, where he was awarded the university’s Midwest Association of Graduate Schools (MAGS) Distinguished Masters’ Thesis Award.

BLOG: Equity versus Equality: Why Communications Policy is Crucial to Social Justice by Eric Karikari

J. Nathan Matias
Ph.D. Scholar, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Nathan Matias recently completed a PhD at the MIT Media Lab Center for Civic Media and is an affiliate at the Berkman-Klein Center. He conducts independent, public interest research on governing human and machine behavior online. Nathan recently tested an “AI Nudge” with a community of 16 million reddit users. Working with this community to monitor news-recommendation algorithms, he tested the effect on those algorithms of encouraging readers to fact-check news articles. This enabled them to reduce the algorithmic promotion of unreliable news articles by four percentage points on average. A graduate of MIT, Cambridge University, and Elizabethtown College, with two degrees in the humanities, Nathan brings a liberal arts perspective to his technical and social research.

BLOG: Citizen Autonomy and Machine Intelligence by Nathan Matias

Applications for the 2018 Guest Scholar program will open in Spring 2018. For more information, and to apply, please see