SILS Professor Zeynep Tufekci Named Andrew Carnegie Fellow

Release date: 

April 22, 2015

Zeynep Tufekci, assistant professor at the School of Information and Library Science (SILS), has been named an inaugural Andrew Carnegie Fellow by the Carnegie Corporation of New York for her proposal “Big Data and the Algorithmic Threat to Democracy and Civil Society.”  

Tufekci is one of two University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill faculty members chosen for the inaugural class of fellows. Patricia Sullivan, an associate professor in the Department of Public Policy and the Curriculum in Peace, War, and Defense in the College of Arts and Sciences, was also selected.

The new annual fellowship program provides up to $200,000 to scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals in the humanities and social sciences who are pursuing research on the challenges facing U.S. democracy and international order in the next 25 years. Recipients are enabled to take a sabbatical of between one and two years to research and write.

“We have phenomenal faculty here at Carolina and I am so pleased the Carnegie Corporation has recognized not just one, but two of our best this year,” said Chancellor Carol L. Folt. “I congratulate Tricia Sullivan and Zeynep Tufekci on such a tremendous honor and am confident they will use this opportunity to continue making a powerful impact in policy and technology.”

Tufekci’s research interests revolve around the intersection of technology and society, and her academic work focuses on social movements and civics, privacy and surveillance, and social interaction. She is also increasingly known for her work on “big data” and algorithmic decision-making.

“This fellowship will allow me to study the implications of the emergence of behavioral ‘big data’ and the associated algorithms and analytics that are applied to these data for civics, society and privacy,” said Tufekci. “I was surprised and thrilled to be given this opportunity to spend a year studying such an important topic!”

In addition to her appointment with SILS, Tufekci has an affiliate appointment at the UNC Department of Sociology in the College of Arts and Sciences. She is also a faculty associate at the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society, and was previously a fellow at the Center for Information Technology Policy at the Princeton University.

Originally from Turkey, and formerly a computer programmer, Tufekci became interested in the social impacts of technology and began to focus on how digital and computational technology interact with social, political and cultural dynamics. Her work has appeared in a wide range of outlets, from peer-reviewed journals to traditional media and blogging platforms. Her forthcoming book Beautiful Teargas: The Ecstatic, Fragile Politics of Networked Protest in the 21st Century, to be published by Yale University Press, will examine the dynamics, strengths and weaknesses of 21st century social movements.

Tufekci is currently a contributing opinion writer at the New York Times and also publishes essays at The Message on Medium, a new media platform. She can be found online on Twitter as @zeynep, and on her personal blog, http://www.technosociology.org.

In launching the fellowship program, the Carnegie Corporation sought nominations from nearly 700 leaders from a range of universities, think tanks, publishers, independent scholars, and non-profit organizations nationwide, who collectively nominated more than 300 people. Only four universities claim two fellows from the inaugural class 32 scholars, including UNC-Chapel Hill, Stanford University, Harvard University and the University of Michigan.