Berkman 2014 Summer Internship Program

[The application deadline for all students for Summer 2014 is Sunday, February 16, 2014 at 11:59 p.m. ET.]

Each summer the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University swings open the doors of our vibrant yellow house to welcome a group of talented and curious students as full-time interns - Berkterns! - who are passionate about the promise of the Internet. Finding connected and complementary research inquiries among their diverse backgrounds, students represent all levels of study, are being trained in disciplines across the board, and come from universities all over the world to tackle issues related to the core of Berkman’s research agenda, including law, technology, innovation, and knowledge; the relationships between Internet and civic activity; and the intersection of technology, learning, and development. Summer interns jump head first into the swirl of the Berkman universe, where they are deeply and substantively involved in our research projects and efforts.

Becoming invaluable contributors to the Center’s operation and success, interns conduct collaborative and independent research under the guidance of Berkman staff, fellows, and faculty. Specific roles, tasks, and experiences vary depending on Center needs and interns’ skills; a select list of expected opportunities for Summer 2014 is below. Typically, the workload of each intern is primarily based under one project or suite of projects, with encouragement and flexibility to get involved in additional projects across the Center.

In addition to joining research teams, summer interns participate in special lectures with Berkman Center faculty and fellows, engage each other through community experiences like weekly interns discussion hours, and attend Center-wide events and gatherings with members of the wider Berkman community. As well, each year interns establish new channels for fun and learning, such as organizing topical debates; establishing reading groups and book clubs; producing podcasts and videos; and hosting potlucks, cook-offs, and BBQs (fortunately for us, people share).

The word “awesome” has been thrown around to describe our internships, but don’t take our word for it.  Interns Royze Adolfo and Hilda Barasa documented the summer 2012 internship experience here.  Former intern Zack McCune had this to say: “it has been an enchanting summer working at the berkman center for internet & society.  everyday, i get to hang out with some of the most brilliant people on the planet. we talk, we write (emails), we blog, we laugh, we play rock band. and when things need to get done, we stay late hyped on free coffee and leftover food. it is a distinct honor to be considered a peer among such excellent people. and i am not just talking about the fellows, staff, and faculty, though they are all outstanding. no, i mean my peers as in my fellow interns, who are almost definitely the ripening next generation of changemakers.”

Time Commitment:
Summer internships are full time positions (35 hours/week) for 10 weeks.  The Summer 2014 program will run from June 2 through August 8.

Interns are paid $11.50 an hour, with the exception of a number of opportunities for law students who are expected to receive some version of summer public interest funding (more about these specific cases at the link for law students below).

Please be forewarned that payment may not be sufficient to cover living expenses in the Boston area. No other benefits are provided, and interns must make their own housing, insurance and transportation arrangements.

Commitment to Diversity:
The work and well-being of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University are strengthened profoundly by the diversity of our network and our differences in background, culture, experience, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, and much more. We actively seek and welcome applications from people of color, women, the LGBTQIA community, and persons with disabilities, as well as applications from researchers and practitioners from across the spectrum of disciplines and methods.


  • Internships are open to students enrolled across the full spectrum of disciplines.
  • Internships are open to students at different levels of academic study including those in bachelor’s, master’s, law, and Ph.D programs (some flexibility with high school students is possible).
  • Summer interns do not need to be U.S. residents or in school in the U.S.; indeed, we encourage international students to apply.
  • Summer interns do not need an existing affiliation with Harvard University.

To Apply:
We know what you’re thinking. Yes please. I want that. That sounds magical.  Did I mention that I have incredible dance moves?  Here’s what you should do…

Law students: please find application instructions and important additional information here.

Students from disciplines other than law: please find more information and application instructions here.

Required application materials for all include:

  • A cover letter describing your skills and interests. When developing your cover letter, you may wish to consider the following questions: What has led you to pursue research with the Berkman Center and the issues we study? What would you like to gain from working with us this summer, and what will you contribute? How do you think the experience might influence your future efforts? Please feel welcome to address these and/or other topics you would like to share with us. Cover letters should be addressed to Nancy.
  • A current resume.
  • The contact information for two references (professional or academic).

Expected Youth and Media Related Summer 2014 Opportunities:

Youth and Media

During a summer at Youth and Media, summer interns will contribute to various research, advocacy, and development initiatives around youth and technology. By understanding young people‘s interactions with digital media such as the Internet, cell phones, and video games, this highly collaborative project aims to gain detailed insights into youth practices and digital fluencies, harness the associated opportunities, address challenges, and ultimately shape the evolving regulatory and educational framework in a way that advances the public interest.  For 2014, we are looking for candidates with strong academic training and experience in qualitative research methods to assist with designing, conducting, and analyzing focus group and one-on-one interviews around topics of privacy, information quality and health information, youth use of the Internet in developing countries, and new ways of learning. We would also consider candidates with expertise in these areas to conduct background research and write literature reviews.  Additionally, we are looking for summer interns who can help us create interesting and innovative ways to help conceptualize some of the data we have collected for our current research project around youth and privacy. An example of a previous report (and accompanying infographic) on information quality can be found here. Applicant must be professional, proactive, and have strong graphic design skills; please be prepared to submit a sample of your portfolio.  More information about Youth and Media can be found at:  See what past Youth and Media interns said about their time at Berkman here.

Digital Problem-Solving Initiative

The Digital Problem-Solving Initiative (DPSI) is a University-wide, highly-collaborative project that begun as a pilot in Spring 2013 to offer Harvard students the opportunity to strengthen their digital competencies by learning and working in small interdisciplinary teams of faculty, staff members, and students from across the University on practicable use cases of digital problem solving. The DPSI pilot has prototyped an open and collaborative model in which students work with mentors at the University, engage with real use cases in a range of areas, generate tangible and useful outputs, and inform the development of DPSI overall. Past use cases have concerned diverse topics like innovation spaces, museums/technology-enhanced curatorial practices, big data, institutional uses of social media, and online organizational identity-building. (See an example of innovation spaces here).   DPSI interns will support the Berkman team in assessing the 13-14 DPSI pilot and planning for the program’s future expansion. Work may include outreach across the University and schools, interaction with faculty, staff, and students, event planning, report writing, and general creative thinking and brainstorming. Compelling candidates could be interested in and/or excited about any of the topics mentioned above, as well as innovation at universities and within education, design, student entrepreneurship, team building and collaboration, interdisciplinarity and technology. Most importantly, candidates should be creative, independent thinkers, strong communicators, and team players.  For more information, visit

Student Privacy Initiative

The Berkman Center’s Student Privacy Initiative explores the opportunities and challenges that may arise as educational institutions consider adopting cloud computing technologies. As we conduct our research, we are engaging multiple stakeholders– from district officials to policymakers to industry members to teachers, parents, and students–to develop shared good practices that promote positive educational outcomes, harness technological and pedagogical innovations, and protect critical values. Summer interns will be asked to work across three overlapping clusters: Privacy Expectations & Attitudes, School Practices & Policies, and Law & Policy, interfacing internally with the Cyberlaw Clinic as well as the Youth and Media Project. In addition to ongoing research tasks, summer interns might help to draft research briefs, white papers, and website updates, as well as to coordinate with and engage external organizations working in the K-12 edtech innovation space. More information is available at

More information about the summer program, other non YaM related opportunities, eligibility, and links to the application procedures can be found below and at

Social Media in the Classroom: A Conversation with YaM Mentor Rey Junco…

Rey Junco’s favorite color is purple. He also mixes beats on his laptop. Electro beats, to be exact. And he’s got an energetic, friendly voice and enthusiasm for online platforms that make him a particularly good candidate for studying social media. Rey, a Berkman Center faculty associate and Youth and Media Lab Mentor, looks at how Twitter and other social networking platforms can be used by instructors to enhance student academic success. In this podcast, Luisa Beck talks with Rey about how these platforms can increase student engagement, what ‘engagement’ in different contexts may mean, and about some of the research questions he’s currently pursuing.

Rey outlines his 2012 study “Putting twitter to the test: Assessing outcomes for student collaboration, engagement and success”, in which he finds that the use of Twitter in educationally relevant ways can increase student engagement and even lead to better grades. He explains that students get a lot more excited about using social media for class discussions than learning management systems like Moodle, Blackboard, or Desire2Learn. In his research, Rey also found that the quality of discussions about class material is better on social networking sites than on learning management systems.

This year, Rey wants to study how online anonymity may allow introverted students to feel more comfortable being creative, voicing their opinions and experimenting in online spaces. Scholars refers to this as the “online disinhibition effect” which, as Rey explains, would be when normally shy students who wouldn’t risk saying something “dumb” in the physical classroom, may feel less anxious about sharing anonymously or pseudonymously online. Rather than focusing on the incivility (such as cyberbullying and name calling) that media often associate with online anonymity, Rey’s goal is to focus on such positive opportunities. He hypothesizes that when otherwise inhibited students receive responses to the thoughts they share or questions they ask online, it will give them validation. In turn, this may encourage them to share their thoughts and ask questions in the classroom and other physical spaces.


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Games for Civic Engagement: A Conversation with Berkman Fellow Eric Gordon…

Thomas Jefferson once hailed town hall meetings the “wisest invention ever devised by the wit of man for the perfect exercise of self-government.” But in many 21st century towns and cities, town hall meetings are barely even attended. And if they are, it’s often the same people showing up, from the same demographic groups. But Eric Gordon, Berkman fellow and founder of the Engagement Game Lab wants to change that. With games like Hub2, Participatory Chinatown and Community PlanIt, he wants to increase civic  participation by gamifying planning processes. In this podcast, Youth and Media Research Assistant Luisa Beck had the chance to talk with Eric about his interest in games, civic engagement and how his lab has managed to combine the two.

Luisa learned that Eric became interested in games for civic engagement through his interest in the connection between media and urbanism. In his scholarly work, he was studying how people navigate urban spaces and how media frames those spaces, both historically and in the present. He started thinking about that theoretical and historical work in an interventionist way.

The first project Eric worked on, Hub 2, used the online platform Second Life as a tool to help people navigate and make decisions about the development of a park in Allston. During the game’s design and implementation process, Eric explored the affordances of how mixed reality could augment deliberation. Entering a virtual space gave people a baseline understanding of how designed spaces might look in the future and how they might navigate them.

Eric’s second project was called Participatory Chinatown. It was an extension of the Hub2 idea, but instead of using Second Life, his team decided to partner with the Asian Community Development Cooperation and the Metropolitan Area Planning Council to build a game around the Chinatown master planning process. To develop the game’s content, youth from an organization called “A-VOYCE” photographed Chinatown neighborhoods. These photographs became the skins for 3D models of Chinatown. The youth also created composite characters for the game based on real-life interviews they did with people in their communities.

The Engagement Game Lab’s most recent game is called Community Plan It. Its challenges are designed so that players generate comments about the planning process, while also learning something about their city. Those comments are then collected, shared with city planners and officials, and made publicly available online. When the game is over, players can pledge the coins they earn during the game to a local cause they care about. It has had many successes in cities such as Boston, Detroit and Philadelphia. But Eric explains that there are still quite a few challenges: CPI is great at generating data, but what Eric wants to find now are ways of empowering people to deliver their own data to city officials in ways that are so compelling that they can’t be ignored.

For more information about the Engagement Game Lab, you can go to or read Eric’s blog at

Blogpost: Use it or lose it

Alex: I know a lot of teachers say they don’t use Wikipedia because anyone can edit it. That makes sense. You don’t – if anyone can edit it, you don’t know what kind of people are going to post on certain articles.

As Alex pointed out during a focus group interview conducted by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, students in K-12 are often told by their teachers not to use Wikipedia. Can we trust anything on Wikipedia, if we don’t know who is editing it? Certainly, serious errors (intentional or otherwise) have been found in Wikipedia entries before. However, perhaps teachers are being overly cautious, as students appear to be fairly aware of the limitations of Wikipedia, regardless of whether they actually use the crowd-sourced encyclopedia. For students, credibility seems to be the primary factor as to why they dismiss Wikipedia as a high quality source of information. As another participant reported, “I don’t use Wikipedia because, like, you could just, like – anybody could say anything on Wikipedia.”

Researcher: Given that your teacher tells you not to use Wikipedia but you spend a lot of time on it anyway, what do you think about your opinions versus your teacher’s opinions?

Julie: I just want to get my work done.

Despite the fact that students have stated that they believe that Wikipedia is not very credible, they continue to use it. In a 2010 survey of 176,192 Wikipedia users, youth ages 12-17 represented 24.2% of the sampled group. In studies done on Wikipedia in higher education, students often report using Wikipedia but avoid citing it in their reports. In a personal context, students from Berkman focus groups report using Wikipedia to look up pop culture, like “a band or a song or an album,” or any other topics of interest.

Additionally, although anyone can edit and add to Wikipedia, that doesn’t mean that everyone is exercising their editing powers. As of May 2012, there are only 77,000 active contributors/editors, with 23% of contributors having completed degree-level education and 26% who are undergraduates. The quality of Wikipedia articles is admittedly uneven at times, but a Nature study famously showed that, on average, Wikipedia has 3.86 mistakes per article. In comparison, Encyclopedia Britannica had 2.92 mistakes. This isn’t to say that we should blindly trust the credibility of Wikipedia, of course, but perhaps we should be more skeptical of encyclopedia articles in general and less skeptical of Wikipedia in particular. Citing Wikipedia is not recommended even by Jimmy Wales (“Citing an encyclopedia for an academic paper at the University level is not appropriate – you aren’t 12 years old any more, it’s time to step up your game and do research in original sources”).

So…perhaps the use of Wikipedia is not necessarily bad. The information quality framework extends beyond credibility and includes factors such as timeliness and relevance, taking a more holistic approach to evaluating quality (Berkman Center for Internet & Society). If we continue to tell students that they should avoid using Wikipedia, but they use it anyway, then we are missing out on an opportunity for students to learn more about information quality. Conceivably, we could teach students how to use Wikipedia.

Nick:  I also use Wikipedia because it does have a bibliography at the bottom, and the only thing you have to worry about for accuracy is things with a citation needed at the end of a sentence in a Wikipedia article.  But like, if it has a number that signifies a certain source was used, then I would see that as reliable.

Researcher: Do you then look up the source. or once you see the number, you are relieved?

Nick:  It depends.  If it’s—sometimes the source links back to a book and obviously I can’t just go to a book on the computer, but sometimes it will link to another website and I’ll use that.

In 2007, Middlebury’s history department made headlines by banning Wikipedia in citations, although they did not ban its use. “Don Wyatt, the chairman of the department, said a total ban on Wikipedia would have been impractical, not to mention close-minded, because Wikipedia is simply too handy to expect students never to consult it” (New York Times). A 2010 study in First Monday reports that over half (52%) of college students surveyed frequently use Wikipedia, although 70% of all students surveyed only use Wikipedia at the beginning or near the beginning of their research process. “Students in the sessions explained that Wikipedia entries have value in the beginning because they provide a ‘simple narrative that gives you a grasp,’ ‘can point you in the right direction,’ and ‘help when I have no idea what to do for a research paper’” (First Monday).

For individual students, Wikipedia can be used as an overview of topics, or as a springboard for links to primary sources. For teachers, Wikipedia can be an opportunity to expose students to better information quality. Instead of banning Wikipedia, let’s come up with some best practices about how to be more critical in searching for and evaluating information. Furthermore, exploring content creation and the peer review process  (or Wikipedia in the social context)  is possible by teaching students how to create well-crafted articles. For instance, one high school teacher documented his experiences teaching social studies with Wikipedia, and Edudemic has created a list of ideas for using Wikipedia in the classroom, based off the Association for Psychological Science’s Wikipedia Initiative.

The quotes used in this blog post were  informed by the focus group data collected by the Youth and Media Lab at the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University.

For more about information quality:


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    Hanging Out At The Lab

    The Youth and Media Lab welcomes local youth to visit the Lab to learn more about us and our work.  We invite youth who are interested in video and graphic design or in teaching and outreach to join us and support our work with your talents. We have many opportunities for youth to get involved in content creation and workshops.

    Send an email to:  [at] cyber [dot] law [dot] harvard [dot] edu


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    The Vision of the Lab

    The Lab’s vision is described in an inspiring video created by young members of the Lab in collaboration with close collaborators and friends:


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