COM Junior Faculty Named as 2018-2019 CASBS Fellow

The Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (CASBS) at Stanford University recently announced its 2018-19 fellows class, of which UW Communication Assistant Professor, Benjamin Mako Hill, was named a member.

“I’m deeply excited about the time and space the fellowship will provide me to develop my research, and the opportunity it will provide to connect with the other fellows,” Dr. Hill said of the honor, which is rarely accorded to junior faculty.

Comprised of 37 scholars from 18 U.S. institutions and 13 international institutions and programs, the 2018-2019 CASBS cohort members represent a variety of subjects within or intersecting the social and behavioral sciences. These include anthropology, communication, economics, history, law, medicine, philosophy, political science, sociology, technology studies, and psychology.

“We approach the fellow selection process very seriously,” says CASBS associate director, Sally Schroeder. “I continue to be amazed by the standard of excellence we establish each year. We’ve reached that standard yet again with the 2018-19 class.”

According to the CASBS website, the fellowship provides recipients with a collaborative environment, where cross-disciplinary interactions lead to transformative intellectual experiences. With that in mind, CASBS says that they “seek fellows who will be influential with, and open to influence by, their colleagues.”

During his fellowship year, Dr. Hill intends to research peer production, which is “the cooperative, Internet-based model of organizing the production of public information goods.” Peer production is what drives the creation and management of content on sites like Wikipedia. It is also a founding principle of open-source software, like GNU/Linux.

While at CASBS, Dr. Hill hopes to develop a more dynamic approach to understanding public good provisions in online organizations. Through the use of machine learning, A/B testing, and big data engineering, Dr. Hill hopes to test casual social theories about collective action in new ways. He hopes that the collaborative spirit of the CASBS fellowship will enable him to learn from others from across the social sciences in his cohort who have researched similar dynamic theories, and who have struggled with modeling dynamic processes.

“The doors to every office at CASBS have the names of previous occupants printed next to them. For example, one office I saw when I was visited CASBS had previously housed Thomas Kuhn and Albert Hirschman!” Dr. Hill said. “It’s an unbelievable honor to be invited to follow in the footsteps of such intellectual giants.”