My name is Matt Rafalow and I am a Sociologist (PhD, University of California-Irvine), a social scientist at Google, and a Visiting Scholar at UC-Berkeley’s Center for Science, Technology, Medicine & Society. At Google I lead a research program on live streaming experiences. I strive to conduct research that blends academic inquiry with applied solutions that have a meaningful impact.
Most of my publishing is on education. In Digital Divisions: How Schools Create Inequality in the Tech Era (University of Chicago Press, 2020), I studied how digital technologies are used in middle schools. I found that teachers draw on organization-level understandings of student race and class to construct students as either risky hackers or Steve Jobs potentials. Digital technologies were not magic bullets to address educational inequities – rather, teachers adopted very similar technologies quite differently depending on the race and class of their student body. In Affinity Online: How Connection and Shared Interest Fuel Learning (NYU Press, 2018), my co-authors and I studied how informal learning communities online function to help youth and young adults level up in digital skills.
I am now studying YouTubers and their viewers, and manage an internal academic team of social scientists (Alex Carey, Jingjing Chen, Rochelle Edwards, Muping Gan, Eric Gomez, Danae Holmes, and Steven Schirra) in pursuit of this work. We’re mining a lot of data: interviews with 123 YouTubers varying from 2,000 to 22 billion subscribers and spanning content genres, and cross-national surveys and interviews from their viewers. So far, we’re thinking a lot about how YouTubers decide to create their video content and the role that audiences play in shaping their process.
If you’re curious as to what a sociologist does in the tech industry, see this little writeup I put together. If you’re a social scientist with interests in digital technology you should consider joining a 300+ online community I manage of like-minded folks. If you like learning about social science from somewhat inebriated scholars you should stay tuned for Drunk Sociology, a new series I’m co-producing with Sarah Outland. And if you’re a dog person, meet Eva.