About Me, A Person On (Of?) The Internet

Hello Internet People! I am Mike DeVito, an interdisciplinary social/behavioral scientist, and I want to know how people perceive various features of the Internet, especially the algorithms behind social media platforms and search, and what they might be doing to our brains.

Put more formally,  I am a researcher, a teacher, and a deeply interested party in the social science of media, cognition, and the Internet. I exist in an interdisciplinary space which touches on information science, human-computer interaction, and communication studies, and I also draw heavily on psychology/cognitive/behavioral science literature and methods.

I am currently a second year doctoral student in the Media, Technology, and Society program at Northwestern University‘s School of Communication. I am also a Cognitive Science specialist. I work as a graduate researcher in Northwestern’s Social Media Lab under Professor Jeremy Birnholtz, my adviser.

My research centers around the cognitive effects of new media on human social identity and information flows, including the formation and presentation of the self-concept through social media, trust in external memory, and lay understanding of algorithmic effects. I am also interested in the emerging effects of personified/anthropomorphized technology, including virtual assistants and rudimentary artificial intelligence.

To deconstruct that very dense last paragraph: I want to know how things like Facebook change the way you think about others and yourself and the way you get your information (and what all that does to our society). I’m also interested in what happens when things like search engines and external hard drives become integrated into our own memories, and what happens when we start seeing computer-based agents more like trustworthy friends.

I’m also particularly interested in how these emerging issues play out with populations that don’t always get included in a lot of early work, and that have different concerns than the average college student sample, such as the LGBTQ+ community and early adolescents.

Prior to coming to Northwestern, I worked as a Graduate Teaching Assistant at George Washington University‘s School of Media and Public Affairs, where I taught and assisted with Journalism and Mass Communication courses. I also worked as Managing Editor for GW’s new media sustainability collaborative Planet Forward, where I directed the internship and education programs in addition to running the editorial department. While I was at GW, I earned both an M.A. in Media and Public Affairs and a B.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication.

In the very small sliver of my life that exists outside the bounds of academia, I’m mostly into cats (all kinds), robots (friendly), space (outer), guitar (loud), and overly-involved roleplaying games (wizards).