The Center is an evolution and scaling of the Laboratory for Social Machines (LSM), which was established by Prof. Deb Roy at the MIT Media Lab in 2014 and today includes a team of approximately 30 academic researchers, technologists, and humanists. LSM had a traditional research group structure and pioneered work in social media analytics and the design of human-machine systems to support communication and learning.

Examples of LSM achievements from 2014-2020 include:  

  • A study of the spread of false news that was the cover story of Science magazine and that Altmetrics ranked as the second most influential publication of 2018.
  • A tech-assisted coaching system, Learning Loops, for supporting kids’ narrative development that has been successfully piloted with hundreds of participants in collaboration with community organizations.
  • The Electome project, which helped US national newsrooms analyze and report on the public conversation about 2016 election issues as revealed in social media, and helped moderators prepare for the Presidential debates. Post-election analysis of fragmented political networks and isolation of journalists led to one of VICE News’ most-viewed stories of the year. 
  • Beat the Virus, a coalition created in response to COVID-19, to deliver science-grounded public health guidance via social media influencers. LSM social media analytics guided the generation of over 625 million media impressions and 5.5 million engagements with no paid media. 
Director and Principal Investigator Deb Roy at the public launch event for a new civic technology pilot in Boston, Real Talk for Change.