The Emergent Structure of the Online Information Ecosystem

David Lazer


March 9, 2022 / 1:00-2:00 p.m. ET

Expeditions in Experiential AI

This presentation examines the emergent and sometimes paradoxical logic of the Internet news ecosystem, in particular: (1) collectively, news diets have become far more concentrated in a small number of outlets; (2) however, individuals have relatively diverse news diets– almost certainly far more diverse than was plausible pre-Internet (as measured by number of unique content producers); (3) the social-algorithmic curation system of the Internet tends to point people to content with their preferences, sometimes in unlikely places. The greater diversity of consumption of news measured by number of unique outlets may not actually result in diversity of content.



David Lazer is a University Distinguished Professor of political science and computer sciences, co-director of the NULab for Texts, Maps, and Networks, and an elected Fellow of the National Academy of Public Administration. He also serves as visiting scholar at Harvard University’s Institute for Quantitative Social Science.

Lazer’s research centers on computational social science and social networks with a particular focus on misinformation and political communication. Hundreds of news outlets including, CBS Evening News, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and NPR, have featured his work.

He has published his work in such journals as Science, Nature, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, and the American Political Science Review. His most recent book, Politics with the People: Building a Directly Representative Democracy (Cambridge University Press), co-authored by Michael Neblo and Kevin Esterling, examines potential reform measures to improve the deliberative potential of US democracy.

Lazer serves as co-lead of the COVID States Project, which has charted public opinion in all 50 states through the pandemic. He is also co-founder of Volunteer Science, a citizen science project to study human behavior. As principal investigator, he’s received grants from the National Science Foundation, the Army Research Lab, the Army Research Office, the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity, and other entities. He has held numerous leadership and editorial positions, from board member for the International Network of Social Network Analysts to reviewing editor for Science, associate editor of both Social Networks and Network Science, and a long list of program committees.

Before joining Northeastern, he was a faculty member at the Harvard Kennedy School. He earned his doctoral degree from the University of Michigan.