PACS news/August 21, 2023

DCSL Research Director to Join NYU Faculty

After five years at the Digital Civil Society Lab (DCSL), Toussaint Nothias will take up a faculty position at NYU this fall.

Toussaint first joined DCSL in 2018 as a postdoc. He started researching Facebook’s Free Basics, a globally widespread initiative to provide supposedly “free” internet access throughout the Global South. His work called attention to the limits of this initiative and analyzed the range of ways digital rights activists have responded to the practice. His groundbreaking article “Access Granted” became a go-to resource on the issue and led him to be referenced and quoted in news outlets, including The Guardian, MIT Tech Review, Wired, The New York Times, and Rest of World.

As Associate Director of Research, Toussaint mentored three cohorts of post-doctoral fellows and established a collaborative design process to design and teach the Digital Civil Society seminar. Under his leadership, the class became tremendously popular on campus, attracting students from various disciplines interested in critical and interdisciplinary perspectives on technology and civil society.

In 2021, Toussaint led the strategic planning for the Lab, developing core research programs that emphasize academia-civil society collaborations, interdisciplinarity, and global perspectives. This resulted in several DCSL publications, including reports on Digital Surveillance and the Pandemic and Decolonizing Data (translated in Spanish and Kiswahili); an edited collection on Decoding Digital Democracy in Africa; an article on Nonprofits and Digital Public Policy; and various resources produced by our practitioner fellows including a zine on the social implications of DNAa reading list on Internet infrastructures, and a Kiswahili lexicon of keywords in technology and digital rights. He also secured a grant from the Stanford HAI to develop with Lucy Bernholz an edited volume on AI and freedom of assembly.

Throughout the years, Toussaint was a powerhouse behind various events and workshops, including on the digital divide, the digital civil society conference, the Lab’s speaker series, and more recently on zero-rating and industry-independent tech research. Reflecting on his time with DCSL, Toussaint said: “I feel very fortunate to have learned so much from each member of the DCSL community, and I am grateful for all the work we’ve done together to advance critical conversations, interdisciplinary research, innovative teaching, and policy interventions about tech. The mission of DCSL is as vital as ever, and I’ll look forward to staying engaged with the Lab”.

At NYU, he will be a Clinical Associate Professor in XE: Experimental Humanities & Social Engagement and affiliated with the Department of Media, Culture, and Communication. There, he will develop new classes on technology, journalism, and civil society, and continue to carry research that supports greater accountability about Big Tech, especially in global perspectives.

DCSL thanks Toussaint for his work over the years and wishes him all the best in his exciting new chapter!