Researching the Digital Age at Harvard University

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Photo courtesy of Briggs DeLoach

As a researcher at Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, Briggs DeLoach (US ’11, C’15) thrives on asking big questions about the wide-reaching impact of the Internet and digital technology, particularly as they relate to youth. Alongside an interdisciplinary group of Harvard faculty, colleagues from Ivy League universities, and international experts, DeLoach conducts academic research on the impact of the Internet and translates these findings into practice across the globe.

“The technological world presents youth with challenges, such as changing privacy dynamics and new venues for expressing unkind behavior, along with opportunities, such as resources for education, frontiers for upholding child rights, and outlets for creative expression,” DeLoach says. “Our goal at the Berkman Center is to build awareness and find innovative long-term solutions through research, outreach, and education.”

DeLoach’s work takes him all over the world. Last fall, he traveled to a conference on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts, where he met with government and industry leaders to discuss the growth of technology in island communities. In the winter, he traveled to Germany to collaborate with a startup looking to bolster political engagement through the Internet. More recently, he was in Chile meeting with a variety of Internet stakeholders from across Latin America, including government leaders, NGO heads, and academics. “We discussed means of creating a vibrant digital ecosystem that empowers traditionally marginalized groups—ranging from youth with disabilities to young people living in isolated rural areas—by encouraging them to become active participants in cyber life,” DeLoach explains.

While at Principia, DeLoach earned a BA in political science and history. “My liberal arts education at Principia fully prepared me,” he says. “I appreciate how a deep engagement with professors in Principia’s small classes set me up for success after college. With no disrespect to colleagues who graduated from Ivy League schools, I say with confidence—and much gratitude—that my Prin education was as good, if not better. For example, the research methods class I took as part of my political science major was crucial preparation for analyzing large amounts of data in my work. I also value the unique nature of Principia’s abroad programs and see how I benefited from traveling on the Dominica Abroad my senior year. I gained deep cultural understanding on that trip that has supported the international travel I do with my job.”

While at Principia, DeLoach co-directed the Public Affairs Conference, competed with Model Illinois Government, ran on the cross-country and track teams, and served in student government, gaining valuable speaking and team-building experience along the way. Additionally, he participated in a summer research program to assist political science professor Dr. Brian Roberts on a book project that examines changing presidential partisanship over time.

Recently, DeLoach was selected to work with Harvard Law School Professor Cass Sunstein, one of the nation’s most cited legal scholars, on social science research for an upcoming book examining echo-chamber effects online.

“I’m very grateful that I attended Principia,” DeLoach said during a recent campus visit. “I truly valued the whole man experience here. The supportive atmosphere reinforced my study and practice of Christian Science, and I made many wonderful friends.” In the coming years, he looks forward to pursuing graduate studies in order to continue translating academic findings into international practice.