Filipino scholar, book author, global digital media specialist named 2022 Andrew Carnegie Fellow

by PDM STAFF

| Composite image by PDM, Photo courtesy of UMass Amherst

NEW YORK – Jonathan Corpus Ong, associate professor of global digital media in the department of communication at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, has been named a 2022 Andrew Carnegie Fellow by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.

“I am deeply honored representing UMass and receiving this award. This is a recognition that we need more engaged ethnographic work that can interrupt dominant paradigms about how we think about social media and democracy,” Ong said. “We need more stories about the creativity and courage of digital activists, organizers, and ‘healers’ just as we need to understand root causes of exploitation and deception in digital economies.”

“I’m also very proud to represent my discipline of media and communications in this competitive fellowship,” Ong continues. “It’s important that communication scholars are supported in deepening understanding about how digital tools that promise belonging or intimacy could also drive people into despair or division. We need to retell the human stories of digital workers and activists fighting back against misinformation and hate while they themselves have suffered from trauma and burnout.”

Ong is only the second UMass Amherst faculty member to be named a Carnegie Fellow, following Distinguished Professor of Economics Léonce Ndikumana, awarded the distinction in 2021.

As an Andrew Carnegie Fellow, Ong and 28 scholars, journalists, and authors, will receive $200,000 stipends for recognizing their efforts to address critical and enduring issues confronting our society. The stipends, totaling $5.6 million in philanthropic support this year by the Corporation, make it possible for fellows to devote their time to significant research and to write in the social sciences and humanities.

Ong’s stipend will support his project, The Human Costs of Disinformation, which will explore precarious work conditions and digital harms experienced by pro-democracy civil society front-liners in a global context. His project aims to advance his advocacy for worker justice and wellness in the disinformation mitigation space, which he discussed in the recent Harvard Kennedy School report, Human Rights in Survival Mode: Rebuilding Trust and Supporting Digital Workers in the Philippines.

Ong’s Body of Work

Ong uncovered the inner workings of troll farms and disinformation-for-hire operations in Southeast Asia, with a particular focus on the Philippines. In his recent disinformation studies research, Ong uses ethnography to understand the social identities, work arrangements, and moral justifications of “paid trolls” and political public relations strategists. He is an engaged researcher who has a long record of working closely with humanitarian and human rights organizations. His humanitarian research shaped policy debates about humanitarian accountability and localizing aid at the World Humanitarian Summit.

Meanwhile, his disinformation research influenced campaign finance policy in Philippine elections and social media platforms’ content policy about inter-Asian racist speech. Among the media outlets that have quoted Ong or cited his research are The Guardian, Al Jazeera, Reuters, The Los Angeles Times, ABS-CBN, and the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.

| YouTube Video Link Courtesy of PinoyLife.net

Ong has a long record of working closely with humanitarian and human rights organizations. His humanitarian research has shaped policy debates about humanitarian accountability and localizing aid at the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit.

Since 2020, he has also served as a Research Fellow at Harvard University’s Shorenstein Center for the Technology and Social Change Project. He has published over 25 journal articles in global media ethics, digital politics, and the anthropology of humanitarianism. He is the author of the book The Poverty of Television: The Mediation of Suffering in ClassDivided Philippines and co-editor of the book Taking the Square: Mediated Dissent and Occupations of Public Space.

The Andrew Cargenie Fellows Program

The Andrew Carnegie Fellows Program, founded in 2015, involves a competitive nomination and selection process. It is the most generous stipend of its kind, and to date, the program has named 244 fellows, representing a philanthropic investment of $48.8 million. Selection criteria prioritize the originality and promise of the research, its potential impact on the field, and the scholar’s plans for communicating the findings to a broad audience. This year’s research proposals focus on U.S. democracy, the environment, polarization and inequality, technological and cultural evolution, and international relations, among other subjects.

“In recent years, as we have looked to respond to our world’s most complex problems, the Carnegie Fellows have provided important contributions through their exceptional research, pursuit of knowledge and creative approaches,” said John J. DeGioia, chair of the Andrew Carnegie Fellows Program jury and president of Georgetown University. “Our panel of jurors were gratified and inspired by the caliber of the research proposals. We believe that this year’s fellows show extraordinary potential for lasting impact.”

“The winning proposals represent a wealth of knowledge and expertise, reinforcing our conviction that the humanities and social sciences are essential tools in helping to foster a deeper understanding of the world around us,” said Louise Richardson, vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford, president-elect of Carnegie Corporation of New York, and a member of the jury panel. “We were especially impressed with the breadth of approaches to issues such as climate change, political polarization, migrant populations, and racism, as well as the variety of research locations and historical timeframes, including a project based in the Arctic and one that starts with the origins of humankind. The Andrew Carnegie Fellows are setting a scholarly standard for excellence, and we are delighted to support their endeavors.”

Ong’s Education and as a featured guest at PinoyLife.net

Ong took his Bachelor of Arts (Communication) at the Ateneo de Manila, Master of Science in Politics and Communication at the London School of Economics in the United Kingdom (UK), and his Ph.D. in Sociology, at the University of Cambridge, in the U.K

.At last month’s PinoyLife.net’s Usapang FilAm episode, “Untruth and Consequence, Navigating Disinformation,” Ong discussed the difference between the presidential campaigns of then-candidate Rodrigo Duterte and this year’s Bongbong Marcos. Likewise, the “dull” approach of Marcos Jr.’s campaign strategy compared to presidential candidate Leni Robredo’s “creative” use of sectoral or localized groups in a much more engaging way.

-With Ricky Rillera

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