About Us

Share This Page

What We Do

We believe that digital products can be designed to help us better understand one another.

That’s why we are building an international network of behavioral science and design experts to articulate a better, more prosocial future online; and to disentangle the Web’s most glaring drawbacks: from misunderstandings to incitements to hatred.

Our Mission

We are the Prosocial Design Network, and our mission is to promote prosocial design: evidence-based design practices that bring out the best in human nature online. 

We inspire and co-create the infrastructure needed to turn the web into something that does not weaken, but rather strengthens, the wellness of our democracy and our selves.

Background

Many believed the World Wide Web would lead to worldwide peace. Everyone would talk and understand each other. Or so we thought.

It hasn’t turned out that way: even one of the inventors of the Internet says its design is creating outrage and polarization. The Web as we know it now, thirty years later, makes us more addicted, tribal, and afraid.

Yet hope endures to restore some of the potential the Internet once had for understanding and meaningful connection. We know from long-standing research that human decision making is very sensitive to the environment in which it happens. We also know that, as a result, even the subtlest design changes can influence human behavior.

Therefore, it’s not a leap to believe that, through better design, we could change the Internet to be a better place. We can even imagine a future in which online interaction between strangers might evoke the same genuine empathy as if they met face-to-face.

Why Does Prosocial Design Matter?

We’ve found that many designers express interest in combating hate, harassment, and disinformation online, but find themselves without clear guidance on how to do so. To date, most existing interventions rely on common sense or intuition about what will work, and not empirical science. Similarly, the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak has presented us with a situation where communicating over the Internet must be the default for the near future.

Without design interventions to the contrary, our commonly used social interfaces risk aiding and abetting hateful rhetoric’s spread.

Our Team

The Board of Directors ensures that the Prosocial Design Network's mission is being fulfilled, and oversees the general operation of our work.

Joel Putnam

Co-Founder

Joel Putnam (he/him) is a technology & education consultant based in Seattle, Washington. Joel received his MPA in Behavioral Economics and Technology in International Development from Columbia University. You can learn more about Joel’s work at: joelrputnam.com

John Fallot

Co-Founder

John Fallot (he/him) is a user experience and graphic designer based in the New York City Metro Area. He co-founded the Prosocial Design Network with colleague Joel Putnam in late 2019, in order to better explore ways that the web could be optimized for prosocial behaviors.

Stephanie Rodriguez

Treasurer + Business Development Lead

Stephanie Rodriguez (she/her) is currently a media and communications researcher at Goldsmiths, University of London, where she's exploring mediated political participation in contemporary American social movements. You can learn more about her experiences on her LinkedIn.

Laure X Cast

Board Member + User Research Lead

Laure X Cast (they/them) is a researcher and strategist living in Portland, Oregon. Laure’s passions center on curiosity, community, and creativity. They have spoken at SXSW, Grace Hopper Celebration, among others. You can learn more about Laure’s experience at (x+x)

Philipp Lorenz-Spreen, Ph.D.

Science Board Chair

Dr. Philipp Lorenz-Spreen (he/him) is a research scientist based in Berlin, Germany. His work focuses on decision making online, and finding ways to improve online democratic discourse through environmental interventions.

Science Board

The Science Board meets every other week to discuss the latest in academic research, and to sit down with fellow scholars in the field to glean novel findings from their work.

David Grüning

Science Board Member

David Grüning (he/him) is a research scientist based in Heidelberg, Germany. His research covers topics of psychology in politicized digital environments. You can access David’s work on Google Scholar or his website.

Julia Kamin, Ph.D.

Science Board Member

Julia Kamin (she/her) is a researcher based in New York City. She currently works with Civic Health Project, developing a measurement tool for organizations to gauge their impact on reducing polarization.

Folco Panizza

Science Board Member

Folco Panizza (he/him) is a cognitive and behavioral scientist at the Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan. His work centers on combating scientific disinformation and vaccine hesitancy.

Advisory Board

The Advisory Board consists of high-level representatives from technology and the behavioral sciences, who help guide the Prosocial Design Network's future work and initiatives.

Jay Van Bavel, Ph.D.

New York University

Jay Van Bavel is an Associate Professor of Psychology and Neural Science at New York University, and co-author of The Power of Us: Harnessing Our Shared Identities to Improve Performance, Increase Cooperation, and Promote Social Harmony. You can read more about his work at: www.jayvanbavel.com.

Chris Messina

Inventor of the hashtag

Chris Messina is a Product Lead focused on issuer experience at Republic, an inclusive fundraising platform that is disrupting conventional venture capital. He is best known for inventing the hashtag.

You can learn more about Chris Messina at his website: chrismessina.me