Matt Rafalow, who works as a social scientist at Google, is a Senior Researcher at Stanford University's Ethnography Lab, affiliated with the Department of Sociology. Rafalow is a Sociologist. He earned his PhD from the University of California-Irvine.
At Google he manages a research team studying new experiences on YouTube. Before working at Google he was an ethnographer for many years with the Connected Learning Research Network. He has also been a researcher at Yahoo! Labs and GovLab. He strives to conduct research that blends academic inquiry with applied solutions that have a meaningful impact.
In his academic work, he primarily studies how teens and young adults adopt digital technologies with mind to social disparities, particularly regarding race-ethnicity and class. His largest project to date explored how digital technologies are taken up and evaluated in different educational contexts. For this study, his found that teachers draw on organization-level understandings of a student's race and class to construct students as either risky hackers or potential future digital innovators. Contrary to popular belief, digital technologies were not magic bullets to address educational inequities — rather, teachers adopted very similar technologies quite differently depending on the race and class of their student body. After publishing a paper based on this work in the American Journal of Sociology, he published Digital Divisions: How Schools Create Inequality in the Tech Era, a book that expands on the study (University of Chicago Press 2020). Digital Divisions won the 2021 Best Book Award for the American Sociological Association's Communication, Information Technologies, and Media Sociology Section.