Eric Chen

Director, Creative Research – Columbia University

Eric has a varied and meandering background. Born in Iowa and raised in Arkansas, he attended historic Little Rock Central High and has a keen appreciation for the contradictions, complexities, and pain woven deep into the social fabric of the United States. 

He studied computer science as an undergraduate at Harvard, though he sometimes regrets not studying philosophy or film. Nevertheless, he took this tech background into his first stint in Silicon Valley, where he lived the startup life as a software engineer, starting when the company had fewer than 10 people. 

But just as the mighty Mississippi River flows and–inevitably–bends, so too did Eric’s life take him, just as inevitably, to indie filmmaking, making visual art and learning to honor the sacred act of creation. From this time, he holds a deep appreciation for the people he worked with and wishes more people had seen the work they did together–especially the unfinished stuff.

Life took him west, again, though, and into the academic study of people and how they navigate difficult circumstances and choices. First focusing on juvenile justice during his Master’s degree work at the University of California at Riverside, and then focusing on the social psychology of morality and politics for his Ph.D. work at the University of California at Irvine.

Eric then journeyed back to Silicon Valley to work at Facebook (now known as Meta), where he combined his tech and social science backgrounds to work on integrity problems like hate speech and misinformation, as a member of the Civic Integrity and News Feed Integrity teams and lead of the Civic Integrity Global Insights program. He focused on addressing offline harms faced by vulnerable communities in the Global South and worked extensively on mitigating platform risks during elections and wars and other violent conflicts. He left Meta in the fall of 2022 when it became clear that life’s journey was, again, taking him back towards the realm of artistic creation.

Eric now resides in Brooklyn, where he makes eccentric electronic music, puts pen to paper as often as he can, and aims to craft his own iconoclastic form of visual poetry.