Our Team

HI has assembled a unique team of researchers who apply a rigorous, multi-method approach to measuring impact. This means looking beyond marketing indicators to results derived from behavioral and computational social sciences. The skills and capabilities of our core team reflect this multidisciplinary ethos. From a foundation in the social sciences, our researchers specialize in data science, visual design, and media theory to answer complex questions about the impact of entertainment in today’s society. Our team is agile enough to deliver customized research and metrics and capable of sustaining deep, longitudinal research projects.


John S. Johnson, Founder and Executive Director

In addition to establishing HI, John S. Johnson is the Founder and Chair of EYEBEAM, a non-profit center focused on exploring art and technology through education, production, research, and development. He has launched two additional non-profit organizations dedicated to facilitating artistic processes and practice: the Screenwriters Colony, a retreat and workshop for emerging screenwriters, and the Filmmakers Collaborative, a non-profit film and media fund dedicated to re-envisioning art’s relationship to capital.

More recently, Johnson co-founded BuzzFeed.com, one of the fastest growing viral media and web trending sites today. He has written, produced, and directed two feature films, Without a Trace: June 10, 1979 (1991), and Ratchet (1996). In 2003, Johnson was a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute, a global forum that promotes enlightened and morally responsible leadership. He received a Master’s degree in Quantitative Methods in the Social Sciences from Columbia University.



Debika Shome, Deputy Director

Debika Shome joined HI from Columbia University’s Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED) where she served as Assistant Director from 2005 to 2009. In addition to her work conducting and coordinating research at the center, Shome led CRED’s outreach and public policy initiatives. She is the co-author of The Psychology of Climate Change Communication, released November 2009.

In addition, Debika has over fifteen years of experience that includes work in the public, private, government, and non-profit sectors. She has consulted on a diverse range of issues, including environmental best practices, corporate social responsibility, and sustainability. She has worked for organizations such as B Corporation, the US Geologic Survey, the Nonprofit Technology Leadership Program, and Environmental Defense Fund.

Debika completed her MPA from the University of Washington. She holds an undergraduate degree from Barnard College.



Clint Beharry, Director of Design and Technology

Clint Beharry is a creative technologist with a background in art, design, data visualization, and coding. Working with HI’s staff of social and data scientists, his role is to blend theory and technology to explore the interplay between narrative media and social impact. He holds an MFA in Interaction Design from the School of Visual Arts in NYC, where he designed and developed software and hardware prototypes for applications in psychology, sensory immersion, and data visualization.

Prior to graduate school, Beharry worked on a broad range of creative and technical projects. He has designed for print, mobile, and web, developed front-end websites and back-end web applications, and received commissions for visual art. He has an undergraduate degree in Computer Engineering from the University of Miami.


Joanna Raczkiewicz, Manager of Research, Strategy, and Development

Joanna Raczkiewicz manages HI Lab’s research into the convergence of narrative entertainment and social change. Raczkiewicz holds an MA from New York University, where she wrote on art and socialist ideology in postwar Poland. She graduated with a BS from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, and has worked for print, broadcast, and online news outlets in the US and abroad. Raczkiewicz’s experience in the cultural sector includes program and development positions at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art, Eyebeam Center for Art and Technology, and the Bronx Museum of the Arts.


Linnea Hartsuyker, Product Manager

Linnea Hartsuyker is a Product Manager with a background in both product management and web development. She has held positions at a variety of internet startups, digital agencies, media companies, and consultancies, including RecycleBank, DraftFCB, ESPN.com, and Accenture. Working with HI’s entire staff, her role is to coordinate and drive all aspects of bringing products and projects to market, from strategy and roadmapping, to user research and UX design, marketing and business development, and testing and releasing new features. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing with a concentration in Fiction from New York University, and a BS in Materials Science and Engineering with a concentration in Semiconductor Physics from Cornell University. She may be the only person in the world who has been published both in The Journal of Applied Physics and the literary magazine The Golden Handcuffs Review.


Emerson Soto, Development Officer

Emerson Soto is a resource development and communications professional, graphic designer, and educator. Emerson works with staff, board, and advisors to strategize, coordinate, and execute HI’s resource development activities. Prior to joining HI, he was Manager of Development and Communications at the Gbowee Peace Foundation USA, where he worked with the Executive Director, board, and staff on strategy and building the Foundation’s new resource development and communications departments. Prior to that, he was Development Associate at the Correctional Association of New York where he oversaw the organization’s direct mail and online giving programs, managed their donor database, planned and executed special events, and collaborated with communications to develop and carry out a social media and web strategy. He graduated from City University of New York, Queens College with a BA in History and minor in Secondary Education and is currently pursuing his MPA at City University of New York, Baruch College.


Caroline Steele, Development Assistant

Caroline Steele applies her research experience in social psychology to assist in the further development of HI’s research initiatives. She is especially interested in converging the study of group behavior and media impact. Caroline holds an MA in Psychology with a concentration in cognitive, social, and development psychology from the New School for Social Research, and a BA in Psychology from Eugene Lang College. After completing her MA, she lived in Moscow for nearly two years, conducting research at the Institute of Psychology at Russian Academy of Sciences on the social and political impact of Internet and social media use in contemporary Russia. Prior to Moscow, she contributed to research on social identification, group dynamics, and implicit attitudes.


Lauren Hanson, Research Analyst

Lauren Hanson is responsible for providing HI’s projects with social context and implementation frameworks that are grounded in recent academic theory and relevant evidence, as well as managing its communications strategy. She holds an MA in Economics from New York University, where her studies have focused on econometrics, institutional and entrepreneurial theories of economic growth, and law & economics. Prior to her graduate studies, Lauren earned her Bachelor’s Degree in English Literature at SUNY Geneseo with additional studies in Economics. During her time there, she combined her interest in game studies, narrative analysis, and spontaneous market formation to perform a comprehensive study of the cultural, legal, and economic issues surrounding the growth of digital black markets on the periphery of virtual game worlds.



Corinne Brenner, Research Analyst

Corinne Brenner contributes her background in social psychology to HI’s research and product development work. She is deeply interested in using quantitative research methods in applied settings, including technology, the changing media landscape, and social issues. Her previous experience includes studying how mock jurors form opinions about court cases; whether differences in nurses’ communication can prevent medical errors; and determining which cues observers use in their judgments about other people. She holds an MSc in Social Psychology from the University of Amsterdam, where her research focused on the influence of expressions of emotion on interpersonal attributions, and a BA in Psychology from Cornell University, where she studied influences on judgments and decision-making.


Burton DeWilde, Data Scientist

Burton DeWilde is a data scientist specializing in data mining, natural language processing, and network analysis. At HI, his work has focused on aggregating and analyzing the conversations and networks around films and social issues. DeWilde received his PhD in Physics from Stony Brook University in 2012. His research focused on a search for new fundamental particles of matter, including the Higgs Boson, using data collected at the Large Hadron Collider in Geneva, Switzerland. In addition, he contributed to the software development of two physics analysis frameworks. On the side, he co-produced, filmed, and edited a feature-length, physics-themed zombie movie called “Decay.” DeWilde earned a Bachelor’s degree in Physics and Spanish from Kalamazoo College, where he also dabbled in documentary film making. He is passionate about social justice, the intersection of art and science, and all things data.


Chris Ryan, Data Scientist

Chris Ryan works as part of HI’s data science team to develop computational methodologies that are both extendable and scalable. Prior to joining HI he completed a PhD at the University of California, Berkeley where he used computer simulations and physical theories to study how self organization occurs in biological materials. During these years he became fascinated with the connections between the theoretical language of his of research, statistical mechanics, and modern methods of data analysis. In all his past research environments, Chris has enjoyed studying complex and important problems in collaboration with multidisciplinary teams.


Josh Brandoff, Web Developer

Josh Brandoff is a biologically-inspired, mathematically-inclined developer. He spearheads the development of web applications that fuse HI’s data science and social science research into powerful, interactive tools for positive social change. Prior to joining HI, he was the CTO of a health-tech startup and founding technical lead at the National Museum of Mathematics. Josh received his BS in Bioengineering/Complex Systems Science and MSc in Systems Science/Biosystems from Binghamton University. His thesis work culminated in the development of a novel swarm intelligence algorithm called “genetic stigmergy,” which was the focus of a chapter in Springer’s 2011 “Bio-Inspired Self-Organizing Robotic Systems.” Josh enjoys exploring the intersection between systems biology and mathematics and is a proponent of permaculture and decentralized technologies.


Jamie Kingston, Manager of Culture and Operations

Jamie Kingston manages Harmony Institute’s office culture and daily operations. She holds a BS in Media, Culture, and Communications from New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development, where she specialized in “Interactions & Social Processes” and “Images & Screen Studies.” Her studies focused on understanding media’s influence on unique populations, with a spotlight on race and gender representations.

Previously, Kingston worked with numerous art-based nonprofits in their programming, development, and social media departments, where she developed an interest in the impact of the arts on specific communities.


Melissa Tier, Research Assistant

Melissa Tier is an aspiring research psychologist with a background in applied social psychology. She received a BA in psychology from Swarthmore College, where she researched the effects of stereotype threat on group conflict. She is interested in using psychological, anthropological, and other behavioral science methods to inform media-based health and environmental initiatives. In addition to interning with HI, Melissa is a Research Assistant with Columbia University’s Center for Research on Environmental Decisions, as well as a Staff Writer for The Psych Report. She enjoys watching films, reading science fiction, and eating Korean food.


Sher Chew, Designer

Sher Chew is a designer with a B.F.A in Communication Design from Parsons, The New School. Her passion for design stems from its ability to serve as a means of inquiry across all disciplines. With a penchant for data visualization, particularly in the realm of the qualitative, her work has been featured on sites like Visual Loop, Visual.ly and The Kantar Information is Beautiful Awards. Her undergraduate thesis explored how our personal content (documented via various social media channels) transmutes into simulacra through information design. 

She is also one half of the experimental web-based reading project Isle-to-Isle, that uses a diagrammatic vernacular to unpack the adventure classic, The Mysterious Island, by Jules Verne. The published paper on the project can be found at the Parsons Journal of Information Mapping. Prior to joining the team at HI, she worked at the Innovation Unit at UNICEF, as a Systems and Information Design Intern.
More of her design explorations can be found at her website.

Matt Olivo, Research Intern

Matt Olivo is a rising senior working towards a BS in Communication Studies with a minor in Statistics from Northwestern University. His studies have focused on data-driven decision-making and the intersection between statistical research and social change. He specializes in using data analysis to track and improve the efficacy of documentary films and other social impact campaigns. Prior to his work with HI, Matt worked as a production assistant and outreach coordinator for a production company specializing in documentary films that seek to compel people into positive humanitarian action. He has a personal interest in stand-up comedy, social and film media, and baseball statistics.