PeaceTech and Polarization Lab (PTAP)


The Peacetech and Polarization (PTAP) lab grows out of research funded by the Toda Peace Institute and the University of Notre Dame course on “Digital Peacebuilding and PeaceTech.” The lab coordinates with a variety of global stakeholders at tech companies, the United Nations, peacebuilding NGOs, and other universities. The PTAP Lab provides Notre Dame students and research fellows from any department an opportunity to work jointly on research, product development, and digital content development.

Our research aims to inform four primary audiences:

  • Tech companies including both “big tech” companies with the scale to reach global audiences and smaller tech start-ups designing products to support social cohesion.

  • Civil society groups interested in using technology to scale their peacebuilding and bridge-building efforts.

  • Governments and International Organizations like the UN with programs in peacebuilding and social cohesion.

  • Foundations, Venture Capital, and other Investors who care about the impacts of technology in driving polarization and social cohesion.

The PeaceTech and Polarization (PTAP) Lab conducts research to identify and explore technologies that support social cohesion along four lines of inquiry:

  • Tech to support conflict analysis and the dynamics of polarization.

  • Tech to enhance human agency to participate in civic life.

  • Tech to improve intergroup relationships, specifically tech that enables people to listen to others, identify common values and interests, and develop creative solutions to policy challenges.

  • Tech to build public trust in accountable governance institutions and improve public-interest news journalism.

Definitions and Principles

Toxic polarization occurs when people perceive other groups as existential threats, distrust and dehumanize others with us-vs-them narratives and justify the use of violence against others.

PeaceTech refers to technology that both supports the analysis of polarization and bridge building or peacebuilding interventions to support social cohesion.

Social cohesion refers to the glue that keeps society together; it is the opposite of toxic polarization. The United Nations defines social cohesion as “the extent of trust in government and within society and the willingness to participate collectively toward a shared vision of sustainable peace and common development goals.”

Dignity, Equity, and Design Justice: We pay attention to the inherent human dignity and development of all people, including equitable access to technologies that enable participation in public life.

Harm Reduction: Our research aims to reduce harms including discrimination, structural disparities, racial injustice, toxic polarization, and direct violence.