Community Networks and Alt-Nets Closing the Digital Divide

This research explores how ‘community networks’ – internet networks owned and operated by ordinary people in local communities – are helping close the digital divide, especially in rural places. These alternatives to big telecom companies are challenging corporate ownership models for internet provision, with a focus on human beings over technology. I use ethnographic methods to understand how and why communities choose to take matters into their own hands and build the internet from scratch – and what their experiences can teach all of us about where our internet comes from and what it means to us.

Digital Poverty and Exclusion

As more of our everyday lives become digitised, it is increasingly vital to ensure that everyone has access to a digital future. I am currently writing a UK Digital Poverty Evidence Review (launching in 2022) for the Digital Poverty Alliance, exploring the key research across academia, industry, and the third sector around digital poverty and drawing out policy implications. Prior to this, I led The Oxfordshire Digital Inclusion Project, a collaboration between the University of Oxford and the Oxfordshire County Council Libraries. We documented the digital needs of library patrons and made recommendations about how to improve digital assistance programmes for Oxfordshire, which have contributed to the Council’s five-year strategy.

Queer Rural Connections

Queer Rural Connections: Mediating Rural Queer Identity through Technology, Theatre and Film is a project co-led by me and actor/director/writer Timothy Allsop (Turn of Phrase) and funded by The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities and the Arts Council England. We have been collecting life stories of rural queer people for a free, public archive and adapting these stories into a theatre piece and short film. The project explores how rural LGBTQIA+ communities experience connection and disconnection in a rural setting. Through spotlighting rural experiences, we hope to decenter queer aesthetics from urban, metropolitan spaces and to explore the impact of digital technologies on queer rural spaces, generational divides, social life, coming out experiences, and support service access.

Digital Geographies of Inequality

My DPhil research took place in Egypt following the 2011 revolution, exploring how the mediated experiences and memories of the Arab Spring are reshaping the physical geography of Cairo. Through my own wandering in the virtual/physical city, I encountered, documented, and questioned the immobilizing effects of counter-revolutionary politics that have gradually circumscribed the movements of ordinary people both online and offline. I am now adapting many of these insights into a book, exploring the intersection of technologization and political aspirations in a pervasively digitized world.