Community Networks: Inequality, Innovation, and Resistance along the Internet’s “Last Mile”
My postdoctoral research project looks at how ‘community networks’ — internet networks owned and operated by ordinary people in local communities — are helping close the digital divide. These alternatives to big telecom companies are challenging corporate ownership models for internet provision, with a focus on human beings over technology. As an anthropologist, I use ethnographic methods (interviewing and observation) 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.
The Oxfordshire Digital Inclusion Project
As more of our everyday lives become digitised, it is increasingly vital to ensure that everyone has access to a digital future. The Oxfordshire Digital Inclusion Project, a collaboration between the University of Oxford and the Oxfordshire County Council Libraries, reveals unique data-driven insights on the digital needs of people who are under- or unconnected to the internet and other digital technologies. By documenting and evaluating the digital needs of library patrons, this project works to improve digital assistance programmes for Oxfordshire citizens and makes policy recommendations to Government regarding its digitisation agenda for public services. This project is funded by a grant from the Knowledge Exchange Seed Fund.
Critical Tech Literacy
We live in an era of compulsory computing, where many aspects of our day-to-day lives are “digital by default.” Children today are growing up with technology; they are digital natives. The digital world — from hardware (computers/smartphones) to platforms (social media/online shopping) — is pervasive. And we know that it is not a more equitable, fair, or healthy world. Issues like algorithmic bias, social media addiction, online bullying, and the environmental cost of data have emerged as a result of the wholesale digitization of everyday life. But technology education and policy have not caught up with these social dimensions of technology design and use. Critical Tech Literacy is focused on developing a cutting-edge curriculum for school-age kids around thinking critically about life-critical technology.
Queer Rural X
Queer Rural Connections: Mediating Rural Queer Identity through Technology, Theatre and Film is a project 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 are collecting life stories of rural queer people for a free, public archive at the University of Oxford and adapting these stories into a theatre piece and short film. The project aims to explore 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. We will also look at the impact of digital communications technologies on queer rural spaces, generational divides, social life, coming out experiences, and support service access.
Exclusionary (Digital) Geographies: Mapping the Post-Revolutionary City
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.