Community-Run Internet Networks
My postdoctoral research project looks at the role of ‘community networks’ — internet networks owned and operated by ordinary people in local communities — in closing the digital divide. These alternatives to big telecom companies are challenging corporate ownerships model for internet provision, connecting human beings over technologies. 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. And 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. In this context, where digital technologies have truly come of age, digital literacy education needs to transition from a predominantly instructional format to cultivating independent, critical thinking about digital technologies. The next generation will be the biggest users and the most influential designers of our technologies of the future, so this project aims to understand the scope and limitations of the digital literacies children possess in the digital age and to engage children in a structured conversation about responsible and ethical technology use and design. This project is developing a cutting-edge curriculum for school-age kids around critical issues: algorithm awareness, privacy and security, the environmental impact of the Internet, and social interactions online. And we aim to involve kids in the policy-making process around these issues by co-creating the educational tools of the future with the heaviest users of these tools today.