I am an anthropologist and ethnographer who studies emerging media practices, especially social, mobile, and data-driven technologies, in relation to how users and communities make sense of space and place. I earned my PhD 2012 from the department of anthropology at the University of California, Irvine, and am currently finalizing a book, based on my doctoral fieldwork on the role of social media and mobile communication in reshaping everyday life among urban European middle classes. I’m also developing a new project on data, design, and the sharing economy.
I am concerned broadly with how culture and technology shape one another, and the consequences for social life. As an anthropologist, I view culture holistically, that is, as a system through which people make sense of the world, which may not always be cohesive or coherent. My research methods and analysis are grounded in anthropology’s tradition of examining issues of power, inequality, and cultural difference.
Prior to receiving my PhD, I worked in the non-profit sector as a research assistant at the Youth Leadership Institute in Marin, CA, and as an assistant to author and lecturer Howard Rheingold. With Howard, I helped develop an online curriculum on digital media literacy, Participatory Media Literacy, a guide to using social and digital media for public engagement. I also hold an M.A. from the University of Chicago, where I conducted ethnographic research on media, youth culture, and social networks.
My interest in media and technology harks back to the early days of computer paint programs, when I first discovered I could draw and paint on a friend’s Apple IIGS. As an undergraduate at Wesleyan University, I studied the medieval media technology of illuminated manuscripts. For my senior thesis in Medieval Studies, I reproduced part of a seventh century illuminated manuscript (we called this “experimental archaeology”). Meanwhile, I also picked up the practical skill of coding web pages in HTML. I interned in the art department of the Atlantic Monthly (now The Atlantic) and, after graduating, worked at the American Prospect magazine.
Image at top: the river Spree in Berlin, with a view of the Fernsehturm.