• Carceral Technology

    Modern states are set apart from previous world-historical forms of political organization by an unparalleled capacity to survey and manipulate the behavior of their societies, and to “discipline and punish” deviant behavior. From birth registers to passports to court systems and prisons, states have mobilized technology to control their citizens and subjects. Today, such capacity is increasingly wielded by private corporations, at times in concert with or at the behest of states, but just as often monopolistically and at their own discretion. This research field concerns the use of technology–by states or by corporations–to control populations.

  • Crisis & Reparation

    From Katrina to Covid-19, disasters often exacerbate social inequalities, and can have disproportionate effects on historically-marginalized populations. Differences in available infrastructure, long-term support, and economic security are made starker under conditions of stress, as in natural disasters, pandemics, and within conflict zones.

  • Law & Ethics

    From the 4th Amendment to “Section 230,” interpretations of legal and ethical codes are as essential to understanding power in tech as are algorithms. This research field focuses on the mechanisms by and through which constitutions, laws, and regulations are leveraged by tech companies to shield themselves from oversight and by citizens to shield themselves from intrusion. Special attention is paid to the ethical principles that underlie ostensibly neutral legal and digital codes, as well as how these interact to reproduce or augment social, economic, and political hierarchies in society.

  • Movements & Mobilization

    Recent scholarship has focused on a variety of digitally manifested threats to democratic institutions. Yet it is important not to lose sight of the democratizing potential of digital media and technology, which have also provided crucial platforms for historically disenfranchised populations. Given digital platforms’ increasing importance and power, this research field considers how grassroots resistance is mobilized through and against digital technologies. 

  • Platforms & Infrastructure

    In recent years, increasing proportions of our social lives—from social media to education to gaming platforms—have been conducted online. The Covid-19 pandemic has only accelerated this shift, as remote work and remote learning became the new normal for many. As we are thrust into ever more digitally mediated social milieux, the nature and design of the platforms and infrastructures that facilitate or constrain these experiences take on increasingly salient social and political importance.

  • Representations

    From “artificial intelligence” to the “dark web,” metaphors shape how we perceive, understand, and use technology. And because narratives about technology tend to reflect the perceptions of the people who design them, they can reproduce the biases and blind spots of the insular and homogeneous communities that prevail in tech. This research field considers how representations—from language to art to design—may limit or augment the potential of technology.

  • Science, Medicine & Public Health

    Strides in technology have fueled rapid innovation in medical practices, data collection and analysis techniques, health businesses, and regulation, ushering in a new era of digital health. As health information is increasingly generated and shared outside of traditional medical contexts, this research field considers whether health technology can genuinely foster equity without profiling or marginalizing already vulnerable populations.

  • Labor & Economy

    In the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, technology played an important role ensuring that essential goods and services, such as grocery and food deliveries, could continue to move throughout the economy, that virtual meetings—from doctors’ visits to chats with family—could be organized at a social distance, and that factories could be repurposed to produce and distribute essential goods, such as ventilators. But while we marvel at the agility and mobility of Big Tech, we must also consider that the pandemic has accelerated many long-predicted changes to the nature of work, and that the social costs of these changes will be unevenly distributed among those whose labor makes this new economy possible.