Exciting Times: Boston, Berkman, Book!

I’m so pleased to share some more exciting news. I’ll be joining the Berkman Center for Internet and Society as a Fellow in the fall, where I’ll be writing if/then with John Battelle.

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I’ve been a Berkman fangirl for a while now, both as a Cambridge neighbor and recently from afar. The lunch talks of folks like David Weinberger, Susan Crawford, and Virginia Heffernan inspired me to contribute more to the public understanding of the internet and the data that runs it. I’ve also been inspired by the work of peers like Diana Kimball and Molly Sauter. And I’m eternally grateful for Jonathan Zittrain’s mentorship and friendship in helping me navigate some of these big career decisions over the past few years that lead me back to Cambridge and the Berkman Center this fall. I’m lucky to call some of these awesome people my friends already, and I’m looking forward to getting to know more of this amazing group of people.

The Berkman Center is the ideal place to continue my work helping people understand what our data society could and should look like in the near future. Over the past year at the Oxford Internet Institute I’ve been researching how individuals in the Quantified Self community are using their personal data for self knowledge. I have also uncovered some of the challenges and limitations they face when data silos and policies prevent potential personal uses. John and I will be expanding on these tensions in the book, through an archeology of the future of data. Taking emerging technologies that exist today—like the sensors that self-quantifiers are using to passively track their activities—we’ll be looking at the potential impacts these data-driven tools might have as they integrate into our environment and culture. Even a device as simple as the Fitbit activity tracker has broad implications for personalized medicine, addressing sedentary lifestyles, self improvement, data ownership, legibility of data, and so on. Through these artifacts, we’re asking the hard questions about what we want our society to look like as more and more things become reliant on data. These kinds of questions run parallel to the mission of the Berkman Center: “to explore and understand cyberspace; to study its development, dynamics, norms, and standards.”

As we begin to tackle these tough questions, I’m excited to be working with such a great collaborator in John Battelle, and energized by the opportunity to be surrounded by people at the Berkman Center who will inspire, inform, encourage, and challenge me. And to top it all off, I’m really looking forward to being back home in Boston!