Most recent academic writing

Research on Mobile Phone Data in the Global South: Opportunities and Challenges (2018)

Sincere thanks to Seyram Avle for inviting both David Hutchful and I to co-author this piece, which was published as a chapter in the The Oxford Handbook of Networked Communication.

The rapid uptake of mobile phones in the global South—that is, developing countries located primarily in the Southern Hemisphere—is a fact that is often repeated in popular discourse as well as academic research.

In the years since it became a favorite factoid, there have been shifts in some of the most well-known patterns of use, with new data being created and collected. To a large extent, communication and information researchers have yet to fully address the opportunities and challenges regarding these changes.

This chapter outlines some of the shifts in usage trends, what kinds of data they generate, and what kinds of questions they can help answer about social and economic ties, mobility and location, and innovation and design. These can strengthen theorizing new communication practices and generate greater knowledge about life in a networked age for those in resource-constrained environments.

Get the book: Purchase The Oxford Handbook of Networked Communication on Amazon

Location-Based Services: Opportunities for Urban Research and Implications for Our Interaction with the Material Environment (2012)

This was my senior essay, written within the Urban Studies concentration of the undergraduate major in Architecture at Yale University. While writing this esssay was a deeply anxious period, it remains one of my fondest memories from that period of my life.

It was a priviledge to have had Keller Easterling as my senior essay advisor (I still remember working up the courage to ask her, and the disbelief when she said yes), and I confess that I remain excited by several of the questions raised here.

Sometimes, I wonder what would have happened if, instead of a career in tech startups, I had pursued these questions in academia. Download the PDF.

Why should architects and urbanists care about the proliferation of mobile technology and location-based services? This paper argues that people who study and intervene in the material environment should be abreast of these emerging technologies for two reasons.

Firstly, the capacity to accurately track mobile devices provides powerful new tools for urban research. Thanks to this technology, urban researchers are finally able to visualize the real-time city – the dynamic interaction of people and forces that makes the city an unpredictable system.

Secondly, these technologies are changing the way in which we perceive the city and interact with it. Sensor technologies allow buildings and spaces to be responsive to individual profiles. Now that sensor technologies allow spaces to be responsive to individual profiles, we can, in a sense, speak to our buildings, and they can speak back. How might this influence how we build, and what we build? How will it change our relationships with our tools? With ourselves?

Download PDF: Location-Based Services: Opportunities for Urban Research and Implications for Our Interaction with the Material Environment (2012)

Location-Based Social Networks as a Tool for Exploring the City (2011)

As undergraduate essays go, this is probably a merely acceptable one.

But it’s meaningful to me because this was one of the first times where I had space to poke at ideas that would become Mass + Text.

I really enjoyed that “Anthropology of Mobile Societies” class. Shout out to Professor Honeychurch. Download the PDF.

This paper looks at how five location-based services think about human mobility, and outlines a proposal for a location-based game that:

  • incentives strangers to meet each other in person, and gives friends a reason to hang out more often
  • encourages people to more actively explore their cities
  • provides a platform and system of currency that allows city residents to volunteer spatial data that could be useful for urban research and interventions
  • monetizes mobility more effectively than other location-based networks have been able to

This is one of my earliest papers on the topic of location-based services. Kindly forgive the typos! The services that the paper looks at are Jindeo/Nido (a mobile-based game set in Tokyo), Grindr (a mobile application to connect gay and bisexual men with each other), Groupon Now (a mobile application to help helps connect merchants with clients, now merged with, Gowalla (location-based social network, now defunct), and The Go Game App (a mobile application that allows players to create a city-wide scavenger game).

Download PDF: Location-Based Social Networks as a Tool for Exploring the City (2011)