Bio: Jenna Burrell is an Associate Professor in the School of Information at UC Berkeley. She is the co-director of the Algorithmic Fairness and Opacity Working Group. Her first book Invisible Users: Youth in the Internet Cafes of Urban Ghana (The MIT Press) came out in May 2012. She is currently working on a second book about rural communities that host critical Internet infrastructure such as fiber optic cables and data centers. She has a PhD in Sociology from the London School of Economics. Her research focuses on how marginalized communities adapt digital technologies to meet their needs and to pursue their goals and ideals.
Older Work and HCI Research (2000 – 2003):
Formerly, I worked at Intel Corporation in the People and Practices Research Group as an application concept developer. This job was a combination of technical work and ethnographic research. My co-workers were (and still are) doing some fascinating studies of patterns of technology adoption in the domestic spaces of Asian nations and alternative forms of technology access in places like Canar, Ecuador and Santiago, Chile to extend PC and Internet access beyond the 10% of the world that currently has it.
I personally did research that was a little closer to home. I observed the work practices of factory technicians in Intel’s microprocessor plants, studied general contractors on construction sites, and agricultural production work on Oregon vineyards all with an eye on developing new computing technologies for mobile, collaborative workers. I also did a study of Indian high-tech workers and their use of ICTs at home to maintain connections with family, friends, and cultural practices while abroad.
Previous Education: I majored in computer science at Cornell University where I attended from 1997-2001. While there I did research on context-aware computing with the HCI group. Most of the publications listed below are the result of that research.
Press Coverage / Blog Contributions:
Post on the Network Sovereignty blog at MIT — “Are rural data center jobs ‘good’ jobs?”
Future Historians Probably Won’t Understand Our Internet, and That’s Okay:
Archivists are working to document our chaotic, opaque, algorithmically complex world—and in many cases, they simply can’t – the Atlantic, referencing my paper on opacity in machine learning algorithms
Online, some are more equal than others: Much is made of the internet being a level playing field. Tell that to the kids in Ghana. – coverage of Invisible Users in The Guardian.
ICTD at the University of California Berkeley, interview for Crossroads: The ACM Magazine for Students. Volume 19, No. 2.
Hotseat: Jenna Burrell, A Portlander researches African internet scams—by actually going to interview the scammers in Ghana., Willamette Week, November 2012, Q&A about studying scammers.
Blatancy and latency: Why internet scams seem so obvious, The Economist, June 2012, brief mention of work on scamming.
Nokia Sets Sights on Developing World, Technology Review, May/June 2011 issue, brief comment on ethnographic work in this context
Professor Receives Grant for Research on Technology in Developing Countries, October 22, 2010, article in the independent student newspaper on NSF grant.
Voice of America News: Digital Frontiers, August 24, 2010, speaking about rumor in the digital age with Host Doug Bernard
City Visions (KALW 91.7), December 7, 2009, “The Sustainable Network: Using the power of the global network to tackle today’s most pressing economic, environmental and social issues” Host Lauren Meltzer
BoingBoing, April 17, 2009, “Can new underwater cables finally connect Africa?” By Lisa Katayama (commenting on East Africa’s Seacom submarine cable)