Dept of Information Science

Cornell University

208 Gates Hall

Ithaca, New York


sjj54 <at> cornell <dot> edu

William Keeton House
G70 Keeton House
Ithaca, NY


Apr 17 - our new "R3PAIR VOLUME," special issue of Continent. journal, now live (link here)!

Apr 17 -
advisee Ishtiaque Ahmed appointed to the Faculty of Computer Science, University of Toronto. Congratulations Ishtiaque!

Mar 17
- advisee Stephanie Steinhardt appointed to the Faculty of Media and Information, Michigan State University. Congrats Steph!

Mar 2017
- our piece, "Data Vision: Learning to See Through Algorithmic Abstraction," receives Best Paper Award at CSCW 2017...

Jan 2017 - new piece, "Speed, Time, Infrastructure: Temporalities of Breakdown, Maintenance, and Repair" now out in Sociology of Speed volume from Oxford UP (link here)...

Jan 2017 - invited lecture, University of California, San Diego...

Dec 2016
- two papers accepted to CHI 2017 (camera-ready copies coming soon...)

Nov 2016 - invited talk, "The Future of Fixing", Center for Craft, Creativity & Design, Asheville, NC...

Aug 2016
- elected to 3-year term on the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) Council...

May 2016
- former Michigan advisee Alissa Centivany appointed to the Faculty of Information and Media Studies, University of Western Ontario. Congrats Alissa!

Apr 2016
- two papers, "Logistics as Care and Control" and "Values In Repair" forthcoming at CHI 2016...

Apr 2016
- advisee Stephanie Steinhardt receives CHI honorable mention best paper award for "Breaking Down While Building Up: Design and Decline in Emerging Infrastructures." Congrats Steph!

Apr 2016 - invited plenary, What Is Media? conference, University of Oregon...

Apr 2016 - invited speaker, Insuetude: Conversations in Technological Discard and Archaeological Recuperation, Columbia University...

Apr 2016 - co-organized Critical Breaking and Repair workshop, Fat Cat Fab Lab, NYC...

Feb 2016 - invited talk, "Speed, Time, Infrastructure," Indiana University...

Dec 2015 - our paper "Suhrid: A Collaborative Mobile Phone Interface for Low-Literate People" wins Best Paper Award at DEV 2015. Congrats to lead author Ishtiaque Ahmed!

Nov 2015
- "Maintenance, Repair and Beyond" workshop, Denver Nov 10th (for larger project see here)...

Sep 2015
- "Infrastructure Toolkit" from Cultural Anthropology now available (here)...

Sep 2015 - catalogue for "Wendell Castle Remastered," opening Oct 20th at the NYC Museum of Art and Design, now out (available here)...

July 2015
- excited to take on new appointment as House Professor and Dean of William Keeton House at Cornell...

May 2015
- traveling for invited lectures and workshops in London, Maastricht, and Rome...

May 2015 - our paper, "Learning to Fix: Knowledge, Collaboration and Mobile Phone Repair in Dhaka, Bangladesh" forthcoming at ICTD 2015...

Apr 2015 - invited speaker at NYC workshop, "Artists and Social Scientists: Doing Things Together"...

Apr 2015 - 2 papers, "Standards and/as Innovation" and "Residual Mobilities: Infrastructural Displacement and Post-Colonial Computing in Bangladesh" forthcoming at CHI 2015...

Jan 2015
- 3 of our papers receive Honorable Mention Best Paper awards at CSCW 2015: "Digital Entanglements: Craft, Computation and Collaboration in Fine Art Furniture Production"; "Anticipation Work: Cultivating Vision in Collective Practice"; and "Wireless Visions: Infrastructure, Imagination, and U.S. Spectrum Policy"...

Jan 2015 - invited lectures at Carleton University (Ottawa) and Intel Research...

Dec 2014 - invited lecture at U Maryland and theme panel on Anthropology of Repair at American Anthropological Association...

Sep 2014 -
our project, "Repair, Maintenance, Sustainability: Enchancing Sustainability by Strengthening the Repair-Design Nexus" funded under the NSF Cyber-Human Systems program...

Aug 2014 -
traveling to Buenos Aires to participate in the "Beyond Infrastructures" panel at the 2014 Society for Social Studies of Science meeting...

June 2014 -
presenting our paper, "Learning, Innovation, and Sustainability Among Mobile Phone Repairers in Dhaka, Bangladesh" at DIS 2014 in Vancouver (paper available here)...



I’m an Associate Professor in the Department of Information Science and Department of Science and Technology Studies at Cornell University, with additional graduate field appointments in Communication and Public Affairs. I'm also the Dean of William Keeton House, a vibrant undergraduate living-learning community that's part of Cornell's flagship West Campus housing system. I hold a Ph.D. in Communication and Science Studies from the University of California, San Diego; an M.A. in Political Economy from Carleton University in Ottawa; and a B.A. in English and Creative Writing from Concordia University in Montreal.


My research connects contemporary questions in information science to theoretical and methodological traditions in the critical, interpretive, and historical social sciences. Theoretically, my work is shaped by ideas and traditions coming out of American pragmatism, critical theory, and post-structuralism. Methodologically, I’m most informed by research traditions dedicated to the naturalistic understanding of order, value, and meaning as defining attributes of human activity in the world. Mostly that means ethnography, usually of the sort practiced in qualitative sociology and anthropology; but I also draw on allied traditions of work in philosophy, history, public policy, design, science and technology studies (STS), some forms of media and cultural studies (including new media art), and interpretivist strains of information science sub-fields like Human-Computer Interaction and Computer-Supported Cooperative Work. My research has been supported by grants from the U.S. National Science Foundation (including an NSF CAREER award), the Social Science Research Council, Ford Foundation, Sloan Foundation, World Bank, Intel, and the Canadian Social Science and Humanities Research Council. My current projects tend to fall into the following areas (see 'writing' below for links to some relevant papers):

Infrastructure and collaboration:
My work has long been engaged with theoretical and practical problems of infrastructure: social and material forms foundational to collective human action of all kinds. This includes a long series of projects around new computational and data infrastructures in the sciences and how these have shifted forms of practice, value and collaboration (not always in ways anticipated by their designers and proponents). More recently, my interest has turned to problems of infrastructure and collaboration in fields beyond the sciences - for example, fine art furniture production, robotic surgery, and experimental music. This has sparked in turn a new fascination with the nature and role of improvisation in collaborative life - more on this soon!

Breakdown, maintenance and repair:
I am endlessly fascinated by problems of repair, and have argued both theoretically and ethnographically for breakdown, maintenance and repair as central but neglected moments in our individual and collective relationships with technology. Repair also happens to be an excellent starting point for rethinking many central assumptions in the technology world, from design, to sustainability, to the nature and location of skill and innovation. These questions have led to ethnographic projects with mobile phone repair workers around the world (incuding Namibia and Bangladesh); with amateur fixer movements in Europe and North America; and to collaborative projects with interactive and new media artists (like this one).

Global computing:
Many of my theoretical and ethnographic interests are driven by the desire to arrive at a more truly global story of computing (instead of one that inevitably starts in Silicon Valley and diffuses out, sometimes, from there). This includes instances of technology development oriented to concerns and communities in the global South, as shows up under the (badly-named) field of ICTD (Information and Communication Technologies for Development). More often it involves taking stock of sociotechnical practices and dynamics (often novel and highly innovative ones) that play out under the radically varying social, economic, cultural and infrastructural conditions to be found around the world (though much of my own work has been in South and Southeast Asia). I've been deeply fortunate to have worked with and learned from a wonderful set of students and collaborators in this space.

Technology ethics, law and policy:
Finally, my research addresses problems of technology ethics, law and policy, both as (inexhaustible!) site of problems and controversies, and as target for research impact. This includes work in research, science, and international development policy; but also periodic engagements with areas ranging from telecommunications and First Amendment law to privacy and intellectual property. I'm especially interested in the messy and uncertain moments in which new technologies meet unsettled ethical and legal terrains, and the processes and controversies by which these uncertainties get reduced, codified, and laid down as structure and precedent.


INFO 1200: Information Ethics, Law, and Policy
This course investigates the ethical, legal, and social foundations of contemporary information technology. Through lectures, readings, and independent projects, we will analyze and engage contemporary challenges ranging from privacy in big data, mobile computing and national security environments, to the nature of innovation, property, and collaboration in an increasingly networked world. The course draws on cases from the fields of science, health care, education, politics, and international development, but above all it draws on YOUR experiences as a user, consumer, builder, and contributor to the global world of technology.  Through this course you’ll learn about the key frameworks, processes, laws and institutions that govern the contemporary world of technology, along with key theories and methods from the academic fields that shape and inform them (law, philosophy, political science, economics, communication, sociology, management, etc.). But above all you’ll learn to engage critically and strategically with the worlds of information and technology around you, deciding what kind of information consumer, user, and citizen YOU want to be.

INFO 6210: Information, Technology, and Society
This is a core course for the IS doctoral program, and exposes students to key concepts, debates, and the historical development of critical and interpretive work in information science (including tracing some of that work back to its origins in other fields – sociology, anthropology, philosophy, political science and public policy, communication, etc.). It also builds methodological skills and experience in the doing of qualitative, interpretative, and critical research in information science today.

(Michigan) SI 532: Digital Government I: Information Technology and Democratic Politics
(Michigan) SI 533: Digital Government II: Information Technology and Democratic Administration
(Michigan) SI 657: Information Technology and Global Development


I’ve had the great pleasure to advise or work with some fantastic graduate students over the years, here at Cornell and in my former faculty position at the University of Michigan. Here are some of them (with links where available):

Stephanie Steinhardt (now Assistant Professor, Michigan State University)
Syed Ishtiaque Ahmed (now Assistant Professor, University of Toronto)
Leo Kang
Samir Passi
Maggie Jack
Amy Cheatle
Jeff Mathias
Palashi Vaghela
TImur Uckun

Gone but not forgotten:
Lara Houston (post-doc; now post-doctoral researcher, University of London)
Alissa Centivany (now Assistant Professor, University of Western Ontario)
Dana Walker (now Critical Writing Program, University of Pennsylvania)
Radaphat (Pae) Chongthammakun (now Office of the Administrative Courts, Thailand)
Rahmad Dawood (now Syiah Kuala University, Indonesia)
Matt Burton (now post-doctoral researcher, University of Pittsburgh)
Ayse Buyuktur (now post-doctoral resarcher, University of Michigan)

If you’re a prospective doctoral student working in related areas, feel free to email me with a description of your work and any questions. I can work with and advise doctoral students in any of Information Science, Science and Technology Studies, or Communication (note that each of these graduate fields has their own selection and admission procedures, described at the links above).


Here are some current or recent pieces and/or ones that I'm sometimes asked to share (or just like to!).  For a fuller list, see my CV.

Steven J. Jackson, “Rethinking Repair,” in Tarleton Gillespie, Pablo Boczkowski, and Kirsten Foot, eds. Media Technologies: Essays on Communication, Materiality and Society.  MIT Press: Cambridge MA, 2014.

Steven J. Jackson, "Speed, Time, Infrastructure: Temporalities of Breakdown, Maintenance, and Repair," in Judy Wajcman and Nigel Dodd, eds. The Sociology of Speed: Digital, Organizational, and Social Temporalities. Oxford Unversity Press: Oxford, 2017.

Steven J. Jackson and Sarah Barbrow, “Standards and/as Innovation: Protocols, Creativity, and Interactive Systems Development in Ecology,” in Proceedings of the 2015 Computer-Human Interaction (CHI) Conference, Seoul, April 2015.

Steven J. Jackson, "Breakdown, Obsolescence and Reuse: HCI and the Art of Repair," in Proceedings of the 2014 Computer-Human Interaction (CHI) Conference, Toronto, Canada, April 29-May 2, 2014.

Steven J. Jackson, Tarleton Gillespie, and Sandra Payette, “The Policy Knot: Reintegrating Policy, Practice and Design in CSCW Studies of Social Computing,” in Proceedings of the 2014 Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) Conference, Baltimore, MD, Feb 2014.

Steven J. Jackson and Ayse Buyuktur, “Who Killed WATERS?  Mess, Method, and the Forensic Imagination in the Making and Unmaking of Large-Scale Science Networks,” Science, Technology and Human Values 39:2 (March 2014), pp 285-308.

Steven J. Jackson and Sarah Barbrow, “Infrastructure and Vocation: Field, Calling, and Computation in Ecology,” in Proceedings of the 2013 Computer-Human Interaction (CHI) Conference, Paris, France, April 27-30, 2013.

Steven J. Jackson, Stephanie Steinhardt, and Ayse Buyuktur, “Why CSCW Needs Science Policy (and Vice-Versa),” in Proceedings of the 2013 Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) Conference, San Antonio, Texas, Feb 23-27, 2013.

Steven J. Jackson, Alex Pompe and Gabriel Krieshok, “Repair Worlds: Maintenance, Repair, and ICT for Development in Rural Namibia,” in Proceedings of the 2012 Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) Conference, Seattle, Washington, Feb 11-15, 2012.

Steven J. Jackson, David Ribes, Ayse Buyuktur, and Geoffrey C. Bowker, “Collaborative Rhythm: Temporal Dissonance and Alignment in Distributed Scientific Work,” in Proceedings of the 2011 Computer-Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) Conference, Hangzhou, China, March 20—23, 2011.

Steven J. Jackson, Paul N. Edwards, Geoffrey C. Bowker, and Cory Knobel, “Understanding Infrastructure: History, Heuristics, and Cyberinfrastructure Policy,” in B. Kahin and S.J. Jackson, eds. “Special Issue: Designing Cyberinfrastructure for Collaboration and Innovation,” First Monday 12:6 (June 2007).

Steven J. Jackson, “Water Models and Water Politics: Deliberative Design and Virtual Accountability,” in Proceedings of the 2006 Digital Government Conference, San Diego, May 22-24, 2006.

Steven J. Jackson, “Ex-Communication: Competition and Collusion in the U.S. Prison Telephone Industry,” Critical Studies in Media Communication 22:4 (October, 2005).


Stuff I like doing: biking, hiking, music, reading, eating, skating.
Stuff I’m reading: Richard Rorty, Martin Buber, Walter Benjamin, Donna Haraway; Colson Whitehead (The Underground Railroad), Ed Baptist (The Half Has Never Been Told), William Shirer (The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich), Robert Paxton, (The Anatomy of Fascism), Sheryl Smith (Raising Goats for Dummies).
Stuff I'm watching: The Man in the High Castle (Amazon); Game of Thrones (HBO).
Stuff I’m listening to: Bill Evans and Thelonious Monk (always)!; Django Reinhardt, Robert Glasper, Kamasi Washington, Richard Buckner, Sufjan Stevens, Bon Iver; Dan Carlin's Hardcore History.