UCL Anthropology



Staff Members

Current Centre Director: Daniel Miller (email)

Haidy Geismar

Haidy Geismar_UCL Anthropology

Haidy Geismar is Professor of Anthropology at University College London where she is also the Curator of the UCL Ethnography Collection and the Inaugural director of the new School for the Creative and Cultural Industries. She has research interests in digital materialities, digital collecting and archiving, intellectual and cultural property, indigenous rights, new forms of cultural representation, the anthropology of art, critical museology and the South Pacific, especially Vanuatu and New Zealand. Recent books include Impermanence: Exploring Continuous Change Across Cultures (with T. Otto and C. Warner, UCL Press 2022), Museum Object Lessons for the Digital Age (UCL Press 2018) and Treasured Possessions: Indigenous Interventions into Cultural and Intellectual Property (Duke University Press 2013). Current projects include the mobile memory project (a community sound and digital archive mounted on a cargo bike), the museum of data (with Antonia Walford and Joel Gethin Lewis), and Culture Lab (a new collections and display space for UCL East).

Hannah Knox

Hannah Knox_UCL Anthropology

Hannah Knox is Professor of Anthropology and joined UCL in 2014 from the University of Manchester. She is a regular convenor of the MSc Digital Anthropology and former Director of the Centre for Digital Anthropology. Her research focuses on the role of technologies in social and political relations, with a particular interest in the social and cultural implications of infrastructures of different kinds. She has studied digital media industries and economic development in the UK, road building in Peru, and urban climate change interventions in Manchester, and is currently studying the shifting epistemologies of energy in the context of energy transitions - a topic which raises crucial questions about the role of digital technologies in the cultural representation and social ordering of material processes. Her recent books include Ethnography for a Data Saturated World edited with Dawn Nafus, Digital Anthropology (second edition) edited with Haidy Geismar, Speaking for the Social: A Catalogue of Methods, edited with Gemma John, and her most recent monograph Thinking Like a Climate: Governing a City in Times of Environmental Change published in 2020 with Duke University Press.

Daniel Miller

Daniel Miller_UCL Anthropology

Daniel Miller has just completed two ERC five year projects. Why We Post produced twelve volumes including How the World Changed Social Media. While the Anthropology of Smartphones and Smart Ageing is also on course to produce twelve volumes including The Global Smartphone. Most of these books are available as open access with UCL Press. His first book in digital anthropology The Internet: An Ethnographic Approach was published with Don Slater in 2000. Later books include Tales From Facebook, Webcam (with J, Sinanan), Visualising Facebook (with J. Sinanan) Social Media in an English Village, Ageing with Smartphones in Ireland (with P Garvey) and the first edition of Digital Anthropology (with H. Horst). A recent shift has been towards combining digital with medical anthropology including creating a health campaign in Trinidad and Tobago with Sheba Mohammid.

Tone Walford

Tone Walford_UCL Anthropology

Dr Tone Walford is a Lecturer in Digital Anthropology. Their research explores the effects of the exponential growth of digital data on social and political imaginaries and practices, with a focus on the natural sciences and environmental politics. They have conducted long-term fieldwork with climate scientists and technicians in the Brazilian Amazon. Their current research explores efforts in international observational science to measure, archive and manage the entire Earth - Big Data Science - looking at issues of data justice, data politics, and data imperialism. They have published articles and chapters on topics such as data power and the politics of informational practices, data aesthetics, and transdisciplinarity. They recently co-edited, with Rachel Douglas-Jones and Nick Seaver, a special issue in The Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, Towards an Anthropology of Data (2021), and co-edited a volume with Mattering Press, with Cristobal Bonelli, called Environmental Alterities (2020). They teach on the core Digital Anthropology modules, and a module on the Anthropology of Data, with topics ranging across datafied surveillance and the state, data violence, algorithmic economies, digital materialities and datafied personhood.

Shireen Walton

Shireen Walton_UCL Anthropology

Shireen is a visual-digital anthropologist whose research focuses on migration and mobilities, transnationalism, and social, political, and generational change in/between Europe and the Middle East. She has carried out ethnographic fieldwork in Iran, Italy, the UK, and online, and is interested in visual and multimodal methodologies in/for ethnographic research. She completed her doctoral research in Anthropology at the University of Oxford in 2015, looking at photoblogging in Iran and the Iranian diaspora, exploring how Iranian photobloggers capture, reflect¬ and refract images and imaginings pertaining to the country in the post-revolutionary and digital era. Her latest work, for her postdoctoral research at UCL Anthropology (2017-2020), took place in Milan, Italy as part of the European Research Council funded ‘Anthropology of Smartphones and Smart Ageing’ (ASSA) project. It examined the place of smartphones in everyday life, and in experiences of age(ing) in an inner-city neighbourhood, involving 16 months of fieldwork working with Sicilian, Egyptian, and Hazara communities. The latter is reflected in her 2021 monograph, Ageing with Smartphones in Urban Italy: Care and Community in Milan and Beyond, which is published open-access with UCL Press.

Research Fellows

Heather Horst

Heather Horst_UCL Anthropology

Heather A. Horst is a sociocultural anthropologist who researches material culture and the mediation of social relations through digital media and technology. Her recent books focused upon these themes include The Moral Economy of Mobile Phones: Pacific Island Perspectives (Foster and Horst, eds. 2018), Hanging Around, Messing Around and Geeking Out: Kids Living and Learning with New Media, 10th Anniversary Edition (Ito, et al. 2019); Location Technologies in International Context (Wilken, Goggin and Horst, eds. 2019) and Digital Media Practices in Households (Hjorth, et al. 2020). Her current research focuses upon the growth and development Fijian fashion industry and the infrastructures automation technologies outside of the global north as part of her work in the ARC Centre of Excellence on Automated Decision Making and Society. Heather is currently Professor and Director of the Institute of Culture and Society at Western Sydney University and an Honorary Professor at the Centre for Digital Anthropology at University College London.

Elena Liber

Elena Liber_UCL Anthropology

Elena is an anthropologist interested in themes of memory, storytelling, revolution, hope, and the digital world. She has conducted long term fieldwork in L’viv, Ukraine, and her PhD explored intergenerational memory, storytelling, history and the future using methods such as material culture, oral history and walking to explore how history is present in urban and forested landscapes. She is the co-founder of the TikTok Ethnography Collective. Her current research examines the many ways in which the war in Ukraine is being narrated and documented on and through TikTok, and social media more broadly. Her work on TikTok explores themes of digital storytelling, algorithms, and teaching and learning on TikTok. She is interested in how TikTok is changing our ideas of teaching and learning, and how we tell stories in digital spaces.

Silas Udenze

Silas Udenze_UCL Anthropology

Silas Udenze is a PhD of Humanities and Communication at Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC), Barcelona, Spain. He researches young people`s appropriation of social media/new media for socio-political causes. His current project explores the digital storytelling experience of young Nigerians on social media regarding the topic of social change.

Xinyuan Wang

Xinyuan Wang_UCL Anthropology

Xinyuan Wang’s first book Social Media in Industrial China examined the simultaneous migration of factory workers from rural to factory China and from offline to online showing how the latter brought them closer to their aspirations. Her new book Ageing with Smartphones in Urban China, which will also be published as open access with UCL Press, looks at another parallel between the smartphone revolution and the earlier experience of this same population in the Cultural Revolution showing how this is the foundation for understanding their subsequent relationship to smartphones. Xinyuan has many journal papers and book chapters, has made two programmes for the BBC world service, was awarded The Daphne Oram Award Lecture for her contribution to UK science and exhibited her art and photography work at the Open Eye Gallery.

PhD Students

Harshadha Balasubramanian (Started 2019)

Harshadha Balasubramanian_UCL Anthropology

An Anthropology of Virtual Reality Creation

Harsha studies the experiences of virtual reality (VR) content creators who are seeking to rethink the sensory understandings and practices that guide VR content creation. Imbedded within several teams of artists across London and Bristol, Harsha’s PhD research traces how and why creatives negotiate the sensory politics of VR creation- all the way through fundraising, ideation, production, and distribution. Harsha’s project is further informed by practical experience making VR content, including an internship at Microsoft Research. Therefore, this multisited ethnographic work leverages embodied, autoethnographic approaches to address what it means to sense in VR and how these understandings emerge.

Dave Cook (Started 2017)

Dave Cook_UCL Anthropology

Digital Nomads in Southeast Asia

My research explores the lives of self-described digital nomads, who work out of co-working spaces in Southeast Asia, mainly Chiang Mai. I’m interested in the work practices and routines that are imagined and practiced to sustain working on the road. In addition, the imaginary and material traces that are created by and produced for digital nomads are investigated.
The research also explores the functions and roles that coworking spaces play in supporting digital nomads and investigates the elaborate strategies that digital nomads utilise, including digital mediated time management, self-regulation, skills maintenance, image management and personal branding. I also look at how digital nomads try to reframe the concept of citizenship, and its associated structures such as a tax, money, visas, and through entrepreneurship in its various guises. 

Juan Forero Duarte (Started 2020)

Juan Forero Duarte_UCL Anthropology

(In)Formation Technologies: Digital Education State Programmes in Colombia

My project examines the experiences of public-school teachers involved in deploying digital education policies in Colombia. Through public-private programmes, the Colombian State is delivering 3D printers, drones, robotic kits, and block-based coding software (among others) to public schools all around the country. The goal is to 'motivate' more pupils to study Engineering and Technology degrees and cultivate skills needed in the so-called Digital Era. I aim to understand how schoolteachers and other public servants navigate the entanglement of those objects and policies with political clientelism, corruption, fragmented infrastructures, and neoliberal imperatives of self-improvement.

Xiaolin Li (Started 2019)

Xiaolin Li_UCL Anthropology

Period Tracking Apps in China

Xiaolin’s work focuses on the making and using of period-tracking apps in the context of a study of menstruation and sexuality in contemporary China, drawing on an ethnographic study of how users of period-tracking apps collect, interpret, and utilize their bodily data, and how the period-tracking company designs period-tracking products in accordance with their ideologies and business strategies. It explores the way in which the use and design of period-tracking apps simultaneously blend with the local culture and preexistent practices of the body while offering new opportunities for the re-imagination of the menstrual body and bodily practices with its digitalized and datafied new affordances. For example how menstruation is understood and experienced by transgender people.

Chun Liu (Started 2021)

Chun Liu_UCL Anthropology

The Soundscapes of Shangri-La

My project focuses on the efficacy of sound. I explore what sounds do, i.e., all the effects sounds engender in relation to daily experiences, life courses, and social change. With an emphasis on the impact of digital technologies such as social media on the experience of sound. The study is focused upon a population in the region of Shangri-la, northwest Yunnan Province, China. I expect this project will contribute to anthropology by showing the ways sounds act as a thread through the social and the individual, materiality and contextual, and how the assemblages of sounds, places and  memories work in relation to each other and as  a part of social dynamics. 

Sam Meeson-Frizelle

Sam Meeson-Frizelle_UCL Anthropology

Bit-Coin mining in Paraguay

My research sets out to trace the material contours and contested energo-political relations of Bitcoin "mining" in Paraguay.  I am interested by how a seemingly abundant supply of hydroelectric energy and a favourable regulatory setting in Paraguay attracts industrial scale mining companies from the Global North. Yet, my research crucially asks how this might challenge the energy and economic sovereignty of Paraguayan people and institutions. In doing so, I hope to bring to light the uneven material and political terrain that permeates a contemporary digital economy.

Alice Millar (Started 2020)

Alice Millar_UCL Anthropology

Difficult politics and difficult objects: social media in museums

Alice’s PhD focusses on the changing digital media practices of museum professionals. She especially focusses on how social media is used in the museum collection to respond to and challenge “difficult politics” like populism, prejudice and undemocratic practices. In her fieldwork with the Museum of London, Alice has co-curated a display called 'Into the Twitterverse' which explores modes of curating and displaying Tweets and reveals layers of digital and bureaucratic practices in museums. Alice’s research sits within a larger research project: Challenging Populist Truth-Making in Europe (CHAPTER), which is based in the CARMAH research centre in Berlin. Her previous work has explored digital sound design and sensory engagement in museums. 

Ibnu Nadzir (started 2022)

Ibnu Nadzir_UCL Anthropology

Nationalism and the Start-up Ecosystem in Indonesia

In the past decade, Indonesia has become one of the countries with the most significant internet users globally. This development also brings with it the rise of technology start-ups. While in some ways comparable to global start-ups in many aspects, an ethnography can examine many local aspects. These arise from the specific characteristics of each start-up, the state officials and digital entrepreneurs present technological corporations as both the future of the Indonesian economy and nationalism. The research project thus seeks to understand several issues: How do the specific cultural, social, and political contexts in Indonesia shape the development of Indonesian start-ups? What kind of sociality is developing among start-up entrepreneurs and professionals in Indonesia?

Alice Riddell  (Started 2020)

Alice Riddell_UCL Anthropology

Citizen app and the digitization of crime in New York City

Citizen is a live crime and safety tracking app in New York City that uses AI to monitor police scanners for incidences that are relevant to “public safety”, whilst also utilizing user-recorded footage, as users near a crime, fire or accident, are encouraged to ‘go live’ and film the unfolding events. Users comment additional information and post expressive emojis as incidences unravel. In sharing information across a digital network, Citizen functions as both a form of social media and a peer-to-peer surveillance app. Through this lens, my ethnographic research investigates the impact of the digitization of crime and how this affects community relationships in increasingly gentrified neighbourhoods in Brooklyn. I am further interested in the delicate balance between care and surveillance and the ways in which urban communities foster a sense of safety and security in the digital age.

Kellynn Wee (Started 2020)

Kellynn Wee_UCL Anthropology

Tabletop Role-Playing Games in Singapore

Kellynn Wee’s research focuses on speculation, play, and contingency in tabletop roleplaying games in Singapore. She explores how TTRPGs played and made in Asia transform taken-for-granted genres and contexts of Western fantasy. She is also interested in how TTRPGs make the conditions of reality explicit and changeable, and how this experience resonates in players’ constructions of broader cultural and social worlds. Check Kellynn's website.

Kunyu Xiang (Started 2021)

Kunyu Xiang_UCL Anthropology

Short Video Social Media in China

My thesis explores the use and consequences of short video social media in a Chinese county, Enshi. I try to figure out whether, how, and to what extent the use of short video social media like Douyin (TikTok) and Kuaishou is individualized, more separated from the influence of social relationships compared to the use of other dominant Chinese social media like WeChat and QQ. Possible trends of individualisation in social media are explored from the perspective of the urban-rural binary, kinship, gender expression, etc. In this process, I’m particularly interested in the role played by personalised recommendations and exposure mechanisms supported by the special artificial intelligence algorithms of short video platforms.

Ken Zheng (Started 2020)

Ken Zheng_UCL Anthropology

The Backstage of Social Media in China

Ken’s work explores the culture of IT work, based on 11-month fieldwork within a project team of ByteDance the company that created TikTok. I discuss the overspill of data culture from the IT sector to the broader social world through an ethnography of Chinese IT professionals. This ethnography has revealed many overlaps and interrelations between the data practices of Chinese IT professionals and the broader social implication that arise from their deployment of quantification methods, such as clickbait mechanisms and captivating algorithms across online infrastructures. It also addresses the role that Chinese IT professionals and domestic tech giants play in reinforcing audit culture in both the private realm and increasingly digitalized social spheres. My project attempt to untangle how Chinese IT professionals pursue their self-identity and individual aspiration bridled with the process of contriving a social media for public good, and how their emergence as an elite class implicates the building of the digital infrastructure that serve Chinese society of a diverse population.