Hi! I’m Stuart, a staff ethnographer at the Berkeley Institute for Data Science at UC-Berkeley. I’m an interpretive social scientist by training with a background in the humanities, but I have just enough expertise in computer science and data science to make trouble. As an ethnographer, I use many different qualitative, quantitative, and computational methods to holistically study and analyze technology and culture, while trying to uphold two goals: 1) to do research while embedded in the social worlds I study, and 2) to understand the worldviews and perspectives of the people I study. I call myself an ethnographer of computation and a computational ethnographer, because I study people as they build, support, interact with, and relate to computational systems, as well as use computational (and other) methods in my own work.
I specialize in the infrastructures, institutions, and algorithms that support the production of information and knowledge. Most of my previous work has been on Wikipedia, where I’ve spent almost a decade researching the people and algorithms that produce and maintain an open encyclopedia that anyone can edit. I’ve also worked on distributed scientific research networks and projects, including the Long-Term Ecological Research Network, the Open Science Grid, and the Moore-Sloan Data Science Environments. I study topics including newcomer socialization, cooperation and conflict, community governance, specialization and professionalization, information verification and quality control, hackathons and community workshops, the roles of support staff and technicians, bias and discrimination, and diversity and inclusion. As today’s world is increasingly made possible through software systems, my work also is deeply concerned with how the design of software tools and automated systems intersect with all of these issues.
I received my Ph.D from the UC-Berkeley School of Information, my M.A. from the Communication, Culture, and Technology program at Georgetown University, and my B.A. in the Humanities program at the University of Texas at Austin. I’m a disciplinary nomad, integrating disciplines like computer science, information science, social psychology, and organization/management science with fields like philosophy, sociology, anthropology, and history of science and technology. In terms of academic specialties, I spend a lot of my time in the fields of Science and Technology Studies, Computer-Supported Cooperative Work, and new media / internet studies. Methodologically, while I am trained as a qualitative ethnographer, I also rely on other qualitative, quantitative, and computational methods. I often use more statistical forms of analysis to contextualize and further support more qualitative approaches, frequently collaborating with people from other disciplines. I frequently speak at conferences and events, and I also consult with various groups, organizations, and companies about a wide range of topics.