Please note that I am on sabbatical for the 2021-2022 academic year. I won’t be accepting or reviewing student applications for the MSc or DPhil programmes during this time.
I am the Professor of Internet Geography at the Oxford Internet Institute, a Faculty Fellow at the Alan Turing Institute, a Senior Research Fellow at Green Templeton College, a Research Affiliate in the University of Oxford’s School of Geography and the Environment, a Research Associate at the Centre for Information Technology and National Development in Africa at the University of Cape Town, and a Visiting Researcher at Wissenschaftszentrum Berlin für Sozialforschung and Technische Universität Berlin.
I lead a range of research projects spanning topics between digital labour, the gig economy, internet geographies, and ICTs and development. I am not currently accepting PhD students.
About My Research
I have led three large-scale multi-country studies (including a five-year ERC Starting Grant), which examine the production networks of digital work. This research analyses how workers in the world’s economic margins are enrolled into global value chains and a planetary labour market (for instance, looking at how Kenyan data entry workers or Filipino personal assistants are an integral part of some of the world’s most important digital production networks). It then seeks to examine how the networked and geographic positionalities of those workers impact on the working conditions that they experience.
Together with colleagues on three continents, I have started a participatory action research project called the Fairwork Foundation. This initiative, which I founded in 2018 and now run together with a group of labour lawyers and labour sociologists, has now grown to an international project team of 22 people. It has brought together key stakeholders around the world – including workers, trade unions, platforms, and policy makers – to set minimum fair work standards for the gig economy. Using a transparent methodology and a collectively-determined scoring system, we score gig economy work platforms and conduct extensive qualitative research on working conditions prior to releasing the scores. As of 2020, the project has successfully been piloted in Germany, India and South Africa, enjoining major platforms to make changes to their conditions (e.g. implementing minimum wages) in order to receive a higher score. The project will also be launching in the UK, Chile, Indonesia, and Ecuador later in 2020 (see https://fair.work/ for more information).
Previous research has focused on digital entrepreneurship and the ways that conditions in African cities shape practices of local entrepreneurs (as part of a large project about African ‘knowledge economies‘), and on how the internet can impact production networks (of tea, tourism, and outsourcing) in East Africa, and asked who wins and loses from those changes. I lead the ‘Digital Inequality Group‘ of researchers at Oxford.
Digital Geographies is my most long-standing research area. I ask how people and places are ever more defined by, and made visible through, not only their traditional physical locations and properties, but also their virtual attributes and digital shadows. If the places that we live in are increasingly digital, then there are important questions about who controls, and has access to, our digitally-augmented and digitally-mediated worlds. I have written extensively about this topic in both the academic and popular press and maintain a collection of maps of internet geographies.
I serve as an editor of the journal Environment and Planning A, and am an editorial board member of Information, Communication & Society, Geo: Geography and Environment, Television and New Media, Big Data & Society, Global Perspectives, Digital Geography and Society, and Work Organisation, Labour and Globalisation.
I teach a course at the OII called ‘Economic Development in Digital Capitalism‘ that focuses on the winners and losers in the contexts of rapidly changing global connectivity. The course examines how the digital economy can impact on the economic positionalities of people and practices at economic peripheries. I have previously taught courses on: Advanced Qualitative Research, Social Research Methods and the Internet, Globalisation, Introduction to Human Geography, the Collection and Analysis of Geographic Data, Economic Geography, and GIS.
I am grateful to have had much of my research funded by donors such as the European Research Council, the ESRC, the British Academy, the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, IDRC, NSF, and the Leverhulme Trust. I am also fortunate to have been able to work with a diverse, creative, and smart group of scholars and activists.
I try to maintain a blog to regularly share thoughts and new outputs. If you want to get in touch, you can find my contact details on this page.
I come from a working class background, and feel strongly about the roles that an elite university like Oxford can (and should) play in broadly disseminating knowledge beyond its walls, and in attempting to amplify the voices of traditionally marginalised groups. Students and colleagues in similar situations, my door is open.