I am an Associate Professor at University of Washington’s Information School and have a 2021-22 Lenore Annenberg and Wallis Annenberg Fellowship in Communication at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. I can be reached by email at megfinn at uw dot edu. This website provides an overview of my work; my CV has a lot more details. If you would like to read any of my CV or publications, please don’t hesitate to email me.
My work examines relations among institutions, infrastructures, and practices in the production, circulation, and use of information. I examine these themes in a book, called Documenting Aftermath: Information Infrastructures in the Wake of Disasters, with MIT Press (October 2018). The book is an examination of how changing public information infrastructures shaped people’s experience of earthquakes in Northern California in 1868, 1906, and 1989 followed by an analysis of the institutions, policies, and technologies that shape today’s postdisaster information landscape. I argue that information orders—complex constellations of institutions, technologies, and practices—influence how we act in, experience, and document events. What I term event epistemologies, constituted both by historical documents and by researchers who study them, explain how information orders facilitate particular possibilities for knowledge.
I build on the work in Documenting Aftermath in several new collaborative projects:
- Along with Anna Lauren Hoffmann, Marika Cifor, and Tonia Sutherland, I am working on building a research group called the AfterLab. You can read more about it here.
- On a transnational team of researchers from communications, information science, and STS, I investigate the work of building COVID data infrastructures in the United State and India. Our work is funded by the NSF and by an Digital Infrastructures grant sponsored by the Ford Foundation, Sloan Foundation, Omidyar Network, Open Society Foundations, and Mozilla Open Source Support Program.
- I work with Mike Ananny examining the use of scientific datasets by journalists for understanding earthquakes in Southern California. In one paper, we look at how digital infrastructures for journalism anticipate and shape the news.
In addition to my work on infrastructures in times of crisis, I do historical and contemporary empirical studies of responsible computing and data governance:
- With Amelia Acker (co-PI), I am working on an NSF-sponsored project about Scientific Data Governance, Preservation and Archiving. We will investigate the life of scientific data, specifically in relation to NSF’s requirement for Data Management Plans with a focus on the relationship between national science policies and different epistemic cultures.
- I work on an NSF-funded project to examine the development of ethical practices in the computer security research community with my collaborators Katie Shilton (co-PI), and Quinn DuPont. We have examined the ethical work of Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility. We have written an accessible overview of our work in CACM, a magazine for computer scientists and tech professionals.
- I am working on a transnational comparative investigation of personal data policies in Seattle, Bangalore, and London with my venerable associates Janaki Srinivasan, Elisa Oreglia, and Justin Petelka.
Throughout my work, I bring together perspectives and approaches from information studies, science and technology studies, and the history of media, information, and communication. My research engages questions that require historical and contemporary analysis, including: How do changing technological infrastructures, information practices, and technology policies shape one another?
I am a faculty member of the DataLab at the iSchool, and an affiliate of the UW’s eScience Institute, where, as a part of the Data Science Studies group, I co-convened a talk series, “Data Then and Now” from 2019-2021. I’m also an advisor with my university’s Science, Technology and Society Studies (STSS) program where I have been lucky enough to advise incredible students from Forestry, Law, and Urban Planning. I was lucky enough to supervise Meg Young, now a postdoc at Cornell.
I worked on several collaborative projects that have concluded:
- Daniela Rosner and I ran yearlong research and reading group called “Troubled Worlds” where we interrogated computing in the Anthropocene from the perspective of our fields of informatics and design.
- Along with Scott Miles, I organized a project about seismic cultures around the Pacific Rim that resulted in a workshop and a Seattle Design Festival booth.
- I was the co-leader with Sarah Quinn and Margaret O’Mara of the UW chapter of the Scholar Strategy Network, an organization that connects researchers to a broader community of journalists, politicians, and organizers.
I completed my PhD in 2012 at UC Berkeley’s School of Information, and spent two wonderful years as a Postdoctoral Researcher at Microsoft Research New England in Cambridge, MA with the Social Media Research Group. Paul Duguid and AnnaLee Saxenian were my PhD advisors and Peter Lyman advised my masters degree, also from Berkeley. My dissertation committee members also included Richard Walker and Coye Cheshire. My dissertation research was funded by National Science Foundation Dissertation Grant.
Previously, I spent three years working as a engineer and research engineer at HP. I have an Masters degree in Information Management and Systems from UC Berkeley, and a B.S. in Computer Science from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor LSA Honors College.