I am a critical, human geographer that uses innovative combinations of ‘big data’ analysis and traditional, qualitative methodologies to ask questions about the cultural and epistemological limits of emerging digital technologies. My research examines questions including how the epistemological biases and technical limitations of technology produce not only digital divides but also new colonial geographies; how multi-scalar and transnational political geographies emerge in digital spaces; and how digital architectures are shaping the global knowledge politics of climate change and environmental change. Specifically, I research how indigenous peoples use digital technologies, from geographic information systems (GIS) to social media, to increase their participation in the politics of environmental management. I synthesize large sub-fields of geography, including digital geographies, nature and society studies, and political geographies, while also introducing unique indigenous and postcolonial perspectives to push these research agendas forward. I have been funded by both the US National Science Foundation (NSF) and the US Department of Education’s Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) program, and my research offers lessons on the possibilities of technological practices for empowering marginalized peoples and producing transformative change for environmental politics.
My research brings together three large questions from different areas of the discipline. From nature and society studies I pick up the concern that humans have historically oriented themselves toward the environment in a destructive manner that is now pushing ecosystems beyond important biophysical thresholds. My research engages the resulting question: what political practices might be used to transform global socio-ecological systems to minimize the negative impacts of these historical orientations? From indigenous and postcolonial theory I work from the recognition that indigenous peoples are often rendered invisible by dominant power structures, and that their acts of resistance are also constantly assimilated back into these same structures. I ask what tools and practices might be used to produce positive encounters between indigenous peoples and others such that interepistemological dialogue is possible. I find that these indigenous perspectives often also offer perspectives on nature/society relationships that differ from dominant Western views, increasing the synergy between these first two questions. Finally, I draw on digital geographies research to ask what the potentials and limitations of digital technologies are for offering radically open spaces capable of encouraging encounters between radically different subjectivities and epistemological perspectives. Can these spaces enable indigenous peoples to speak in an empowering manner and, if so, what transformative effects might their speech have on ongoing discussions of our relationship to the environment? In answering these questions I draw from and push forward debates on digital divides, the politics of knowledge, and geographies of digital empowerment and marginalization.
I have explored these issues in the context of the Peruvian Amazon and the Canadian Arctic, as well as within citizen science projects. Delve more deeply into some of my featured research through the links below: