This fall we welcomed Assistant Professor R. Stuart Geiger as one of our newest faculty members. Dr. Geiger comes to us most recently from UC Berkeley where he has worked as an ethnographer at the Berkeley Institute for Data Science after completing his Ph.D. from the School of Information and the Berkeley Center for New Media in 2015. He also has an M.A. in Communication, Culture, and Technology from Georgetown University and a B.A. in Humanities from University of Texas, Austin.
This interdisciplinary background drew Geiger to our department which he describes as having, “A strong commitment to a deeply interdisciplinary understanding of what communication is and how it is a lens to study such a wide range of issues that we face. As an ethnographer, I’m thrilled to be in a department with so many other great ethnographers. I also do a lot of work in Science & Technology Studies, which also has a strong tradition in the department. Finally, this is a joint faculty position with the Halıcıoğlu Data Science Institute, and so getting to be a bridge between these quite different departments is a fantastic opportunity.”
Dr. Geiger will be continuing his existing research projects on the moderation of user-generated content platforms, which rely extensively on automation and data science, as well as work on free and open-source software projects, which are the infrastructure for many data science applications.
“There is a lot of work to be done on more participatory and community-based approaches to these technologies, as they are more often developed behind closed doors in ways that benefit people who are already in power. I am also thinking more broadly about the shifting nature of expertise around science and technology and the crucial role that the humanities and social sciences can play.”
Even before coming to UC San Diego, Geiger was already working with Associate Professor Lilly Irani and graduate student Dorothy Howard on a project about the labor of free and open-source software. He also enjoyed the Critical Data Studies reading group that graduate students Kathryne Metcalf and Magdalena Donea initiated and is excited to participate in the new Democracy Lab.
“I’m thrilled that there are a lot of other people in the department who do all kinds of work on communication and technology, and I also deeply value the broad diversity of topics and issues that we tackle through the lens of communication. Data science technologies are being deployed to so many topics and areas — media industries, labor, policing, borders, education, disability, healthcare, the environment, and more — so I’m looking forward to working with colleagues who are seeing old and new issues arise around these technologies in their areas of expertise.”
During his first year here, Dr. Geiger will be designing new undergraduate courses in both Communication and Data Science departments which will cover similar topics around the social and ethical issues around data science. For his Communication courses, this includes an intermediate undergraduate course taking a broad overview of how various disciplines tackle the many issues around data science and data industries. He is also also working on an advanced undergraduate course on this topic specifically from a Science & Technology Studies perspective, which is often called Critical Data Studies. Geiger is also looking forward to designing graduate courses in Communication that weave both theories and methods.
“This summer has certainly been quite a time to move to a new job in a new city! When the pandemic is over, I am very much looking forward to seeing my new colleagues face-to-face. It has also been very inspiring to see how the department has adapted and worked together, from all the pandemic issues to the movements for racial justice. I had not yet joined the department when the Statement of Commitments to Actions in Response to the Murder of George Floyd was written and released, but I fully support it.”
Welcome, Dr. Geiger!