Heather Ford


I am an academic writing, teaching and researching issues relating to digital politics. Digital politics (or “the politics of the digital”) is not only about how politicians use social media and digital technologies in their daily work, or about how new forms of electoral politics emerge in relation to the internet. Digital politics is also about how technologies (evolving together with social dynamics) give rise to new politics, new forms of authority and power. With a background as an activist for internet rights and intellectual property reform, I now focus on implications for the increasing deployment of algorithms and automation to organise and construct knowledge about events, people, places and things.

I am currently working as an Associate Professor and Head of Discipline for Digital and Social Media in the School of Communications at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS).

My first book entitled “Fact Factories” (MIT Press, due 2020) follows the ways in which history is written as it happens on Wikipedia and about how facts travel through the infrastructure of the Internet. The book covers the story about the 2011 Egyptian Revolution was written about on Wikipedia starting from the first few hours of the first protests. The book is about the strengths and weaknesses of the collective curation of historical facts in the context of knowledge engines and other Artificial Intelligence (AI) applications.

I have published in a variety of channels including Big Data and Society, New Media and Society, the International Journal of Communications, Social Studies of Science and a number of Advanced Computer Machinery (ACM) journals. I am a founder editor of ethnographymatters.net and review articles for a number of journals and conferences in the fields of science and technology studies, media and communication.

I completed my DPhil (PhD) at the Oxford Internet Institute at Oxford University. I have a Masters in Information Management and Systems (MIMS) from the University of California, Berkeley iSchool and have worked as a fellow at Leeds University, Stanford University, as a Google Policy Fellow and as a researcher at the University of the Witwatersrand LINK Center. Before my PhD I worked for a number of non-profit technology organisations including the Association for Progressive CommunicationsCreative Commons, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, iCommons, Privacy International and Ushahidi as an activist, researcher and project manager. I have been on the boards of the Wikimedia Foundation, iCommons and The African Commons Project where I worked towards the goal of fairer, more flexible intellectual property provisions for the Internet, particularly in developing countries.

Drop me a line! hfordsa at gmail dot com