Heather Ford


I am a digital ethnographer passionate about how the Internet and digital technologies can be developed to serve principles of global solidarity, social equality and democratic governance. 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 at the School of Communication at the University of Technology, Sydney (UTS) where I am Head of Discipline for Digital and Social Media and Coordinator of the School of Communication’s Honours programme. I also lead the development of micro-credentials and short courses in the School of Communication around data ethics, data regulation and digital methods

My first book entitled “Fact Factories” (MIT Press, forthcoming) follows the ways in which data about historic events are being constructed on Wikipedia and about how facts travel through the infrastructure of the Internet. 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 under the supervision of Professors Mark Graham and Eric Meyer. I have a Masters in Information Management and Systems (MIMS) from the University of California, Berkeley iSchool and have worked as a University Academic Fellow in Digital Methods at Leeds University, a Digital Vision Fellow at Stanford University, as a Google Policy Fellow and a Fellow for the Software Sustainability Institute. 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, ethnographer and director. I am on the board of the Copyright Evidence Wiki and have been on the advisory board of the Wikimedia Foundation and the board of iCommons where I worked towards the goal of fairer intellectual property provisions for the Internet, particularly in developing countries. I co-founded Creative Commons South Africa, InfoCamp and OxDEG (the Oxford Digital Ethnography Group) and facilitated a number of open technology events including Africa Source (Uganda) and FOSS Road (Tajikistan) (by Tacticaltech), and the GeekRetreat (in South Africa).