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Heather Ford

Heather Ford

SSI fellow

School of Media and Communication, University of Leeds


My research interests include the social and technical construction of knowledge on collaborative platforms and the realignments of power and expertise in new media systems using digital methods. I’m interested in the design of software systems for collaborative production, especially as data from these platforms are integrated with automated systems.


An ethnographer and former Internet rights activist, I now study the construction of knowledge in online, collaborative systems and realignments of power in new media ecosystems using digital methods. I have worked as an ethnographer for Ushahidi and as an activist and social entrepreneur, co-founding Creative Commons South Africa, the African Commons Project (a non-profit based in South Africa) and as a founding director and executive director of iCommons (an international organisation started by Creative Commons to connect the open education, access to knowledge, free software, open access publishing and free culture communities around the world). Over the past five years, I have worked extensively with Wikipedia and the Wikimedia Foundation, studying verification practices on Wikipedia during international news events, the nature of authority and power on Wikipedia, and the role of software and code in shaping the development of social media environments.

My previous work experience has shaped my research agenda and has led me to take a more critical, reflexive approach to power in new media ecosystems. My research is grounded in theories of media power, practice theory and the social construction of knowledge in the fields of media and communications, information science and science and technology studies. With an undergraduate degree in Journalism and Media Studies, a Master’s in Information Management and Systems and a DPhil in Information, Communication and the Social Sciences, as well as post-graduate work in information and telecommunications policy, I have an interdisciplinary background and enjoy working with data scientists on mixed methods collaborative studies. My job as University Academic Fellow in Digital Methods at the University of Leeds’s School of Media and Communication has enabled me to develop research plans around the design (both in terms of software and policy) of user generated content systems, especially as these platforms become integrated into automated knowledge systems.

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