Projects for Undergraduate Research Assistance

The Berkeley Center for New Media is pleased to offer two undergraduate research fellowships for Spring 2019! Selected students will have the opportunity to work closely with new media graduate students on dissertation-level research. Each fellowship comes with a stipend of $1,000.

To apply, read the descriptions of projects below, then:
  1. Write your name then the name of the project for which you are applying in the subject of the email (ex. Subject: Your Name - Algorithmic Gentrification)
  2. Attach your resume
  3. In the body of the email, write a paragraph expressing your interest in the position (don't forget to add any qualifications you may have)
  4. Send to me at
If you are interested in multiple projects, please send separate emails for each application.

Applications are due on December 1, 2018.

Projects for Undergraduate Research AssistanceProject One: “Speculating the Smart City with the Heart Sounds Bench: Détourning Data and Surveillance in Public Space”

This project seeks to critically re-imagine the future of smart cities. Instead of focusing on productivity, security, and computationally models and predictions for the world, this project is inspired by visionary urban scholar Jane Jacobs' call to celebrate "a great and exuberant richness of differences and possibilities, many of these differences unique and unpredictable and all the more valuable because they are". Part art, part architecture, and part engineering, this project seeks to embed biosensing technology in a traditional public bench in ways that embrace the essence of benchy-ness. Benches invite us to rest and do nothing (for free!) and share space with others in public. How can biosensing technology be used in the smart city in ways contest surveillance and affirm our humanity?

Seeking an undergraduate with engineering, architecture, and/or general maker know-how. A fully functional sensing bench prototype already exists, but the next steps are to deploy it in public. This requires redesigning and rebuilding the electronics and enclosures from the ground up to make it more robust and battery-powered.

Project Two:  “Algorithmic Gentrification: Locating Value in Urban Information Systems since 1980”

I am looking for an undergraduate interested in studying American cities, informational technologies, and cultures of consumption, understanding dynamics of gentrification and income stratification, and using digital humanities techniques like creating interactive web maps of historical data on gourmet restaurants in New York and San Francisco. This research opportunity is part of my dissertation project on the development of digital location-based services (LBS) like Yelp, Foursquare, Google Local, and TripAdvisor, and their role in shaping urban consumption spaces and neighborhood trajectories over time. Theorists of gentrification and other urban scholars have long considered the spread of upscale amenities like cafes, bars, and restaurants to be important visual indicators of gentrification. A number of authors, from urban geographer Neil Smith to sociologists Sharon Zukin and Sylvie Tissot have demonstrated how new businesses are themselves spurs to further change, in an unfolding dialectic of rising cultural and real estate capital. In my work, I examine evolving informational networks, from paper guidebooks to mobile applications, and their interaction with broader trends in urban development and sociospatial segmentation, as well as their reliance on what Tiziana Terranova calls "free labor" from power users.

While today information about the city is continuously produced and shared on millions of smartphones, at the scale of Big Data, by taking a broader view, I aim to understand the historical context in which these practices took shape. The corpus we will be working with consists primarily of a series of printed guidebooks, the Zagat Survey (from approximately 1990-2015), with a potential to include data from digital location-based services via APIs should time allow. The analysis will also have a qualitative component, involving a close reading of the content of the guidebooks with an eye towards the discursive construction of the city as a whole and individual neighborhoods, particularly explicit or coded references to gentrification, crime, revitalization, change, racial and ethnic difference, and inter-group conflict. In order to share the results of our research beyond academia, and to spur additional work by scholars and activists studying gentrification, social media, food studies, and related fields, we will publish a freely accessible online map of our results. Our map will consist of a variety of data layers, showing the underlying restaurant data along a time slider, along with demographic and other local data for comparison. The undergraduate research assistant will be involved in all phases of data collection, cleaning, analysis, and visualization, giving them a hands-on opportunity to contribute to an ongoing research project.