I am an Assistant Professor in Media and Communication at the London School of Economics and Political Science where I lead the MSc in Data & Society.

I’m interested in communities and citizenships in the age of the ‘smart city’.  How do we come together through the media we use?  How do we build our own networks (infrastructures, relationships) and how do these influence our experience of activism, politics, and governance? How can the history of community media give us hope for more citizen-oriented ‘smart cities’? And what concerns should we have about citizenship under datafication?

I have a book under contract with Yale University Press called Data Citizenships that argues that data collection has led to new forms of citizenship and that we risk having these defined by corporate actors. The book details how civic actions like open data activism, civic data commons and citizen sensing projects attempt to push back against these risks.

I’m the UK Lead Investigator for the Horizon 2020 project Virt-EU: Values and Ethics in Innovation for Responsible Technologies in Europe. We are working on understanding how ethics and values are negotiated within IoT developer communities.

I’ve developed a participatory methodology – the Data Walk or Data Walkshop – for opening up civic discussions about data and its ethics within urban space, and documented the process so that others can engage with it. This process has been used to surface civic knowledge in Vancouver, Montreal, Rotterdam, London, Copenhagen and Accra.

I’m also working on long-term collaborations to investigate using design and creative methods to address issues of transparency in the design of automated systems.

Some Recent Publications

** Please note that all files linked are the author’s own prepress manuscript versions or working papers. Please cite the published versions. Open access publications also available at LSE Research Online**

Light, Ann, Alison Powell and Irina Shklovki (2017) “Design for Existential Crisis” ACM Computing and Human Interaction Conference, Denver CO Winner: Best Paper, alt.CHI Section

Powell, Alison B (2016) “Hacking in the Public Interest: Authority, Legitimacy, Means and Ends” New Media and Society. 4: 691-708

 Powell, Alison B (2016) Network Exceptionalism: Online action, discourse, and the opposition to SOPA and ACTA. Information, Communication & Society 19 (2), 249-263

Murthy, Dhijraj, Alison B Powell, Ramine Tinati, Nick Anstead, Les Carr, Susan J Halford, Mark Weal (2016) “The Wrong Kind of Bots: Investigating social networking capital from a sociotechnical perspective”. International Journal of Communication 10, 20:

(2015) Open culture and innovation: integrating knowledge across boundaries. Media, Culture and Society Feb 10, 2015. Prepress version: powell CERN OHL FINAL

(2014) ‘Datafication,’ Transparency, and good governance of the data city. in Digital Enlightenment Forum Yearbook. Edited by Kieron O’Hara and Carolyn Nguyen. London: IOS Press. Prepress version: Powell Digital Enlightenment Yearbook Chapter

(2014) “Coding alternative modes of governance: learning from experimental “peer to peer cities” Code and the City Workshop, National University of Ireland Maynooth, June 24 2014. Working paper: smart cities data cities

(2014) “The History and Future of Internet Openness: from ‘wired’ to ‘mobile’” in Theories of the Mobile Internet. Edited by Andrew Herman, Jann Hadlaw and Thom Swiss. Routledge.pp. 25-44. Prepress version: Powell Mimi chapter final

(2012) Democratizing production through open source knowledge: open software to open hardware. Media, Culture and Society. Prepress version:Powell Open Source Knowledge Prepress

(2011) Metaphors, models and communicative spaces: designing local wireless infrastructure. Canadian Journal of Communication

PhD Thesis: “Co-productions of Technology, Culture and Policy in the North American Community Wireless Networking Movement”
Concordia University, Montreal (2008)


This thesis investigates the visions and realities of community WiFi’s social and political impact, examining how communication technology and social forms are co-produced and providing a communication studies perspective on the transformation of social visions of technology into technological, social, and policy realities. By following the development of local WiFi projects and the emergence of broader policy-oriented mobilizations, it assesses the real outcomes of socially and politically progressive visions about information and communication technologies (ICTs). The visions of advocates and developers suggest that community WiFi projects can inspire greater local democratic engagement, while the realities suggest a more subtle bridging of influence from community WiFi actors into policy development spheres. The thesis describes local WiFi networks in Montreal and Fredericton, NB, and the North American Community Wireless Networking (CWN) movement as it has unfolded between 2004 and 2007, arguing that its democratic visions of technology and their institutional realities have been integral to the politicization of computing technology over the last four decades. Throughout the thesis, WiFi radio technology, a means of networking computers and connecting them to the internet by using unlicensed radio spectrum, acts as an example of how a technology’s material form is co-produced along with its symbolic social and political significance.

Thesis Chapters:


Chapter One: Lit Review & Theory

Chapter Two: Computerization Movements

Chapter Three: Ile Sans Fil

Chapter Four: Fred-eZone

Chapter Five: The CWN Movement

Chapter Six: Policy Hacking

Chapter Seven: Conclusions