About me

Photo by Amelia Burns.

I study data …

but maybe not in the way you think! I research and write about what it is, how it works, and how data is different from the ordinary stuff that populates the world around us.

I’m an assistant professor at UCLA, in the Information Studies department and the Digital Humanities program. Right now, I’m writing a book about how data works in global supply chains. The way information moves, and who has access to which data, makes a big difference to the people who make the things we buy. To learn about this information, I’ve been very deep in the weeds of supply-chain software! You can read some of my work on supply chains in Logic and The New Yorker. (For more of my work, you can check out the publications on my CV, and let me know if you have trouble accessing anything.)

I also work with data more directly! I’ve been in the field of digital humanities for over a decade now, and I love experimenting with data visualization, mapping, and network analysis techniques. I often write about the relationship between technology and humanities scholarship, and I’ve written a bunch of widely shared tutorials that I use with my students.

I’ve always been most interested in the way that things we think of as objective and universal are actually particular to their time and place. As an undergrad, I accidentally caught sight of this image of a little homunculus in an article I was photocopying for a professor. I thought, whoa: Not even the human body — a universal of human history if there ever was one — has been perceived the same way over the centuries. That small insight led to my interest in medical vision, the topic of my Ph.D. dissertation, Depth Perception.

That same fascination with the apparently universal motivates my interest in data. Anyone who studies data in any depth understands that there’s no such thing as neutral data. But what gets packaged in to different kinds of data—what kinds of politics, ideologies, worldviews? What effect does this data have on the world, once it’s roaming around the universe? That’s what I spend a lot of my time thinking about.

When I’m not working, I’m likely caring for my two kids or reading novels. (I have a weakness for murder mysteries and spy novels.) When I’m really lucky, I have time for my favorite hobby, garment sewing.

My Ph.D., in film studies and American studies, is from Yale University, and before that I did my undergrad at Reed College. And before that I graduated, with no particular distinction, from Overfelt High School, on the East Side of San Jose, in the shadowy part of Silicon Valley.

If you need a blurb about me, you can find one here. You can reach me at miriam.posner@gmail.com.