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.

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 we still have a lot to learn about how data operates in culture and politics. That’s what I spend a lot of my time thinking about!

I serve on many advisory boards and in other capacities in the field. At the moment, for example, I co-edit the digital project review section of American Quarterly, am a member of the Digital Strategy Roundtable of the Library of Congress, and serve on the Getty Trust’s Digital Visiting Committee.

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 shadow of Silicon Valley.

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