Austin Toombs | Visiting Researcher

Austin Toombs

My research interests centre on the impact that digital technologies have on how communities are formed and maintained. I am particularly interested in how certain kinds of relationships between individuals within a community are encouraged while others are discouraged, and how various technologies are used to implicitly enforce these distinctions. How interpersonal relationships are sanctioned (in both senses of the word) plays a vital role in the inclusivity, welcomeness, and diversity of a community.

In recent projects, I have studied maker, hacker, and DIY communities through both physical and digital ethnographies, the participatory design of hackathon-like events, and large-scale listserv communication analyses. In this work, I have focused on explicating the ways in which individuals develop identities as makers/hackers/expert-amateurs, as well as how they participate in their community. In my work on digital civics, I will be extending the methodological lenses I have developed to threads related to social care, civic engagement, and health informatics.

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