Selected Publications

Communication, Mediation, and the Expectations of Data: Data Valences across Health and Wellness Communities. 2015, International Journal of Communication, 9, 1466-1484.
Brittany Fiore-Gartland and Gina Neff

Communication technologies increasingly mediate data exchanges rather than human communication. We propose the term data valences to describe the differences in expectations that people have for data across different social settings. Building on two years of interviews, observations, and participation in the communities of technology designers, clinicians, advocates, and users for emerging mobile data in formal health care and consumer wellness, we observed the tensions among these groups in their varying expectations for data. This article identifies six data valences (self-evidence, actionability, connection, transparency, “truthiness,” and discovery) and demonstrates how they are mediated and how they are distinct across different social domains. Data valences give researchers a tool for examining the discourses around, practices with, and challenges for data as they are mediated across social settings.

Disruption and the Political Economy of Biosensor Data.
2016, In Nafus, D. (Ed.) Biosensors in Everyday Life. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA.
Brittany Fiore-Gartland and Gina Neff

Impediment to insight to innovation: understanding data assemblages through the breakdown–repair process
2016, Information, Communication, and Society, 19(6), 736-752. DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2016.1153125
Anissa Tanweer, Brittany Fiore-Gartland, Cecilia Aragon

As the era of ‘big data’ unfolds, researchers are increasingly engaging with large, complex data sets compiled from heterogeneous sources and distributed across networked technologies. The nature of these data sets makes it difficult to grasp and manipulate their materiality. We argue that moments of breakdown – points at which progress is stopped due to a material limitation –provide opportunities for researchers to develop new imaginations and configurations of their data sets’ materiality, and serve as underappreciated resources for knowledge production. In our ethnographic study of data-intensive research in an academic setting, we emphasize the layers of repair work required to address breakdown, and highlight incremental innovations that stem from this work. We suggest that a focus on the breakdown–repair process can facilitate nuanced understandings of the relationships and labour involved in constituting data assemblages and constructing knowledge from them.

Material Challenges to Communication Research: Rethinking the Dynamic Roles of Materiality in Communication.
2014, In International Communication Association (ICA) 2013 Theme book.
Gina Neff, Brittany Fiore-Silfvast, and Carrie Sturts Dossick

User-Generated Warfare: A Case of Converging Wartime Information Networks and Coproductive Regulation on YouTube
2012, International Journal of Communication, Vol 6
Brittany Fiore-Silfvast

User-generated content-sharing (UGC) platforms, such as YouTube, emerged as venues for competing wartime information and images among military, insurgent, and civilian user groups during the Iraq War. This article introduces user-generated warfare (UGW) as a theoretical concept to articulate this phenomenon and consider its implications for reshaping wartime information networks and flows outside of formal institutions. It is a variant of “netwar” that further locates this generative user activity within the sociotechnical infrastructure of the UGC platform. The present analysis examines an instance of UGW that highlights how user agency is configured through the coproduction of affordance and constraint via the YouTube platform and within a communicative context in which wartime user networks are converging outside formal channels.

A Case Study of the Failure of Digital Communication to Cross Knowledge Boundaries in Virtual Construction
2010, Information, Communication & Society, Volume 13, Issue 4
Special Issue: Gauging and Debunking the Effects of ICTs: The third annual special issue of the iCS/communication and information technologies section of the American Sociological Association
Gina Neff, Brittany Fiore-Silfvast & Carrie Sturts Dossick

When can digital artefacts serve to bridge knowledge barriers across epistemic communities? There have been many studies of the roles new information and communication technologies play within organizations. In our study, we compare digital and non-digital methods of inter-organizational collaboration. Based on ethnographic fieldwork on three construction projects and interviews with 65 architects, engineers, and builders across the USA, we find that IT tools designed to increase collaboration in this setting instead solidify and make explicit organizational and cultural differences between project participants. Our study suggests that deeply embedded disciplinary thinking is not easily overcome by digital representations of knowledge and that collaboration may be hindered through the exposure of previously implicit distinctions among the team members’ skills and organizational status. The tool that we study, building information modelling, reflects and amplifies disciplinary representations of the building by architects, engineers, and builders instead of supporting increased collaboration among them. We argue that people sometimes have a difficult time overcoming the lack of interpretive flexibility in digital coordinating tools, even when those tools are built to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration.

Mobile video for patient education: The midwives’ perspective
Proceedings of the 3rd ACM Symposium on Computing for Development, January 11-12, 2013, Bangalore, India.
Fiore-Silfvast, B., Perin N., Iyengar K., Iyengar S., Anderson R., Hartung C., K. Israel-Ballard

This paper studies how nurse midwives used video on mobile phones to support patient education in a maternal and child health project in rural India.  The main goal of the study was to understand how the technology impacted the workflow of the nurses and to assess the acceptability of the use of video during patient encounters. The study was based on interviews of the midwives, observation of patient visits, and an analysis of logs from the mobile devices.  The overall results of the study were positive in the midwives acceptance of the use of mobile video as part of the workflow for post natal care examinations.  The use of video changed the process of patient education, in some cases making it a more focused activity.  The use of video also led to midwife multitasking, which was enabled by the technology.  The study suggests that the midwives felt that their authority was enhanced by the use of video.

The Changing Field of ICTD: Content analysis of published research, 2000-2010
2012, Proceedings of the Fifth International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development (ICTD), March 12-15, 2012, Atlanta, GA, USA
Gomez, R., Baron L. F. & Fiore-Silfvast, B.

In this study, we report the results of a content analysis of 948 papers from selected peer reviewed journals and conferences published between 2000 and 2010 in the academic literature on the interdisciplinary field of Information and Communication Technologies for Development (ICTD or ICT4D). Results indicate that the majority of the literature focuses on business and empowerment as the primary domains of ICTD work, and on ICT in general and on information systems as the most common technology objects of analysis, with a growing trend toward mobile phones. Furthermore, most of the literature consists of studies of individual countries or of organizations, and the most frequent contributions are field studies and best practices, with a growing trend towards contributing theory and policy recommendations. This is the first-ever comprehensive analysis of the ICTD literature across multiple sources over ten years; it offers important insights about the trends and directions of research in the ICTD field. Further analysis will explore additional dimensions, such as the goals of development, the relationship between ICT and society, and the epistemological stances in the research, in order to offer a better understanding of the changes over time and the differences across the different journals and conferences studied.

The Frictions and Flows of Data-Intensive Transformations: A Comparative Study of Discourses, Practices, and Structures of Digital Health in the U.S. and India
Dissertation, June 2014
Brittany Fiore-Silfvast