PhD students at work in GeoThink – Harrison Smith

Read Harrison’s biography at I am a third year PhD student at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Information (

My research is broadly oriented around geo-locative social media and consumer surveillance to theorize new practices of social sorting and digital discrimination within mobile and cartographic information infrastructures. My PhD thesis specifically researches geo-locative and mobile based dating services due to their significant investment in collecting and analyzing personal information, as well as their emphasis on creating affective relationships with surveillance databases. I have worked as a research assistant broadly situated within political economy and surveillance studies. For this project I will be researching the political economy of the geoweb under the direction of Dr. Leslie Regan Shade. This project research will focus on the institutional forces and power relations at play within geoweb infrastructures. The forces and relations will show up largely through understanding the processes of ownership, control and labour, as well as considering alternate forms of geoweb applications that might transcend private sector models. I am very excited to be part of this project, and hope to continue researching mobile and geoweb infrastructures as a core part of my academic research interests.

Admin Note: This research is in Theme 6, the political economy ( of the geoweb, but you can see many of our themes will overlap. Harrison’s research will have aspects related to Theme 3, on law and public policy related to the geoweb, especially where it concerns privacy. It is difficult to talk about the political economy without acknowledging the huge privacy implications of placing so much of our personal information on the web and being able to mine that and other datasets. This is a challenge to be faced by society at large and for governance at all levels of government. We’d appreciate your thoughts on this research and would welcome your participation. Please email harrison [dot] smithatmail [dot] utoronto [dot] ca or leslie [dot] shade [at] utoronto [dot] ca.