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Megan Finn

Assistant Professor of Informatics, University of Washington-Seattle Campus
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About Megan

Finn's research examines relations among institutions, infrastructures, and practices in the production, circulation, and use of information and data. Finn analyzes how these themes shape experiences of disaster in her first book, called Documenting Aftermath: Information Infrastructures in the Wake of Disasters, with MIT Press. Finn's newest projects examine ethical practice in information security research, and the impact of new technology policies (such as the EU GDPR and India's Right to Privacy) on personal data management from a transnational perspective. Finn's work brings together perspectives and approaches from information studies, science and technology studies, and the history of media, information, and communication. Throughout her research, Finn engages questions that require historical and contemporary analysis, including: How do changing technological infrastructures, information practices, and technology policies co-construct possibilities for living?


Documenting Aftermath: Information Infrastructures in the Wake of Disasters (MIT Press, October 2018).

Examines how changing public information infrastructures shaped people's experience of earthquakes in Northern California in 1868, 1906, and 1989. Analyzes the institutions, policies, and technologies that shape today's postdisaster information landscape and considers these historical moments comparatively.

"Information Infrastructure and Resilience in American Disaster Plans" in The Sociotechnical Constitution of Resilience: A New Perspective in Managing Risk and Disaster, edited by Sulfikar Amir (Palgrave MacMillan, 2018).

Examines what it means for contemporary disaster response plans to rearticulate sociotechnical repair activities within the paradigm of resilience.

"Information Determinism: The Consequences of the Faith in Information" (with Janaki Srinivasan and Morgan Ames). The Information Society 33, no. 1 (2017): 13-22.

Identifies and examines the assumption of information determinism that is commonplace in policy arenas: that mere access to the “right information” will precipitate desired actions.

"A Fundamentally Confused Document: Situation Reports and the Work of Producing Humanitarian Information" (with Elisa Oreglia). Proceedings of the 19th ACM Conference on Computer-Supported Cooperative Work & Social Computing (2016): 1349-1362.

Draws from document analysis and interviews with over one hundred people involved with producing and reading humanitarian situation reports. Examines humanitarian information labor in a decentralized, hierarchical, collaborative, political, and competitive work environment.

"The Limits of Crisis Data: Analytical and Ethical Challenges of Using Social and Mobile Data to Understand Disasters" (with Kate Crawford). GeoJournal 80, no. 4 (August 2015): 491-502.

Notes social media datasets have limitations that, if not sufficiently understood and accounted for, can produce specific kinds of analytical and ethical oversights. Analyzes some of the problems that emerge from the reliance on particular forms of crisis data. Suggests ways forward through a deeper engagement with ethical frameworks and a more critical questioning of what crisis data actually represents.

"Information Infrastructure and Descriptions of the 1857 Fort Tejon Earthquake" Information and Culture: A Journal of History 48, no. 2 (May 2013).

Notes Californians made sense of the largest earthquake in the state's history in 1857 without standardized timekeeping or modern scientific theories. Explains that descriptions and explanations of the earthquake that surfaced were shaped by and reflected the 1857 information infrastructure.