Laura Forlano is a tenure-track assistant professor of design at the Institute of Design at Illinois Institute of Technology. In 2012-2013, she was a visiting scholar in the comparative media studies program at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her research is on emergent forms of organizing and urbanism enabled by mobile, wireless and ubiquitous computing technologies with an emphasis on the socio-technical practices and spaces of innovation. She is co-editor with Marcus Foth, Christine Satchell and Martin Gibbs of From Social Butterfly to Engaged Citizen: Urban Informatics, Social Media, Ubiquitous Computing, and Mobile Technology to Support Citizen Engagement, which was published by MIT Press in 2011. Forlano’s research and writing has been published in peer-reviewed journals includingThe Information Society, Journal of Community Informatics, IEEE Pervasive Computing, Design Issues and Science and Public Policy. She has published chapters for books including editor Mark Shepard’s Sentient City: Ubiquitous Computing, Architecture, and the Future of Urban Space (MIT Press 2011) and The Architecture League of New York’s Situated Technologies pamphlet series and is a regular contributor to their Urban Omnibus blog.

One of Forlano’s current projects, “Designing Digital Networks for Urban Public Space,” in collaboration with Anijo Mathew (IIT) is focused on the use of urban technology for citizen engagement. Another project, “Design Collaborations as Sociotechnical Systems,” which was funded by the National Science Foundation, is an international comparative study that focuses on the role of technology in supporting networks of designers in New York, Barcelona and Brisbane. Forlano was part of a collaborative project “Breakout! Escape from the Office” that was included in The Architecture League of New York’s Toward the Sentient City exhibition in 2009. Forlano received her Ph.D. in Communications from Columbia University in 2008.

Past Speaking Engagements

Information Technologies and Labour Market Disruptions: A Cross-Atlantic Dialogue
March 20-21, 2014 – NYC, NY | More information

Laura Forlano publications Making Waves: Urban Technology and the Co-Production of PlaceWifi Geographies: When Code Meets Place were featured and panel videos are available to view here.

Arguing Through Artifacts: Lessons from the Designing Policy Project
March 4, 2014 – NYC, NY | More information

Laura Forlano presented at a seminar hosted by dtech, an organization bringing together Design and Human-Computer Interaction in New York City.

Making Cultures: Building Things & Building Communities
February 15-19, 2014 – Baltimore, MD | More information

The Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (CSCW 2014) featured Laura Forlano as a panelist.

Conceptualizing Cyber-Urban Connections in Asia and the Middle East
January 23-24, 2014 | More information

At an event organized by Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore, Laura Forlano will present “Towards an Integrated Theory of the Cyber-Urban”.

American Anthropological Association
November 21-24, 2013 – Chicago, IL | More information

“Design and Material Practices” Panel Organizer
Presenting Emergent Socio-technical Practices in Design Work: Co-constructing Digital Materiality

Association of Internet Researchers Conference
October 23-26, 2013 – Denver, CO | More information

Presenting Resisting and Remaking the Smart City and the “Internet of Things”

Society for the Social Studies of Science Annual Meeting
October 8-12, 2013 – University of California at San Diego, CA | More information

“From Hobby to Science Work” series of three panels on the culture and politics of professionalized DIY making co-organized with Silvia Lindner and Carl DiSalvo
Presenting Codesigning Technoscience: Reflections on a Digital STS Workshop with Yanni Loukissas
Presenting Globally Local, Digitally Material and the Amateur Professional: Hacking Hybrid Socio-Technical Cultures with Kat Jungnickel

digitalSTS and Design Workshop
June 27-28, 2013 – Arnold Arboretum, Boston, MA | More information
Organized by Yanni Loukissas, Laura Forlano, David Ribes and Janet Vertesi

Communication and the City: Voices, Spaces, Media
June 14-15, 2013 – University of Leeds, Leeds, UK | More information

Codesigning Urban Communication: Emerging Methods for Understanding the Role of Media and Technology in Cities with Anijo Mathew

Symposium on Urban Informatics: Exploring Smarter Cities
June 11, 2013 – Drexel University, Philadelphia, PA | More information

Designing Policy for Urban Informatics with Anijo Mathew, Panel on Citizen Participation

May 3-5, 2013 – University at Buffalo, The State University of New York | More information

At the fourth, which reflects on pluralities and globalities, assistant professor Laura Forlano will participate in the “Media Geographies: Object / Matter” Panel Saturday, May 4, 2013 at 2:30pm.

Designing Policy Workshop
April 26, 2013 – Boston, MA

Organized by Laura Forlano and Anijo Mathew, funded by the Urban Communication Foundation.

Research Areas

  • Urban Informatics (the role of communication technology in enabling emergent forms of collaboration and innovation in cities)
  • Emergent Work Practices (the role of communication technology in enabling emergent forms of organizing, collaborating and innovating in work settings such as, for example, mobile work and design work)
  • New Innovation Spaces (the role of communication technology in enabling emergent spaces of innovation such as, for example, public spaces, coworking communities, media labs and hackerspaces)

Current Affiliations

  • Visiting Scholar, Comparative Media Studies Program and Civic Media Lab, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • Fellow, Urban Communication Foundation
  • Visiting Fellow, Information Society Project, Yale Law School Information Society Project (ISP)

Current Projects

Designing Digital Networks for Urban Public Space (funded by the Urban Communication Foundation)
June 2012-present
This project aims to understand the potential of urban technology for citizen engagement though the organization of a series of codesign workshops for policymakers.

Design for Social Innovation (in collaboration with the DESIS Lab’s Rockefeller-funded project “Amplifying Creative Communities” at Parsons The New School)
January 2010-present
This project investigates user-driven social innovation and the potential of regional social innovation economies through in-depth qualitative interviews in North Brooklyn.

Networking Social Innovation in Urban Areas (funded by the Fulbright NEXUS program)
April 2011-April 2012
This project explores the role of media labs and coworking in supporting emergent forms of organizing and collaborating in partnership with the Centre for Social Innovation and Thing Tank in Toronto, Canada.

An App From the Tree (funded by the Fulbright Canada Eco-Leadership program)
December 2011-present
Networked Objects, Spring 2012
Alison Tisza, Diego Bernardo, Douglas Radecki, Jared Bryll
This project, a collaboration with Toronto-based non-profit fruit harvesting project Not Far From The Tree, is leveraging mobile technology and mapping platforms to support fruit harvesting.

Design Collaborations as Socio-technical Systems (funded by the National Science Foundation)
January 2010-August 2012
This project is a two-year study of the role of technology in collaboration among designers through interviews and participant observation in New York, Toronto, Barcelona and Brisbane. The key themes that have emerged from of this research include: digital materiality, critique as collaboration, designers as changemakers and networked design practice.

When Code Meets Place (with support from Microsoft Research, the National Science Foundation, the Urban Communication Foundation, the NET Institute, ISERP at Columbia University and the American Council on Germany)
January 2006-October 2008
This project analyzed the intersection of social practices, emergent forms of organizing and new technology in urban contexts. Specifically, the project studied the creation and use of wireless networks by activists and mobile workers at cafes, parks and public spaces in New York, Budapest, Berlin and Montreal.

Breakout! Escape from the Office (funded by The Architectural League of New York)
October 2008-October 2009
This was a collaborative team project for the Situated Technologies: Towards the Sentient Cities exhibition, which took place in Fall 2009. In addition to the exhibition, which included plans for physical and digital infrastructure to support collaboration, we organized over 20 coworking and codesign events in parks and public spaces throughout New York City.

From the Digital Divide to Digital Excellence (funded by the Social Science Research Council)
June 2008-January 2011
This project resulted in a report on global best practices for community and municipal wireless networks for the New America Foundation.

Selected Publications

Birnholtz, J., Forlano, L., Yuan, Y. Connie, Rizzo, J., Liao, K., Gay, G. and Heller, C. “One University, Two Campuses: Initiating and Sustaining Research Collaborations Between Two Campuses of a Single Institution.” iConference 2012, Toronto, Canada.   Forlano, L. (forthcoming 2013). “Making Waves: Wireless Technology and the Co-production of Place.” First Monday, Special Issue on “Media and the City.”

Forlano, L. (2009). WiFi Geographies:  When Code Meets Place. The Information Society, 25: 1-9.

Forlano, L. and D. Dailey. (2008). Community Wireless Networks as Situated Advocacy. In Omar Khan, Trebor Scholz and Mark Shepard, eds. Situated Advocacy. Situated Technology Pamphlet Series, New York: The Architectural League of New York.

Forlano, L. (2008). Anytime? Anywhere?: Reframing Debates Around Municipal Wireless Networking. Journal of Community Informatics, 4(1).

Foth, M. and Laura Forlano, Martin Gibbs and Christine Satchell.  (2011). From Social Butterfly to Engaged Citizen: Urban Informatics, Social Media, Ubiquitous Computing, and Mobile Technology to Support Citizen Engagement.  Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Halpern, M., Erickson, I., Forlano, L. and Gay, Geri. “Designing Collaboration: Comparing Cases Exploring Cultural Probes as Boundary-Negotiating Objects.” Computer Supported Collaborative Work 2013, San Antonio, TX.

Penin, L., Forlano, L., and Staszowski, E. Designing in the Wild: Amplifying Creative Communities in North Brooklyn. Cumulus 2012, Aalto University, School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Helsinki, Finland.

Townsend, A., Forlano, L. and Simeti, A. (2011). Breakout! Escape from the Office: Situating Knowledge Work in Sentient Public Spaces. In M. Shepard (Ed.), Sentient City. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.