Laura Forlano, Ph.D.

Ph.D. Faculty Statement

My research is about 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. As a social scientist, from a theoretical perspective, my work integrates theories from communications, science and technology studies, urban informatics and design. For example, I rely on theories around the ritual view of communications, the social construction of technology, actor-networks, socio-technical systems, and values in design approaches in order to explain the relationships between people, technologies and places in urban and organizational settings. From a methodological perspective, my research is primarily ethnographic and qualitative in nature. In particular, my research engages themes related to digital materiality and socio-technical systems around emergent work practices such as mobile work and coworking. I am also interested in open source modes of production and user-driven innovation.

I am currently working on three main projects that represent my core research interests around emergent forms of organizing and urbanism. First, I am working on a project “Designing Digital Networks for Urban Public Space,” funded by the Urban Communication Foundation, which aims to understand the potential of urban technology for citizen engagement though the organization of a series of codesign workshops for policymakers. Second, “Design for Social Innovation,” in collaboration with the DESIS Lab at Parsons The New School, which investigates user-driven social innovation and the potential of regional social innovation economies through in-depth qualitative interviews in North Brooklyn. Third, “Design Collaborations as Socio-technical Systems,” funded by the National Science Foundation, which 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.