Dr Powell’s book Undoing Optimization: Civic Action and Smart Cities is published by Yale University Press. This book argues that ‘techno-systemic frames’ of urban smartness shape not only commercial and government interventions but also configure citizen responses. In big data optimized cities, citizenship performs to techno-systemic norms. The book not only provides an historically-grounded critique of smart-city optimization, it also outlines the roots of some new ethics and practices that might transform it.
Her past research projects have looked at community wireless networking and its policy impact, digital rights activism in comparative perspective (including Net Neutrality and the opposition to SOPA and ACTA legislation) and the expansion of open source, DIY and hacking culture from software to hardware to open science. She is a sought-after commentator and collaborator on the civic and governance implications of smart cities and technology ethics more broadly.
Current research projects
Dr Powell is Director of the JUST AI project, supported by the AHRC and in partnership with the Ada Lovelace Institute. JUST AI is a humanities-led network inviting new ways of thinking about data and AI ethics through:
· Understanding the field with the help of multi-disciplinary mapping
· Intervening in targeted ways to explore emerging challenge areas
· Facilitating networking and connections to support diverse voices and perspectives
As part of this project Dr. Powell is convening working groups on Ethics in Practice, AI and Climate Emergency, and JUST AI also hosts a Fellowship program focusing on racial justice in relation to data and AI ethics.
Dr. Powell also works on other research projects, including a project on explanation as governance in complex systems and another on the concept of ‘repairable AI’.
Research associations and past projects
Dr Powell led the LSE research team for the project Values and Ethics in Innovation for Responsible Technology in Europe (VirtEU), funded by the EU H2020 programme from 2017-2020; and was Principal Investigator of Understanding Automated Decisions, funded by the Open Society Foundations from 2018-2019. She was an associated researcher with the artistic research project Museum of Contemporary Commodities in 2018. From 2011-2014 she was a member of the European Network of Excellence in Internet Science. In this project she studied open source hardware licensing and governance.
From 2008-2010 she was a postdoctoral fellow at the Oxford Internet Institute, supported by the Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council.
She has collaborated broadly with artists and community organisations throughout her career.
Dr Powell is currently interested in projects and partnerships that investigate data and AI ethics in its broadest sense, justice and inequality in socio-technical systems (especially climate justice), and creative or design-led research, especially in partnership with arts or community organizations.