The Active Citizen in the Digital Age: Getting Connected

March 6th, 2019 - 5:00 pm

Encina Hall, Bechtel Conference Center 616 Serra Street
Stanford , CA 94305


Democratic participation is increasingly entangled with access to a free and open internet. Yet for most of the world’s population, digital access remains expensive,  unreliable and limited. How are marginalized communities – across both the US and the Global South – organizing independent digital access for themselves? In this event, we’ll talk to two experts on connectivity and citizen-led efforts to create equal access to necessary digital resources. Tawana Petty is a researcher with the Detroit Community Technology Project, which brings together technologists, activists, and community members to notably build mesh wireless networks across Detroit. Jenna Burrell, an ethnographer and associate professor in the School of Information at UC Berkeley, has researched digital connectivity among marginalized populations, first in sub-Saharan Africa and, currently, in rural areas of California and Oregon. Toussaint Nothias is a postdoctoral fellow at the Digital Civil Society Lab whose research explores journalism, social media and civil society in Africa.

The Active Citizen in the Digital Age is an ongoing speaker series highlighting the range of ways people are using digital technologies to make a difference – politically, charitably, as volunteers, and with their career, consumer, and investing choices. 

Tawana “Honeycomb” Petty is a mother, social justice organizer, youth advocate, poet and author. She is the founder and director of Petty Propolis, where she gets to grow through organizing transformative art and education initiatives, including an annual Art Festival & Artist Retreat in Historic Idlewild, Michigan. Honeycomb is a four-time author and co-founder of Riverwise Magazine, Director of Data Justice Programming for the Detroit Community Technology Project, a member of the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition, a Detroit Equity Action Lab fellow, and a board member of the James and Grace Lee Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership. Honeycomb has been widely recognized for her social justice contributions. She is a past recipient of the Spirit of Detroit Award, the Woman of Substance Award, the Women Creating Caring Communities Award, the Detroit Awesome Award, the University of Michigan Black Law Student Association’s Justice Honoree Award, was recognized as one of Who’s Who in Black Detroit in 2013 and 2015, and was awarded the Wayne State Center for Peace and Conflict Studies Peacemaker Award in 2018. Learn more about Honeycomb at pettypropolis.org.  
Jenna Burrell is an Associate Professor in the School of Information at UC Berkeley. She is the co-director of the Algorithmic Fairness and Opacity Working Group. Her first book Invisible Users: Youth in the Internet Cafes of Urban Ghana (The MIT Press) came out in May 2012. She is currently working on a second book about rural communities that host critical Internet infrastructure such as fiber optic cables and data centers. She has a PhD in Sociology from the London School of Economics. Her research focuses on how marginalized communities adapt digital technologies to meet their needs and to pursue their goals and ideals.
Toussaint Nothias is a postdoctoral fellow at the Digital Civil Society Lab. He holds a PhD in Media and Communication from the University of Leeds. His research explores journalism, social media and civil society in Africa. In the past, he has conducted interviews among foreign correspondents to understand how the global image of Africa is produced. He has also done research with Kenyan journalists to examine their work practices and the impact of social media on their reporting of elections, terrorism, and the ICC investigation in Kenya. His postdoc fellowship project, titled Free Basics and the African Digital Civil Society, looks at the implementation of Facebook’s initiative to provide free Internet across various African countries, and its impact on local media production and civil society groups. The project engages a range of debates about digital advocacy and activism in the Global South, tech corporation’s investments in network infrastructures, net neutrality, civic engagement and social media platforms in authoritarian and semi-authoritarian contexts. In parallel, Toussaint is developing a sharable, open-source tool at the intersection of technology, journalism, and scholarship. The Africa Stereotype Scanner (ASTRSC) deploys digital technologies to scan for damaging stereotypes and implicit biases in reporting about Africa. In 2017, Toussaint organized the workshop “African Media Studies in the Digital Age” at Stanford, and in 2018 he received the Stuart Hall Award from the IAMCR for his work on Twitter in Kenya. 


  • 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm - Program
  • 6:00 pm - 6:30 pm - Q&A
  • 6:30 pm - 7:00 pm - Reception


  • Toussaint Nothias - Postdoctoral Fellow, Digital Civil Society Lab
  • Jenna Burrell - Associate Professor, School of Information, UC Berkeley
  • Tawana Petty - Data Justice Community Researcher, Detroit Community Technology Project