Current Research

WSeattle2I am currently working on two related initiatives. I co-direct the Relational Poverty Network (RPN) with Vicky Lawson, and in parallel we are conducting comparative research on middle class poverty politics in Buenos Aires and Seattle, with colleagues in Argentina. The RPN is a collaborative network (currently 60 social scientists at 30 institutions) focused on conceptual and methodological innovations in poverty research and education.  Relational approaches extend mainstream poverty analysis through an integrated focus on material relations, systems of rules that include and exclude, and the role of meanings and social boundaries in uniting or separating the poor and non-poor.  Funded by an NSF Research Coordination Network grant (2013-18), the RPN brings together scholars, educators, and practitioners to:

  • ‘scale up’ relational poverty research through international comparison and mixed methods
  • generate innovative pedagogies for teaching relational poverty
  • catalyze debate and discovery across mainstream and relational poverty scholarship

My ongoing research with Vicky Lawson, Santiago Canevaro (CONICET, Argentina) and Nicolas Viotti (CONICET, Argentina) studies the shifting social relationships and poverty politics between middle classes and poorer groups. Our comparative work in Seattle and Buenos Aires examines interactions between middle and poorer groups in mixed income residential neighborhoods to better explain how and why they tend to promote inclusion and alliances versus exclusion and conflict. Understanding how, where, and when cross-class interactions produce oppositional or solidaristic poverty politics is a pressing question, as economic transformations deepen poverty and middle class vulnerability in some parts of the world, while spurring the emergence of a ‘new middle class’ in other places.


Prior Research


Mapping Youth Journeys (2009-2013) This project (with Katharyne Mitchell, Tricia, Ruiz, Ryan Burns, and Elyse Gordon; supported by the National Geographic Education Foundation and the Spencer Foundation), studied the forms of collaborative learning and civic engagement that can be fostered through the use of interactive geo-technologies in formal and informal educational settings. As part of this action research project, we developed and piloted an open-source mapping platform and interactive place-based teaching and learning activities with teachers and students at two Seattle middle schools. Publications from this project advance scholarship on neogeography, democracy, digital education, and children’s politics,



Volunteered Geographic Information: Quality, Applications, Societal Implications (2009-2013) This NSF-supported project (with Mike Goodchid/UC-Santa Barbara and Dan Sui/Ohio State) studied the scientific and societal implications of the vast volumes of online geographic content emerging from the use of interactive web-based technologies that enable collection, compilation, mapping, and dissemination of spatial data by citizens in their everyday lives. This project was the first to systematically study the content and reliability of this new form of spatial data, develop methodologies for working with VGI, and begin to document its societal implications. As part of the UW contribution to this multi-site collaboration, Agnieszka Leszczynski and I examined transformations in privacy, surveillance, activism/civic engagement, and visual epistemologies emerging through VGI and the geoweb.



Community-Based GIS: Transforming the Politics of Place (2003-2010) This research, education and community outreach project involved two Chicago community development organizations, and was supported by an NSF CAREER grant. We examined community-based organizations’ GIS-based data and maps of neighborhood needs, resources, and conditions; and their use of this spatial knowledge in local political processes that shape their neighborhoods. This project advanced urban geography research on the ways that civil and state actors use spatial technologies to negotiate agency and authority in their efforts to transform urban spaces. For critical GIS scholarship, it offered more nuanced theorizations of the social and political implications of GIS. We are most proud of our efforts to create sustainable models for GIS teaching and learning through university-community partnership.



Qualitative GIS: A Mixed Methods Approach (2009) This co-edited book (with Meghan Cope, University of Vermont) develops a conceptual framework to support diverse and creative forms of qualitative GIS in research. Qualitative dimensions of geographic phenomena, their relationships, and their meanings can be produced and negotiated at many different moments in the creation and use of a GIS: In spatial data, in data structures, in spatial analysis techniques, and in maps and other visual/textual representations. The book profiles qualitative GIS advances from scholars who pioneered the subfield and from its newest contributors. 

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