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My research focuses on digital information access and usage, particularly in poor and working class communities. My research interests include the intersection of media and social justice issues; information access and policy; digital inequality; online labor; and, urban ethnography.


My federally funded dissertation is entitled, “Liquid Labor, Precarious Lives: An Urban Ethnography of Online Work and Digital Inequality.” This ethnography follows the economic lives of participants in Philadelphia’s KEYSPOT project, a network of digital access and skills programs funded by the U.S. Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP). As low-income job seekers faced impediments to locating good formal sector jobs, some embraced informal sector work, promoting services like modeling or caricature drawing, or selling digital goods like e-books. I argue that the rise and frequency of these flexible, informalized arrangements signals a radically changing relationship between technology, capital and labor in the wake of neoliberalism and policies of retrenchment. I suggest bringing the digital divide and digital labor literature into conversation to better conceptualize a new urban working class.

Most broadly, my goal as a scholar is to produce critical academic research that can influence media policy and also bring attention to social justice issues. ​

















Presentation of "Liquid Labor, Precarious Lives: An Urban Ethnography of Online Work and Digital Inequality"

Academic Publications 

Crowell, J.K. & Wolfson, T. (2018, Under Revision). Broadband adoption and the urban technosocial infrastructure. 

Bach, A., Wolfson, T. & Crowell, J.K. (2018). Poverty, literacy, and social transformation: An interdisciplinary exploration of the digital divide. Journal of Media Literacy Education, 10(1), 22 - 41. Retrieved from


Wolfson, T., Crowell, J.K. & Reyes, C. & Bach, A. (2017). Emancipatory adoption: Towards a critical theory of broadband adoption and the digital divide. Communication, Culture & Critique.doi: 10.1111/cccr.12166


McCollough, K., Crowell, J.K. & Napoli, P.M. (2016). Portrait of the online local news audience. Digital Journalism. doi: 10.1080/21670811.2016.1152160



Sample Conference Papers

Crowell, J.K. (2016, November). Embracing or resisting the digital sublime: The Broadband Technology Opportunities Program in Philadelphia. Conference paper presented to the National Communication Association. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 


Crowell, J.K. (2015, May). Liquid labor: Women and informal work in the modern informational city.Conference paper presented to the International Communication Association. San Juan, Puerto Rico.​

Sample Policy and Impact Research

I have extensive policy and research grant experience and have collaborated with both government and nonprofit organizations. My most recent partnership is an article on using qualitative research to better understand news audiences sponsored by the Local News Lab at the Democracy Fund.

I previously produced a policy recommendation for the New Jersey Office of Information Technology on best practices for broadband training programs. An abstract of that document is available here.

I also collaborated with the Philadelphia Freedom Rings Partnership for two years via the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) collecting ethnographic data on broadband training programs. A link to the final report provided to BTOP and the National Telecommunications & Information Administration (NTIA) is available here via the Urban Affairs Coalition

Sample Popular Press

I have also contributed some popular media articles on the intersection of media studies and critique. For example, you can find my New York Times piece critiquing "The Avengers" here.


T: 845-257-3462


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© 2019 by Jessica Crowell