Biography

Kira Allmann is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Media Law and Policy at the Centre for Socio-Legal Studies. Her current research focuses on digital inequality — how the ubiquitous digitization of our everyday lives is leaving people behind and what people are doing to fix it at a grassroots level. As the internet becomes increasingly essential to the fulfillment of a well-rounded human life, exclusion from the internet due to lack of access or literacy exacerbates other forms of gender-based, racial, geographic, and socio-economic marginalization and disenfranchisement. As an anthropologist, Kira uses ethnographic methods with people who are closing the digital divide from the bottom up, in their communities. She runs two research projects: (1) understanding the human geography of community networks (internet networks owned and operated by local communities) and (2) examining the role of public libraries in providing free digital services. Her work aims at developing more human-centered approaches to and policies for access to technology. 

Kira is also the Communications Director at the Oxford Human Rights Hub and a research partner of the Whose Knowledge? campaign, which works to center the knowledge of marginalized communities on the web and raise awareness of the digital exclusions that keep the majority of the world from participating fully in digital knowledge creation and curation.

She completed her DPhil at the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar, where her dissertation focused on how mobility between online and offline spaces constituted a practice of resistance during and after the 2011 Egyptian revolution. Between 2011 and 2015, Kira conducted ethnographic research in Egypt, blending online and offline qualitative methods, to investigate how the use of digital technologies by Egyptian youth were transforming virtual and physical spaces in the city of Cairo. 

Education

DPhil, Oriental Studies (Islamic World), University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

MPhil (with Distinction), Modern Middle Eastern Studies, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

BA, Government and Linguistics, The College of William and Mary, Virginia, USA

Twitter: @KiraAllmann

 

Publications

Recent additions

  • K Allmann and Grant Blank, 'Rethinking digital skills in the era of compulsory computing: methods, measurement, policy and theory' (2021) Information, Communication & Society
    DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2021.1874475
    Around the world, digital platforms have become the first – or only – option for many everyday activities. The United Kingdom, for instance, is implementing a ‘digital-by-default’ e-government agenda, which has steadily digitized vital services such as taxes, pensions, and welfare. This pervasive digitization marks an important shift in the relationship between society and computing; people are compelled to use computers and the internet in order to accomplish the basic tasks. We suggest that this era of compulsory computing demands new ways of measuring and theorizing about digital skills, which remain a crucial dimension of the digital divide. In this article, we re-examine the theory and measurement of digital skills, making three contributions to understanding of how digital skills are encountered, acquired, and conceptualized. First, we introduce a new methodology to research skills: participant-observation of novices in the process of learning new skills along with interviews with the people who help them. Our ethnographically informed method leads us to a second contribution: a different theory of skills, which identifies three primary characteristics: (1) sequence, (2) simultaneity, and, most importantly, (3) path abstraction. Third, we argue that these characteristics suggest the need to change current ways skills are measured, and we also discuss the policy implications of this empirically informed theory.
  • S. Fredman, S. Atrey, K Allmann and M. Campbell, Gender Equality and COVID-19 (Submission to the UK Parliament Joint Committee on Human Rights 2020)

Journal Article (2)

K Allmann and Grant Blank, 'Rethinking digital skills in the era of compulsory computing: methods, measurement, policy and theory' (2021) Information, Communication & Society
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/1369118X.2021.1874475
Around the world, digital platforms have become the first – or only – option for many everyday activities. The United Kingdom, for instance, is implementing a ‘digital-by-default’ e-government agenda, which has steadily digitized vital services such as taxes, pensions, and welfare. This pervasive digitization marks an important shift in the relationship between society and computing; people are compelled to use computers and the internet in order to accomplish the basic tasks. We suggest that this era of compulsory computing demands new ways of measuring and theorizing about digital skills, which remain a crucial dimension of the digital divide. In this article, we re-examine the theory and measurement of digital skills, making three contributions to understanding of how digital skills are encountered, acquired, and conceptualized. First, we introduce a new methodology to research skills: participant-observation of novices in the process of learning new skills along with interviews with the people who help them. Our ethnographically informed method leads us to a second contribution: a different theory of skills, which identifies three primary characteristics: (1) sequence, (2) simultaneity, and, most importantly, (3) path abstraction. Third, we argue that these characteristics suggest the need to change current ways skills are measured, and we also discuss the policy implications of this empirically informed theory.
K Allmann, 'Mobile Revolution: Toward a History of Technology, Telephony and Political Activism in Egypt' (2015) CyberOrient
This article examines the use of everyday mobile technologies, and mobile telephony in particular, in political activism and protest during the 2011 Egyptian uprisings and throughout its continuing aftermath. The Arab revolutions have their own, now familiar, nomenclature, derived from the semantics of revolution and the digital age. Much of the language used to describe and analyze events in the Middle East has emphasized the “newness” of the technologies of protest and coordination and the uniquely 2.0 characteristics of these political movements. This article confronts this narrative, exploring the role of mobile telephony in Egypt during an ongoing period of political upheaval by moving away from the question of what is “new” or “revolutionary” toward what is ordinary put toward revolutionary ends. The article argues that the Arab Spring presents a crucial opportunity to interrogate and deconstruct the hybrid ecology of people and technological tools. By exploring several specific ways in which mobile telephony has played a role in the Egyptian revolution, this article demonstrates how a fixation on newness not only tells an incomplete story of this technologically mediated revolution but also undermines the ongoing practices of historicizing it.

Report (1)

S. Fredman, S. Atrey, K Allmann and M. Campbell, Gender Equality and COVID-19 (Submission to the UK Parliament Joint Committee on Human Rights 2020)

Internet Publication (7)

Other (1)

Review (1)

Centres

Research programmes

Research projects

Research Interests

  • Community internet networks
  • Autonomous infrastructure
  • Human rights in the information society
  • Environmental impact of digital technologies
  • Political economy of information and communication technologies (especially in the Middle East and North Africa)
  • Class and mobility between the online and the offline (especially in the Middle East and North Africa)
  • 2011 Egyptian revolution and counter-revolution

Events organised by Kira Allmann

Research projects