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Lindsay Poirier


  • Ph.D., Science and Technology Studies, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 2018
  • M.S., Science and Technology Studies, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 2015
  • B.S., Information Technology & Web Science (dual: Science, Technology, & Society) , Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 2012


Lindsay Poirier is a cultural anthropologist of data cultures, expertise, and infrastructure. Her work is informed by prior work in the history of computing and of technology, critical data studies, the digital humanities, Science and Technology Studies, and the technical field of information technology and web science. Interlacing training in both ethnography and computer science, Poirier critically examines datasets and data infrastructures as ethnographic artifacts, while she also theorizes and implements alternative data models and platforms. She is the lead platform architect for the Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography (PECE) – an open source digital humanities platform, which supports several international research projects, including The Asthma Files, the Disaster STS Network, and STS Infrastructures. She has also represented the “empirical humanities” (including the qualitative social sciences) in international efforts to support research data sharing. Finally, Poirier has worked with the civic technology community in New York City to advocate for data publishing practices, curriculum, and legislation that promote civic engagement with the city’s open data program.

Research Focus

Lindsay Poirier’s research examines the history, culture, and expertise of data infrastructure design work. She ethnographically studies communities that design standards for structuring, describing, and linking data. Her research questions how data infrastructure designers’ ideas about language (how meaning emerges, circulates, evolves, and corrodes) animate how they approach the design of data infrastructure. She examines how these ideas about language implicate how data infrastructure represents and orders information - foregrounding certain information, while marginalizing other information. She has conducted several oral history interviews with prominent figures in the Semantic Web and data science communities, and she has participated in and documented international workshops to design domain-specific data standards for government, non-profit, and research communities.

Poirier also works on a collaborative research project to theorize, design, and build digital infrastructure to support multi-sited, collaborative ethnographic research. She leads the platform architecture design for the Platform for Experimental and Collaborative Ethnography (PECE) - an open source digital system that supports the archiving of ethnographic materials, collaborative hermeneutic analysis of this data, and new experimental forms of publication. In this role, Poirier examines the assumptions and logics interwoven in the design of existing digital infrastructure and considers how they can be unsettled or ab-used to configure new experimental digital systems. Through her work on PECE, Poirier has become an advocate for international interdisciplinary research data sharing. She has led efforts within the Research Data Alliance to examine, characterize, and prioritize the infrastructural developments needed in anthropology and other related fields to ensure that ethnographic data can be responsibly preserved, protected, contextualized, and shared.

Selected Publications

2020 Jerome Crowder, Mike Fortun, Rachel Besara, and Lindsay PoirierAnthropological Data in the Digital Age: New Opportunities - New Challenges. Palgrave-Macmillan. doi: 10.1007/978-3-030-24925-0

2020 Lindsay Poirier, Kim Fortun, Brandon Costelloe-Kuehn, and Mike Fortun. “Metadata, Data Infrastructure, and the Data Ideologies of Cultural Anthropology.” In Anthropological Data in the Digital Age: New Possibilities, New Challenges. eds. Jerome Crowder, Mike Fortun, Rachel Besara, and Lindsay Poirier. Palgrave-Macmillan.

2019 Lindsay Poirier. "Classification as Catachresis: Double Binds of Representing Difference with Semiotic Infrastructure." Canadian Journal of Communication. 44, 3. 357-367.

2018 Lindsay Poirier. “Making the Web Meaningful: A History of Web Semantics.” Sage Handbook of Web History. SAGE Publications.

2018 Lindsay Poirier, Noel Hidalgo, and Emily Goldman. “Data Design Challenges and Opportunities for New York City Community Boards.” BetaNYChttps://beta.nyc/publications/data-design-challenges-and-opportunities-for-nyc-community-boards/

2017 Lindsay Poirier. “Thought Styles and Design Logics of Web Semantics: An Ethnographic Study of Web Architecture.” Web Sci ’17. Troy, NY. June.

2017 Laura Rabinow and Lindsay Poirier. “Mapping the Organized Ignorance of Data about Environmental Health Crises.” XRDS: Crossroads, The ACM Magazine for Students, 23, 3. 16-19. April. doi: 10.1145/3055147

2017 Lindsay Poirier. “Devious Design: Digital Infrastructure Challenges of Experimental Ethnography.” Design Issues, 33, 7. 70-83. Spring. doi: 10.1162/DESI_a_00440

2016 Kim Fortun, Lindsay Poirier, Alli Morgan, Brandon Costelloe-Keuhn, and Mike Fortun. “Pushback: Critical Data Designers and Pollution Politics.” Big Data and Society, 3, 2. September. doi:10.1177/2053951716668903


Lindsay Poirier teaches courses that unpack the socio-political contexts in which data is produced, manipulated, and consumed, while also introducing key concepts and techniques of data analysis, visualization, and stewardship. She also teaches courses that examine how cultural, social, and political forces shape the production of scientific knowledge and the public’s understanding of science.


2016 Rensselaer School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS) Fellowship

2016 Research Data Alliance Data Share Fellow

2013 Rensselaer Fellowship

2012 Rensselaer Founder’s Award for Excellence

2011 Gamma Nu Eta Honor Society

2011 Citation for Excellence, Web Science

2009 Rensselaer Medalist