portrait of Ella McPherson

Ella McPherson is Associate Professor in the Sociology of New Media and Digital Technology at the University of Cambridge, where she also co-directs the Centre of Governance and Human Rights.  Her work is concerned with struggles over media and technology, particularly with respect to the construction of truths and the pursuit of good lives.

As a Harvard Carr Center Human Rights and Technology Fellow, Ella will be working with Sharath Srinivasan and Sebastián Lehuedé on a collaborative project: ‘Provocations for Human Rights Practitioners: Technology, Power and Voice’.  These provocations unsettle the increasing taken-for-grantedness of orthodox actors, norms and practices at the rapidly-developing intersection of technology and human rights – an intersection that often favours the ways of technology companies at the expense of civil society organisations. In so doing, these provocations will create opportunities for reflection and equal collaboration in the co-construction of technologies and knowledge among human rights practitioners, civic activists and technologists.

This collaboration draws in part on praxis research Ella does through The Whistle, an academic start-up she founded that supports the use of digital data in justice and solidarity projects, including the End Everyday Racism project at Cambridge.  The Whistle is part of Ella’s autoethnographic study of human rights fact-finding in the digital age, funded by the ESRC and the EC’s Horizon 2020 programme.  This research explores how truth-claims are created, evaluated and contested, as well as what effects related norms and practices have on equal access to voice in public and on opportunities to create solidarity.  

Earlier in 2022, Ella was a Cambridge Early Career Fellow at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, where she developed a new project on ‘Neo-Luddism in the Digital Age: Resisters, Quitters, Destroyers and Visionaries against Contemporary Technologies’.  Ella has also worked in collaboration with policy-makers, such as when she was Special Adviser to the House of Lords’ Digital and Communications Committee for their Freedom of Expression Online Inquiry and when her team at The Whistle built the Human Rights Digital Toolkit with the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  She has published widely on the interplay between human rights, media and technology, including in the American Behavioral Scientist and the Journal of Human Rights.