Welcome! My name is Gabriel Mugar and I am a researcher and activist working in Boston, Massachusetts. I work at the Emerson College Engagement Lab as a researcher and I am a research affiliate of the Berkman-Klein Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University. I completed my PhD at the Syracuse University School of Information Studies where my dissertation explored newcomer management tactics on digital participatory platforms and how newcomers negotiate these tactics.
My research on the experience of newcomers to digital participatory platforms is inspired by scholarship on the commons and collective action, which emphasizes the importance of participants sharing a clearly defined set of rules and norms. I situate my research at the intersection of Computer-Supported Cooperative Work and Science and Technology Studies (STS), which allows me to examine the tension between the forces that push for the stability of infrastructure and the needs of the user.
I primarily draw on ethnographic tools like participant observation and semi-structured interviews. Building on the findings from a small sample of users, I also collaborate with data scientists to run queries that examine how my findings generalize across the platform in question. I also use surveys methods to gather qualitative data about user activity on digital participatory platforms.
Prior to graduate school I was a segment producer for Current TV and founded Press Pass TV, a nonprofit that works with youth on the production of video news segments highlighting community organizing activity.
In addition to being my “home” on the web, this site is where I reflect on ideas, technologies, and examples that demonstrate the viability and value of commons based activity. Hess and Ostrom describe the commons as a resource shared by a group of people and the institutional frameworks that support the sustainable management and use of the resource. Salient examples of the commons include public space, agricultural collectives, and open source software production. In addition to reflecting on these examples, I am particularly interested in more latent examples of the commons, or what I like to call the commons all around us: latent physical and intellectual resources in local communities that are activated between individuals or groups in moments of need. Borrowing from Mel King who said that communities are only poor when they don’t realize the latent value that exists within them, I am interested in ideas, technologies, and people that work to draw out the latent and distributed resources that exist in all communities.