About me: Born and raised in London, I graduated with an undergraduate degree in Theology from Oxford in 2009. I went on to work in consultancy, focusing on data analytics and architecture across the education and insurance sectors. After six years in industry, I went on to study Digital Anthropology at UCL in 2016. My research studies there focused on the anthropology of data, technology and information – culminating in a dissertation that explored the ethical agency of data in the London Effective Altruist Community. Graduating in 2017 I went to work with UCL’s interdisciplinary Extreme Citizen Science group as research assistant, supporting with research management activities and winning £100,000 of EPSRC funding to launch a social enterprise out of their work. In my spare time, I enjoy cooking, running, amateur dramatics and music.
My research: I’m undertaking a multi-method ethnographic study of HPV vaccine hesitancy in Ireland. The term ‘vaccine hesitancy’ reflects the complexity of attitudes regarding vaccines; although it’s common to speak of the ‘anti-vaccination movement’ as a homogeneous bloc, there are a wide scale of attitudes when considering immunisation choices. Non-vaccinating parents are not necessarily opposed to vaccines so much as belief in individual responsibility for health outcomes, desire for ‘natural’ living and a mistrust of powerful institutions (be they public or private). Combined with the general difficulty of communicating relative risk, the role digital networks in both accelerating information diffusal and community building the issue is more complex than a simple ‘informational or educational deficit’. A video of Colombian girls suffering seizures following the administration of the HPV vaccine went viral on a global scale with significant consequences for vaccination rates (particularly in Japan, Denmark and Ireland). The key aim of my research is to gain a holistic understanding of the lives of vaccine-hesitant families through in-depth participant observation, social media analysis and quantitative survey work. The project is being run in collaboration with the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and ORB International, an specialist ethnographic research consultancy.
The difference my research makes: My hope is that my research can help articulate and address the anxieties of vaccine hesitant communities. Recent data that vaccination rates fluctuate at best and at worst decline, alongside a resurgence in preventable diseases. Yet regulatory and legal responses are characteristically blunt, focusing on securing compliance through castigation and exclusion. As well as informational counter-strategies, engagement with these individuals and groups on their own terms is critical for re-building trust in public institutions and healthcare professionals. Likewise, a close attention to the role of digital technologies is pertinent in considering the shifting informational politics in the era of ‘fake news’, ‘alternative facts’ and ‘post-truth’.
Location: UCL Anthropology