Will Payne

Office: McCone 197 | Web: willbpayne.com | Email: willbpayne@berkeley.edu | Twitter: @willbpayne | GitHub: willbpayne

Research Interests: Urban Geography, Digital Humanities, Spatial Data Science, Critical GIS, Food Studies, Gentrification Studies

  • Ph.D. Candidate, UC Berkeley, Geography (with Designated Emphasis in New Media)
  • A.B., Harvard College, History and Literature

In my research, I use a mixture of qualitative and quantitative methods to study the interface between digital technologies and urban inequality, examining how changing technical capabilities, labor relations, and competitive pressures in the location-based services (LBS) sector interact with processes of racialized and class- based segregation in American cities since the early 1980s.

My dissertation, "Algorithmic Gentrification: Locating Value in Urban Information Systems," charts how decisions around the production and publication of amenity information tighten the links between critical evaluations of local businesses and the speculative value of nearby property. I examine how different groups of people use what I call “urban information systems” to organize and understand their consumption experiences in cities, and how technology companies and real estate investors employ their aggregated data to transform marginal neighborhoods into upscale consumption spaces. I focus on New York City and San Francisco as the primary laboratories for urban information systems in the United States, from the first analog “crowd-sourced” restaurant guide in the 1980s, New York’s Zagat Survey, to contemporary Silicon Valley mobile applications like Google Maps, Yelp, and Foursquare.  I am also designing open-source tools to help digitize semi-structured datasets and (with my Berkeley colleague Evangeline McGlynn) create spatial data visualizations with non-linear distance functions.

I am a Graduate Certificate student in the Global Urban Humanities (and a member of the initiative’s Student Advisory Board) and a member of the Designated Emphasis program in New Media through the Berkeley Center for New Media, where I also currently co-chair the New Media Working Group. I was the 2017-2018 Equity and Inclusion Foodscape Mapping Fellow through the UC Global Food Initiative and the Berkeley Food Institute, and a Global Urban Humanities-Townsend Fellow for 2019. I have presented my research at the "Feast and Famine" lecture series in New York University's Department of Nutrition and Food Studies, along with meetings of the North American Cartographic Information Society (NACIS) and the American Association of Geographers (AAG), the Graduate Association of Food Studies "Future of Food Studies" conference, the “From Prizes to Prices and Vice Versa” workshop series at the University of Bologna and the University of Warwick, and the Fordham Digital Scholarship Consortium's Mapping (In)Justice Symposium.

Selected publications:

  • Payne, Will and and David O’Sullivan. "Exploding the Phone Book: Spatial Data Arbitrage in the 1990s Internet Boom," Annals of the American Association of Geographers (2019), DOI: 10.1080/24694452.2019.1656999.