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Lilly Irani

Associate Professor

Broadly, my research investigates the cultural politics of high-tech work practices with a focus on how actors produce “innovation” cultures. I am an ethnographer of work trained to analyze interactional, organizational, and cultural dynamics as mediated by technology. I also draw on my training as a Computer Scientist and designer to develop novel technical, organizational systems for contexts I study. I specialize in the cultural politics of high-tech work in the context of South Asian development, as well global AI economies.

My book Chasing Innovation: Making Entrepreneurial Citizens in Modern India (Princeton University Press, 2019) explains the history and politics of rendering development as a call to entrepreneurship, and the pull and contradictions of this call to sort a nation into innovators and their others.

I also collaboratively design, build, and maintain software (Turkopticon, Dynamo) that intervenes, resists, or demonstrates alternatives to existing platforms. I sit on the AI Now Academic Council.

My work draws on and contributes to Science and Technology Studies, Human-Computer Interaction, and South Asia studies. I draw on experiences as a Computer Scientist for 10 years as both as a source of research problems and a source of insight on how technical practices are shaped by hierarchies of value, gender, race, and the cultural and economic project called ‘modernity.’

I serve on the editorial advisory boards of Design and Culture, New Technology, Work, and Employment, and Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience. My research has been funded by the Ford Foundation, Fulbright-Nehru Doctoral Fellowship, Open Society Foundation, National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, and NSF Virtual Organizations as Sociotechnical Systems Program.


Ph.D. Informatics (Feminist Emphasis), UC Irvine

M.S. Computer Science (Human-Computer Interaction), Stanford University

B.S. Computer Science, Stanford University



lirani (at)

MCC 103
Media Communication Building #0503
UC San Diego
9500 Gilman Dr.
La Jolla, CA 92093

Want to meet?

Office hours Spring 2019
MCC 103
Thursday, 1pm-2:30pm
Sign up for office hours or walk ins welcome but check link for canceled weeks

COMM 106 – Internet Industries (Intermediate Undergrad Elective) – A course emphasizing reading and digital writing, exploring how the political economy of the internet transforms the world of work and everyday life. Students write throughout the quarter, building up to a substantive intervention in Wikipedia’s coverage of the internet industries and their cultural implications.

COMM 124A – Critical Design Practice (Intermediate Undergrad Elective) – A project-based class on design as an occasion for politics — for making an issue out of something and bringing people into it. Students develop an on-campus intervention by the end of the quarter.

COGR 225B Science Studies Graduate Seminar: Colonialities, Circulations, and Technoscience (cross listed as HIGR 239, PHIL 209B, SOCG 255B) – This course explores Science Studies approaches to science and technology as global processes. We situate ourselves by beginning with debates about euro-centrism in Science Studies. We then trace debates through colonial, postcolonial, decolonial, transnational, area studies, and global approaches to Science Studies to show how these approaches bring new dimensions to our understanding of topics such as knowledge, nature, bodies, and technology.

COGR 275 – Design and Politics – Design is often thought of as political, or as related to politics. This course examines varied historical relations design has had to politics. We do so by while in view that the social categories of design and politics are themselves socially constructed, if materially consequential.


Irani, L. (2019) Chasing Innovation: Making Entrepreneurial Citizens in Modern India. Princeton University Press. Open Access Penultimate Proofs


Howard, D. and Irani, L. (2019) “Ways of Knowing When Research Subjects Care.” CHI 2019.

Irani, L. “Hackathons and the Cultivation of Platform Dependence.” In Digital Economies at the Global Margins (Mark Graham ed.). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Irani, L. (2019) “Design Thinking”: Defending Silicon Valley at the Apex of Global Labor Hierarchies.” Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience 4(1).

Silberman, M. and Irani, L. (2016) Operating an Online Reputation System: Lessons from Turkopticon: 2008-2015. Comparative Labor Law & Policy Journal.

Irani, L. and Silberman, M. (2016) Stories We Tell About Labor: Turkopticon and the Problem with ‘Design’. Proceedings of the 34th Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. ACM, 2016. (23% acceptance rate)

Irani, L. (2015) Hackathons and the Making of Entrepreneurial Citizenship. Science, Technology & Human Values. Available on Sage OnlineFirst.

Irani, L. (2015) Difference and Dependence Among Digital Workers: The Case of Amazon Mechanical Turk. South Atlantic Quarterly, 114(1).

Salehi, Niloufar, Irani, L., and Bernstein, M.S. We Are Dynamo: Overcoming Stalling and Friction in Collective Action for Crowd Workers. Proceedings of the 33rd Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems. ACM, 2015. (awarded honorable mention)

Irani, L. (2013) The Cultural Work of MicroworkNew Media and Society, 17(5), 720-739.

Irani-Silberman, S.L. (2013) Interrupting Invisibilities: Bridging WorldsUntitled. Special Mention for 2013 Hannah Arendt Prize in Critical Theory and Creative Research (juried)

Irani, L. and M.S. Silberman. (2013) Turkopticon: Interrupting Worker Invisibility in Amazon Mechanical Turk” Proceedings of CHI 2013, Apr 28-May 2, 2013. (20% acceptance rate, awarded best paper)

K. Philip, L. Irani, and P. Dourish. 2012. Postcolonial Computing: A Tactical Survey. Science, Technology, and Human Values, 27(1), 3-29.

L. Irani, P. Dourish, and M. Mazmanian. 2010. Shopping for Sharpies in Seattle: Mundane Infrastructures of Transnational Design. Proceedings of ICIC 2010, Aug 19-20, 2010. Copenhagen, Denmark. (39% acceptance rate, awarded best paper)

L. Irani, J. Vertesi, P. Dourish, K. Philip and B. Grinter. 2010. Postcolonial Computing: A Lens on Design and DevelopmentProceedings of CHI 2010, Apr. 10-15, 2010. Atlanta, GA. (22% acceptance rate)

L. Irani, R. Jeffries, and A. Knight. 2010. Rhythms and Plasticity: Television and Temporality in the Home in Personal and Ubiquitous Computing. Springer.

L. Irani and P. Dourish. 2009. Postcolonial Interculturality in Late Breaking Papers: International Workshop on Intercultural Collaboration, Feb. 20-21, 2009. Stanford, CA. (Awarded best short paper)

L. Irani, G. Hayes, and P. Dourish. 2008. Situated Practices of Looking: Visual Practice in an Online World in Proceedings of CSCW 2008, Nov. 8-12, 2008. San Diego, CA. (23% acceptance rate)

L. Irani. 2004. Understanding gender and confidence in CS course culture in Proceedings of ACM SIG Computer Science Education 2004. (28% acceptance rate)

E. Roberts, L. Irani, and M. Kassianidou. 2002. Encouraging women in computer science in Proceedings of ACM SIG Computer Science Education 2002.

Edited Volumes

Kelty, C., L. Irani and N. Seaver, eds. 2012. Limn: Clouds and Crowds. Createspace.

Book Chapters

Irani, L. 2012. “Microworking the Crowds” in Limn: Clouds and Crowds (eds. Kelty, Irani & Seaver), Seattle: Createspace and on web.

Additional Articles and Public Writing

Irani, L. 2015. Justice for “Data Janitors.” Public Books. Jan 15.
Irani, L., & Silberman, M. 2014. From critical design to critical infrastructure: lessons from turkopticon. interactions, 21(4), 32-35. [non-commercial use PDF]
Silberman, M. S., L. Irani, and J. Ross. Ethics and tactics of professional crowdworkXRDS 17(2): 39-43, 2010.

Other writing

Difference Engines is where I blog with others about technoculture, feminist theory, and the production of difference. As a blog, it is an experiment in collaborative knowledge production among feminist, critical race, and postcolonial studies of technoscience scholars often scattered all over the world.

Ambidextrous Magazine – I edited this magazine for researchers, academics, and designers about the people and processes of design from 2006 to 2008.