Skip to main content

Christo Sims

Associate Professor and Affiliated Faculty in Science Studies, Ethnic Studies, and Design Lab

I am an Associate Professor in the Department of Communication and an affiliated faculty member in Science Studies, Ethnic Studies, and the Design Lab at the University of California, San Diego. For the 2020-21 academic year, I was a Member of the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton.

Most broadly, my scholarship focuses on technology, design, and social inequities. I am currently working on a book about the social life of sustainable architecture. Previously, I studied the place of technology and design in American youth cultures and amongst educational reformers. Having worked as both an ethnographer and a designer, I am also interested in how ethnography and design play roles in the making of public life. In that vein, I am a founding member of both the Studio for Ethnographic Design at UCSD and the University of California Collaboratory for Ethnographic Design.

Prior to graduate school I worked in the field of user experience design, primarily for large not-for-profit organizations and in collaboration with the design consultancy Tellart. I received a B.A. from Bowdoin College in 2000 and a Master’s (2007) and Ph.D. (2012) from the University of California, Berkeley School of Information.


Disruptive Fixation: School Reform and the Pitfalls of Techno-Idealism. 2017. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. (Princeton Studies in Culture and Technology

Tom Boellstorff and Bill Maurer, Series Editors)

    • Winner of the 2018 Best Book Award from the Communication, Information Technologies, and Media Sociology (CITAMS) section of the American Sociological Association.
    • Reviewed in: Contemporary Sociology; Technology and Culture; Mind, Culture, and Activity; Learning, Media and Technology; Pedagogies; New Media & Society; Weekendavisen (Denmark); Transfers.

Digital Media and Technology in Afterschool Programs, Libraries, and Museums. 2011. The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Reports on Digital Media and Learning. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. (with Becky Herr-Stephenson, Diana Rhoten, and Dan Perkel)

Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: Living and Learning with New Media. 2010. Cambridge: MIT Press. (with Mizuko Ito, Sonja Baumer, Matteo Bittanti, danah boyd, Rachel Cody, Becky Herr-Stephenson, Heather A. Horst, Patricia G. Lange, Dilan Mahendran, Katynka Martinez, C.J. Pascoe, Dan Perkel, Laura Robinson, and Lisa Tripp)

    • Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out: 10th Anniversary Edition. 2019. Cambridge: MIT Press.


If you do not have access, please feel free to email me for pre-prints.

“Green Magic: On Technologies of Enchantment at Apple’s Corporate Headquarters.” 2022. Public Culture, 34(2).

“Living Theory: Gender Play and Learning to Live a Life Less Ordinary” in Gender Replay: Reflections on Youth, Feminism, and Schools. 2022. Oeur, F.O. and C.J. Pascoe (eds.). New York: NYU Press.

“Pedagogic Fixations” in The Digital Age and Its Discontents. 2020. Helsinki, Finland: Helsinki University Press.

“Learning, Technology, and the Instrumentalization of Critique” in The Anthropology of Technology: A Handbook. 2020. London: Palgrave.

“How Idealistic High-Tech Schools Often Fail to Help Poor Kids Get Ahead,” in Zócalo Public Square, June 13, 2019.

“Idealism” in Keywords for Ethnography & Design, a special issue of Theorizing the Contemporary, an editorially-reviewed online publication of the journal Cultural Anthropology. 2018.

“The Politics of Design, Design as Politics” in The Routledge Companion to Digital Ethnography. 2017. New York: Routledge. Download author’s pre-print

“From Differentiated Use to Differentiating Practices: Negotiating Legitimate Participation and the Production of Privileged Identities.” 2014. Information Communication & Society, 17(6), pp.670–682

“‘Video Game Culture,’ Contentious Masculinities, and Reproducing Racialized Social Class Divisions in Middle School.” 2014. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 39(4), pp.848–857.

“Is it Time to Rethink ‘Digital Inequality’ (Again)?” 2013. AoIR Selected Papers of Internet Research 14.0. Denver, CO: Association of Internet Researchers.

My teaching focuses on the social, political, and ecological aspects of technology and design. In all my classes, I direct attention toward the often quotidian ways in which persons, designed artifacts and environments, and historical structures make, sustain, and transform each other. Since coming to UCSD, I have developed and taught the following courses: undergraduate and graduate courses on “situated practices” (core theory classes required of all undergraduate majors and PhD students), intermediate and advanced undergraduate studio courses on critical design (developed with my colleague Lilly Irani), an undergraduate course on media technologies and social movements, an undergraduate seminar that uses speculative design to explore futures for public universities, and graduate practicums on intellectual craftwork and ethnographic practice.