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Assistant Professor of Instruction
321 Gladfelter Hall
1115 W. Berks St.


Critical data/technology studies, Geoweb, Digital humanitarianism, GIS/visualization, Emergency management, Political economy, Urban theory, Poverty/inequality


I am a geographer whose work straddles the boundary between GIScience and human geography. I am fascinated by the social, political, and urban transformations arising from shifting data and digital labor practices in humanitarian and emergency management, especially as they have emerged in the phenomenon called “digital humanitarianism”. Digital humanitarianism is seen in web mapping initiatives such as OpenStreetMap and Ushahidi, in which large numbers of geographically-disparate lay volunteers collaboratively produce, process, and map humanitarian data. Lately, I have also been drawn to critical data and technology studies, Big Data, and software studies. Technology and data play central roles in everyday (as well as exceptional!) geographies, and my research is oriented toward understanding the impacts of this mutual imbrication.

Selected Publications

In press

  • Burns, Ryan, D. Meek. Introduction: The Politics of Knowledge Production in the Geoweb. ACME: An International E-Journal for Critical Geographies.


  • Burns, Ryan. Synergizing Geoweb and Digital Humanitarian Research. In Thatcher, J., A. Shears, J. Eckert (eds.), The Geoweb and Geography: (Re)Thinking Research in the Advent of Big Data. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.
  • 2015, Schwartz, B., B. Tellman, R. Burns, C. Andersson. Big Data, Satellites, and Disaster Monitoring. In UN Human Development Report 2015. Incorporated into Global Sustainable Development Report.
  • 2014, Burns, Ryan, J. Thatcher. Guest Editorial: What’s So Big about Big Data? Finding the Spaces and Perils of Big Data. GeoJournal.
    2014. Burns, Ryan. Rethinking Big Data in Digital Humanitarianism: Practices, Epistemologies, and Social Relations. GeoJournal. (last accessed 10/15/2014).
  • 2014, Burns, Ryan. Moments of Closure in the Knowledge Politics of Digital Humanitarianism. Geoforum 53 (2): 51-62.
  • 2013, Shanley, Lea, R. Burns, Z. Bastian, E. Robson. Tweeting Up a Storm: The Promise and Perils of Crisis Mapping. Photogrammetric Engineering & Remote Sensing 79 (10): 865-879.
  • 2013, Burns, Ryan, A. Skupin. Towards Qualitative Geovisual Analytics: A Case Study Involving Places, People, and Mediated Experience. Cartographica 48(3): 157-176.

Courses Taught

  • Digital Mapping
  • Fundamentals of GIS