Paula Bialski

Paula Bialski

Research Project (Abstract)

Computer programming or coding involves subjective decisions – from when and how data is categorised, to how an interface is designed. This ethnographic research project tries to understand the life-worlds of programmers, arguing that programmers are an emerging social class who – with the knowledge to design, manoeuvre, and hack computer systems – hold the key to the back-doors of society. Moreover, they make decisions that shape the way in which society functions, in turn helping shape our social futures.

Since the invention of the personal computer in the 1970s, computers have become increasingly part of our daily practices, yet the majority of computer users still lack a basic understanding of who is shaping their reality and how they are doing so. Moreover, programmers themselves constantly have to re-negotiate and re-define their professions due to a rapid advancement of computing power and the shifting demands of the tech industry.

Based on an ethnographic study of programmer’s cultures in Silicon Valley and a 2-month organizational ethnography at a large corporate technology company in Berlin, this s research project aims to tell a story about the life-worlds of programmers today – how they innovate, the relationship to the machine, how they negotiate power.

Paula Bialski is an ethnographer of new media in everyday life. By looking at contexts of usage as well as production, she frames her research within cultural, social and media theory in general, and science and technology studies in particular. Since 2013 she is a research associate at the Digital Cultures Research Lab (DCRL), Centre for Digital Cultures, Leuphana Universität Lüneburg. Before she worked at the HafenCity Universität Hamburg and the Department of Cultural and Media Studies, Warsaw School of Social Sciences and Humanities (SWPS). In 2012, she completed her doctoral dissertation at the Department of Sociology at Lancaster University, later published as “Becoming Intimately Mobile,” (Peter Lang: 2012) that analyzes hospitality networks (, and ride-sharing websites ( in order to understand the relationship between new media, mobility and intimacy, trust, and strangerhood.


Her publications include:

Bialski, Paula. 2016. Train Ticket Sharing: Alternative Forms of Computing in the City. „Computing the City.“ The Fibreculture Journal Special Issue. (forthcoming).

Bialski, Paula. „On Knowing Too Much: Technologists’ Discourses Around Online Anonymity.“ In Non-Knowledge. Lüneburg: Meson Press, 2016 (forthcoming).

Bialski, Paula. „Mobility, Media, and the Experiencing of Airbnb’s Aesthetic Regime« Experiencing Networked Urban Mobilities“, in K. Petersen/E. Fjalland/M. Freudendal-Pedersen (Hg):. London: Springer, 2016 (forthcoming).

Bialski, Paula. „Home for Sale: How the Sharing Economy Commodifies our Private Sphere“ In A. Ince/S. Hall (Hg.): Sharing Economies in Times of Crisis: Practices, Politics and Possibilities. Frontiers in Political Economy. London: Routledge, 2016 (im Erscheinen).

Bialski, Paula. „Authority and Authorship: Uncovering the Socio-Technical Regimes of Peer-To-Peer Tourism“ in A. Russo/G. Richards (Hg.): Re-Inventing the Local In Tourism. Bristol: Channel View. pp. 35-49, 2016.

Paula Bialski/H. Derwanz/B. Otto/H. Vollmer (Hgs.). „Saving the City: Collective Low-Budget Organizing and Urban Practice“ ephemera: theory & politics in organization, 15(1), 1-19, 2015.

Bialski, Paula. „Online to Offline Social Networking: contextualizing sociality today through“ in D. Picard/S. Buchberger (Hg.):  CouchSurfng®: Tourism, Cosmopolitanism and Computer Mediated Hospitality in the Early 21st Century. London: Ashgate. pp. 161-172, 2012.

Bialski, Paula. Becoming Intimately Mobile. Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2012.

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