Asvatha Babu is a PhD candidate at American University’s School of Communication and a Doctoral Researcher at the Internet Governance Lab, studying emerging technologies and new media. She is interested in critically examining the construction of cutting-edge technologies as solutions to complex social and humanitarian problems, particularly in India. Her proposed dissertation examines the development and deployment of facial recognition technology for surveillance and social control in Chennai, India.
As a doctoral candidate, she has conducted research critically analyzing mainstream narratives of technology (including facial recognition, blockchain, and geo-engineering technologies), the technological regulation of free expression in India, and the use of public libraries for inclusive access to technology in the United States. Her paper studying mainstream news coverage of blockchain in the US won a Student Paper Award at the 2020 TPRC conference to be held in Washington, DC. Her other work has been accepted for publication at international conferences such as the Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR), and 4S/EASST. As an independent researcher, she has worked on projects studying cybersecurity issues in the human rights community (for Internews Network), the inclusiveness and accessibility of global internet governance organizations, and the inclusion of people with disabilities in governance and democracy. She was formerly a Research Fellow at the Blockchain Trust Accelerator at New America where she examined the proposed uses of blockchain technology for social impact and governance.
She has taught undergraduate students at American University as a Teaching Assistant and Guest Lecturer. She has also provided Research Assistance to Dr. Laura DeNardis, an expert on internet architecture and governance, and Dr. Saif Shahin, a scholar specializing in critical data studies, digital culture, global media and politics, and media sociology. She has also worked as a Research Associate at the Institute on Disability and Public Policy, and interned at the Center for Internet and Society in Bangalore, India, the Atlantic Council’s Cyber Statecraft Initiative and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation in Washington, DC. She has a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from MOP Vaishnav College in Chennai, India and a Master of Arts in International Communication from the School of International Service at American University where she focused on cybersecurity and technology policy.