Dr. Gwen Shaffer

Gwen Shaffer

Dr. Gwen Shaffer’s telecommunications policy research examines the complex nature of social exclusion in the informational age, with a focus on broadband access and data privacy. Shaffer also chairs the City of Long Beach’s Technology and Innovation Commission (TIC).

Shaffer and a collaborator recently wrapped up a project that included interviews with about 80 cell-mostly internet users. The research findings shine light on a serious problem of digital life—the inequities exacerbated by data insecurity and algorithmic bias that are experienced by all individuals but are more salient among those living in economic precarity. The Media, Inequality and Change Center (MIC Center) housed at the University of Pennsylvania funded the research and published this white paper and policy recommendations. The Philadelphia Inquirer ran an op-ed that Shaffer and her co-author wrote about potential implications of their study findings.

Currently, Shaffer is partnering with the City of Long Beach on a data privacy study. The research aims to provide insights into residents’ understanding of what it means to live in a “smart” city. Ultimately, the findings will inform the TIC’s efforts to develop data privacy-protection tools the city of Long Beach can implement. METRANS Transportation Center is funding a related study Shaffer is conducting with two faculty in the College of Engineering. That project examines personal data collected specifically by “intelligent” traffic signal controllers at busy intersections near the Port of Long Beach.

In January 2018, Long Beach City Council voted to create a “digital inclusion road map.” Along with colleagues on the TIC and city staff, Shaffer wrote and disseminated a survey and facilitated community conversations. In January 2019, the TIC released a digital inclusion report that includes actionable policy recommendations based on the study findings. That report is now integral to Long Beach’s efforts to connect marginalized residents.

Shaffer’s articles have been published in the Journal of Information Policy; Media, Culture & Society; First Monday; the Association for Computing Machinery’s Transactions on Internet Technology; and the Journal of Peer Production, among other journals. The National Science Foundation and the John Randolph and Dora Haynes Foundation have funded her research.

Shaffer’s research directly informs her teaching. In JOUR 360/Culture and Politics of the Internet students consider the economic, legal and networking aspects of prominent policy issues. Students engage in critical debate about how to regulate technologies integral to their daily lives.

Prior to attending graduate school, Shaffer worked as a reporter for more than a dozen years. She covered local politics for the Philadelphia City Paper and Philadelphia Weekly, and was an editorial assistant at National Public Radio in Washington, D.C. Her freelance articles have been published in The New Republic, Columbia Journalism Review, The Nation, E/The Environmental Magazine, Philadelphia magazine, and the Philadelphia Inquirer, among other publications.

Shaffer earned her Ph.D. in mass media and communication from Temple University in Philadelphia. Before joining the faculty at CSULB, she was a postdoctoral fellow in the computer science department at the University of California, Irvine.

Office Location: LA4-206C
Phone: 562-985-5433
Email: gwen.shaffer@csulb.edu