Ongoing Projects

Information, Technology and Migration: Uses of ICT at the US-Mexico border

Project conducted with Bryce C Newell at the iSchool

In the last two decades, thousands of undocumented immigrants have died while attempting to cross the international border between the United States and Mexico. Prior research indicates a causal link between the U.S. government’s border control policies and rapidly increasing numbers of migrant deaths. In response, a variety of humanitarian organizations and volunteers have been leaving food, water, and clothing in small caches along the migratory trails. In recent years, artists and other activists have also developed various high- and low-tech “border disturbance” technologies in efforts to save migrant lives. One of these projects, the Transborder Immigrant Tool, is a simple GPS-based trail-hiking application loaded onto cheap cellphones that promises to guide migrants to the nearest humanitarian water caches, in an effort to keep them from dying of thirst. The current project explores three key areas at the intersection of information, technology, national security, illegal immigration, law, and philosophical ethics: (1) what are the information needs and practices of irregular migrants at the US-Mexico border; (2) what is the role of information and communication technologies (ICT), such as the Transborder Immigrant Tool or the distribution of GPS locator beacons, in the context of transnational migration; and (3) what are the legal and ethical implications of such ICT use. The project’s focus on intertwining empirical inquiry with philosophical and legal analysis makes it particularly unique in this research area.


Newell, B., Gomez, R. & Guajardo, V. (2016, forthcoming). Information Seeking, Technology Use, and Vulnerability among Migrants at the U.S.-Mexico Border. Paper accepted for publication in The Information Society.

Newell, B.C., Gomez, R. and Guajardo, V. (2016, forthcoming) Sensors, Cameras, and the New ‘Normal’ in Clandestine Migration: How Undocumented Migrants Experience Surveillance at the U.S.-Mexico Border. Surveillance and Society.

Baron, L. F., Neils, M., & Gomez, R. (2014). Crossing new borders: computers, mobile phones, transportation and English language among Hispanic day laborers in Seattle, JASIST - Journal of the American Society for Information Science and Technology. 65(1), 98-108. Link.

Vannini, S., Gomez, R. & Guajardo, V. (2016, forthcoming). Security and Activism: Using participatory photography to elicit perceptions of Information and Authority among Hispanic migrants in the U.S. Paper accepted for iConference 2016.

Guajardo, V., Gomez, R. & Vannini, S. (2016, forthcoming). Information and Learning: Trust, Place, and Migration. Poster accepted for iConference 2016.

Yefimova, K., Neils, M., Newell, B., & Gomez, R. (2015). Fotohistorias: Participatory Photography as a Methodology to Elicit the Life Experiences of Migrants. Proceedings of HICSS 48. Link

Newell, B., & Gomez, R. (2015). Informal Networks, Phones and Facebook: Information Seeking and Technology Use by Undocumented Migrants at the U.S.-Mexico Border. Proceedings of iConference 2015. Link

Blog posts:

Newell, B. (August 2014): Facebook Savvy Migrants? Research Notes from the U.S.-Mexico Border. The Information, Information School, University of Washington.

Gomez, R. (May 2014): Fotohistorias de la Frontera: No es un crimen querer trabajar. Caracoli del Cesar, Colombia.

Picture of Ricardo