SARAH BRAYNE


I am an Associate Professor of Sociology at The University of Texas at Austin. I received my PhD in Sociology and Social Policy Princeton University and completed a postdoc at Microsoft Research New England.

In my research, I analyze the social consequences of data-intensive surveillance practices. As data collection, predictive analytics, and surveillance are increasingly used for governance and organizational practice in the digital age, I use qualitative and quantitative methods to examine how these developments are—and are not—transforming longstanding social structures and mechanisms of social stratification. My research focuses on two overarching areas of inquiry. First, I analyze how the adoption of big data and predictive analytics reshapes organizational practice and individual life chances in the criminal legal system and beyond. My first book, Predict and Surveil: Data, Discretion, and the Future of Policing, draws on ethnographic research within the Los Angeles Police Department to understand how law enforcement uses predictive analytics and new surveillance technologies. Second, I ask questions about the reception of algorithms, examining how they are received, resisted, and contested across groups and positions in organizational hierarchies. For example, I developed a theory of "system avoidance," using survey data to test the relationship between criminal legal contact and involvement in medical, financial, labor market, and educational institutions. At its core, my scholarship examines the relationship between data and surveillance and demonstrates how data-intensive surveillance is a fundamental organizational practice that shapes social inequalities and life chances in the digital age.

I have been volunteer teaching college classes in prisons since 2012 and am the founder and director of the Texas Prison Education Initiative, a group of faculty and students who volunteer teach college classes in prisons in Texas.