Spangler Doctoral Dissertation Research: The Impact of Digital Real Estate Technologies on Housing and Home in US Cities

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NSF DDRI: Human-Environment and Geographical Sciences Program M. Wilson, I. Spangler, and M. Zook ABSTRACT Since the 2007 financial crisis, residential real estate – or simply housing – has increasingly been abstracted into financial products that require digital technology and data analysis to operate at scale. This process, defined as the financialization of housing, constitutes the home as both a financial asset and as a site of belonging and intimacy in novel ways. Geographers argue that digital technologies introduce new forms of surveillance, exclusion, and economic practice to everyday life. However, the design and use of digital platform technologies for the specific purpose of managing, transacting, and surveying real estate—which we refer to as “platform real estate” (Shaw 2018), or PRE—remains underexplored in geographic scholarship. The pervasive US housing crisis, which the global pandemic has intensified for marginalized people especially, highlights an urgent need for stronger understandings of these dynamics. The proposed research draws on interviews, participant observation, and archival research to investigate how the design and use of software products for the management of housing affects social and economic relationships to housing and home. Focusing on New York City and San Francisco, we engage relevant actors who both design (e.g., tech developers, financiers) and who use (e.g., tenants) the software products in question. The broader impact of this research can be found in its applicability to legal and policy responses to the regulation of digital real estate markets, which presently face accusations of racial discrimination (Srikanth 2020; Azavedo 2020; Hauen 2020). The study is also timely, as the Covid-19 crisis has accelerated the adoption of “frictionless” PRE technologies (McElroy 2019) in the real estate sector. The intellectual merit of the research lies its broad interdisciplinary appeal to fields including code & software, platform, and science & technology studies.
Effective start/end date5/15/228/31/23


  • National Science Foundation: $12,425.00


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