Jessa Lingel Awarded Library of Congress Kluge Fellowship in Digital Studies

A former librarian, Lingel is looking forward to studying the online marketplace Craigslist at the largest library in the world.

By Ashton Yount

Professor Jessa Lingel has been awarded a Kluge Fellowship in Digital Studies from the John W. Kluge Center at the Library of Congress.

The Kluge Fellowship is designed to foster work focusing on the effect of digital technologies on social interactions and American culture. It’s a perfect fit for Lingel, Assistant Professor of Communication, who studies digital culture and online technologies. She’s interested in how communities of people use digital media to foster a sense of togetherness.

Sometimes that means studying how counter cultural groups are using internet platforms that aren’t necessarily popular with mainstream web users. Other times it means studying how counter cultural groups are taking popular platforms and molding them to their needs.

This time, for her Kluge Fellowship, Lingel will be studying Craigslist.

“I see Craigslist as a focal point for thinking about all sorts of things that the internet allows people to do,” Lingel says. “People are usually familiar with Craigslist’s buying and selling functions, but a lot of people don’t realize that every city where Craigslist operates, which is just under 300, also has a community forum.”

Lingel describes the community forum as a place for conversation about anything and everything. The Philly forum, she says, contains complaints about the Philadelphia Parking Authority (PPA), discussions about the best schools in the area, suggestions for good dog walking routes, and even conspiracy theories about local building inspectors.

She thinks of Craigslist as a vehicle for honing in on the ideas users have about what the internet is supposed to do for them, and she’s interested in telling a history of the internet through the lens of Craigslist.

“Broadly speaking, I’m interested in Craigslist for many reasons, but the specific piece I’ll be working on at the Library of Congress is how Craigslist has had an incredible impact on other forms of media,” Lingel says.

She plans to utilize the Library of Congress’s newspaper archives to study classified ads, which she notes have all but completely moved online to sites like Craigslist. She wants to consider how people have used different media technologies to buy and sell things in informal markets.

A former librarian, Lingel is looking forward to studying at the largest library in the world and having access to its vast resources.

She will split her time between Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, beginning in January, to allow her to continue teaching at Annenberg while completing her fellowship.