Magdalena Donea

Writer, scholar, refugee, human


I feel like we've been here before...

Hello, I'm Magdalena (Maggy) Donea, I am a PhD student in Communication and Science Studies at UC San Diego, where I co-organize the Critical Data Studies Working Group, and participate in the Design Lab as part of the Nature, Space and Politics Working Group and the Just Transitions Initiative.

I am a humanistic scholar with a broad interest in disasters and disaster evacuations, and in exploring the tension between the way disasters are visualized and the everyday, ordinary, embodied experience of displacement and placelessness. My focus is on the sociopolitical implications of commonly held beliefs about what disasters are — especially those beliefs derived from visual media, photography in particular.

Prior to UCSD, I earned an M.A. in Cultural Studies and a graduate certificate in Textual and Digital Studies from the University of Washington.

To learn more about all this, you can visit my department profile, connect with me on Academia, check out my library on Goodreads or download my CV.


Someone once told me that once you start doing your real work, it's difficult to spend time doing anything else.

My professional work is deeply connected to the history of the commercial Internet. I have been writing, programming and experimenting on the Web since 1994. Archives of some of my old work still exist out there. But as much as I mourn the indie web, I recognize that more recent developments like the rhetorics of digital platforms and the blind spots and intrinsic violence of predictive and generative algorithms of all sorts pose far more urgent problems for the health of communities.

I've spent the most recent decades thinking and working in digital privacy and tech ethics, and volunteering on projects enabling surveillance technology oversight at the local level. As a one-time political refugee, my concerns always align with questions about power, privilege, and the consequences of technological coercion and control.

Although I am not currently seeking work, if you'd like to connect with me professionally, I invite you to do so on LinkedIn.


Some (more or less) recent things I've spent time with...

2022/In Progress: Untitled Generative AI Project
Lately, I've been exploring image-generating AI and trying to grasp the relationship between a generative model's latent space and what literary theorists might call the ekphrastic space of our (problematically) shared visual culture. Most images on this site have been generated using Stable Diffusion using a variety of prompts centering the concept of "disaster," trying to learn how such a politically-loaded, contested and complicated term translates to such spectacular imagery. If you know about image-generating models or would just like to chat about this, please get in touch!

2017/Published: The Warden Game (Link)
During part of my time at the University of Washington, I worked on the Washington Prison History Archive, a set of artifacts built from a private donation of papers belonging to a former political prisoner. In the summer of 2017 I had the privilege of sitting down with a printout of an old BASIC program found among those papers. Using Twine and a design meant to mimic a CRT monitor from the era, I rebuilt and reimagined what turned out to be an unfinished 1980s text adventure game. The game invites you to play the warden of a maximum security prison at a moment of deep structural and cultural changes. It is deceptively easy to play, yet far more complex to contemplate than you might think. Learn more and play it at the link above.


As of November 2022, Twitter is still my preferred social network, and you are more than welcome to find and connect with me there (please do!).

Thank you!

Thanks for reaching out, I'll get back to you as soon as I can!