My research seeks to better understand the ways online social networks transcend and reinforce patterns of sociability as well as the ways misinformation and incivility are demographically and spatially dependent. I use methodologies derived from GIS and spatial data science to examine the ways user-generated content is impacting communities, social relations, and democratic processes.

For popular media and public talks, see here.


  • Stephens, M., 2019 “Youthful Indiscretion” in How to Run a City Like a Corporation, and Other Fables. Rob Kitchin, Mark Graham, Shannon Mattern and Joe Shaw. Eds.
  • Stephens, M., Tong, L. Hale, S. and Graham, M. 2018 “Misogyny, Twitter, and the Rural Voter” in Atlas of the 2016 Elections. Robert H. Watrel, Ryan Weichelt, Fiona Davidson, John Heppen, Erin H. Fouberg, J. Clark Archer , Richard L. Morrill, Fred M. Shelley, Kenneth C. Martis. Eds.
  • Johnson, PA., Sieber, R, Stephens, M. and Robinson, P. 2017 “The Cost(s) of Geospatial Open Data” Transactions in GIS. 21(3) p. 434-435
  • Stephens, M. 2016 “Community and Copyright: The Building of an OpenGIS Data Repository in Buffalo, NY” International Conference on GIScience.
  • Poorthuis, A, Zook, M, Shelton, T, Graham, M, Stephens, M., 2016 “Using Geotagged Digital Social Data in Geographic Research” Key Methods in Geography. eds. N. Clifford, S. French, M. Cope, and S. Gillespie.
  • Stephens, M., and Poorthuis, A. 2015 "Follow Thy Neighbor: Connecting the Social and Spatial Networks on Twitter" Computers, Environment and Urban Systems. 53, p. 87–95
  • Wilson, M and Stephens, M. 2015 “GIS and Social Media” in Mediated Geographies/Geography of Media. Springer. International Handbooks in Human Geography Series. Susan Mains, Julie Cupples and Christopher Lunkinbeal Eds.
  • Hecht, B., and Stephens, M., 2014 "A Tale of Cities: Urban Biases in Volutneered Geographic Information". Proceedings of ICWSM 2014. Menlo Park, CA: AAAI Press.
  • Stephens, M. 2013 "Gender and the GeoWeb: Divisions in the Production of User-Generated Cartographic Information" GeoJournal, p. 981-996.
  • Crampton, J., Graham, M., Poorthius, A., Shelton, T., Stephens, M., Wilson, M. Zook, M. 2013 "Beyond the Geotag? Deconstructing “Big Data" Cartography and Geographic Information Science, p. 130-139.
  • Graham, M., Stephens, M. and Hale S.A., 2013 “A Geography of Twitter” Environment and Planning A. p. 100-102.
  • Graham, M., Hale S.A., and Stephens, M. 2012 “Digital Divide: The Geography of Internet Access.” Environment and Planning A. 44:5, p. 1009-1010.
  • Baker, D. Evans, R. and Stephens, M. 2010 “Environmental Impact Statement Contributions for the San Pedro River Valley.” U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico State Office.

Popular press & Maps

Many of the maps I created were as a part of the FloatingSheep project.

As all maps were created and shared under a creative commons license, some have appeared in exhibitions or been reproduced (with permission) in other publications.

I also made maps for the Convoco Foundation/Oxford Internet Institute's Geographies of the World's Knowledge project


I have taught in a variety of formats (hybrid, online, lectures, seminars, and lab-based classes) and continue to innovate content delivery while incorporating current technologies.

I teach the following courses at the University at Buffalo:

  • Geo120: Maps and Mapping Technology (undergraduate)
  • Geo381: Cartography (undergraduate)
  • Geo485/Geo551: Cartography and Geovisualization (graduate and undergraduate)
  • Geo503: Big Data and Society (graduate)
  • Geo503: GIS Projects (graduate)

From 2012-2014 I taught cartography and geospatial technology classes at Humboldt State University in California.

Pedagogy in a panic

We all share an urgent need to teach GIS and data science remotely. I’ve put my resources online here. If you wish to upload or contribute your resources for others to use, please share them here.

Stuck at home? Color a map!

Looking for a relaxing and educational activity with maps? Pull out your crayons/markers/pencils and color a map of Buffalo. Print copies at different scales and map your own data.


Hello. I’m Monica Stephens. I’m an assistant professor in the department of Geography at the University at Buffalo. My research integrates Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and social media. I’ve posted more about my scholarship here. and my engagement with the media here.


  • Ph.D. Geography, University of Arizona, 2012
  • M.A. Geography, University of Arizona, 2008
  • B.A. Geography & International Development + Social Change, Clark University, 2004

Professional Appointments

  • Durham University (UK), Assistant Professor Department of Geography
  • The University at Buffalo, Assistant Professor Department of Geography
  • Humboldt State University, Assistant Professor Department of Geography
  • University of Kentucky, Visiting Scholar
  • The University of Arizona, Graduate Instructor
  • MapInfo Corporation, Analytics Analyst

Recent fellowships & Awards


Please get in touch, I'd love to hear from you.

Phone: (716) 645-0499

Stop by and visit

Department of Geography

123 Wilkeson Quadrangle
University at Buffalo
Buffalo, NY 14216


Media Commentary

I lend expertise to popular media outlets regarding my research. I’m particularly interested in mapped data and contemporary events where social media impacts civic engagement in material communities. This includes debates around misinformation, hate speech, urban legends, encryption/privacy, political disinformation, and technology furthering gender inequality.

Selected press:

Public Lectures

Selected public talks and keynote lectures

  • *Upcoming* Keynote: July 7, 2020- “Data & Deception: Geographies of Misinformation and Incivility in Social Media” GeoInformatics-Forum . Salzburg, Austria
  • Keynote: September 30, 2019- “Digital lives and digital lies: geographies of misinformation and incivility.” Deutscher Kongress für Geographie . Kiel, Germany.
  • March 14, 2019- César E. Chávez Higher Education Speaker Series, Social Media: Destroying or Saving Democracy? Sierra College, Rocklin, California.
  • December 8, 2018- "Regional Resilience in the information stream." Asia Pacific Development Forum. Zhaoqing, China.
  • October 29, 2019- "Ubiquitous Intelligence, Disinformation & Smart Cities" (with Jessie Poon & Gordon Tan). International Export Workshop: The Science of the Smart City. Naples, Italy.
  • Keynote: October 10, 2018- “The Internet Needs You: How Your Data Can Change the World.” Ada Lovelace Day Keynote. Hofstra University. Long Island, New York.
  • Keynote: May 17, 2017- “Layers of social change: Gender and GIS. WAURISA.” Tacoma, Washington.
  • Televised Roundtable: February 10, 2017- “Citystat 2.0 with Mayor Byron Brown” City of Buffalo, New York.
  • March 12th, 2013- "Location! The Importance of Geo-data" (With Devin Gaffney, Mark Graham, and Catherine D’Ignazio). South By Southwest (SXSW), Austin, TX.

Online Public Lectures