Cole, Nicki | Austria

Cole, Nicki | Austria

Nicki Lisa Cole, PhD is an American sociologist with expertise in consumer culture and global supply chains, with a particular focus on the production and consumption of electronics, sustainable and ethical production and consumption, and fair trade systems. She has worked at universities and research organisations in California, England and Austria. Nicki’s focus while a Fellow at IAS-STS is on publication and funding acquisition. 

Nicki was a researcher at the University of York (England) in the Department of Social Policy and Social Work and at the Stockholm-Environment Institute-York from 2017–2018 and before that was a funded Research Fellow for two years at IAS-STS. Before moving to Europe, Nicki was a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Sociology at Pomona College in Claremont, California. She completed a PhD in sociology at the University of California-Santa Barbara in 2011. 

Nicki’s research has been published in Race, Gender & Class, Contexts, and in the edited volume, Consumer Culture, Modernity and Identity. Her writing on Apple, Inc. has appeared in Truthout, CounterPunch, Sociological Images, and in the edited volumes Media Education for a Digital Education, and Censored 2014: Fearless Speech in Fateful Times

A committed public sociologist, Nicki is a member of Good Electronics research network and a supporter of Electronics Watch, Students and Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (SACOM) and China Labor Watch. Learn more about Nicki and her writing at her website,


Project at IAS-STS: Towards sustainable production, consumption and disposal of electronics 

Consumer electronics, which have an ever-increasing role in daily life, are largely framed in positive ways: reducing physical waste through digitisation, increasing efficiency and interconnectedness, enabling sharing and p2p economies, etc. Less frequently considered are the many costs of our reliance on electronics. These take social, environmental and economic forms, and they span the globe and exist at multiple levels: local, regional, national and global; micro, meso and macro. This research takes a critical sociological approach to identifying and analysing the costs of the production, consumption and disposal of consumer electronics. With qualitative and investigative research spanning several years and carried out in the US and across the EU, and rooted in critical political economy, critical theory, the sociology of race and racism, and a feminist perspective, this project seeks to illuminate the social and economic relations and power dynamics that characterise electronics production and consumption—from mine to assembly floor, to marketing, branding and retail, to use and disposal. Additionally, this research identifies the consumer ideologies, values and habits surrounding electronics. Together, findings will provide suggestions for governance, regulations and policies that support sustainable production, consumption and disposal.




Selected Publications

Cole, Nicki Lisa. 2018. “Consolidating the social, environmental and economic risks, challenges and opportunities in gold mining: an overview of existing research.” Stockholm Environment Institute, Stockholm, Sweden. [digital] (available upon request) 

 Cole, Nicki Lisa. 2018. “To right the wrongs in gold mining, focus on good governance.” Stockholm Environment Institute. [digital]

 Cole, Nicki Lisa. 2016. “iPhone or iExploit? More than a Decade of Rampant Labor Violations in Apple's Supply Chain,” Truthout, August 25. [digital]

 Cole, Nicki Lisa. 2016. “What I Learned From the Mining Community That Produced My Engagement Ring,” Truthout, June 1. [digital]

 Cole, Nicki Lisa. 2016. “Say Hello to the Real Apple: Complicating the Dominant Media Narrative of a Digital Technology Giant.” Media Education 4@ Digital Generation, eds. Julie Frechette and Rob Williams. New York, NY: Routledge.

 Cole, Nicki Lisa. 2015. "Definitely Not “Better”: The Hidden Costs of iPhone 6 ." IAS-STS white paper.

 Cole, Nicki Lisa and Tara Krishna. 2013. “Apple exposed: the untold story of globalization,” pp. 331-351 in Censored 2014: fearless speech in fateful times, eds. Mickey Huff and Andy Lee Roth. New York, NY: Seven Stories Press.