Jeff Lane


Associate Professor of Communication


Annex B 252

Jeffrey Lane studies communication and technology as it relates to urban life, youth culture, criminal justice, and social inequalities. He approaches these topics through ethnographic fieldwork carried out in person and online. Lane is the author of The Digital Street (Oxford University Press, 2019), a neighborhood study of social media use in Harlem (NYC). His current streams of research include micro-mobility and delivery work, youth exposure to gun violence, and how families use Artificial Intelligence (AI). Lane teaches several courses at SC&I — among them Introduction to Communication & Information Processes, Urban Communication, Communication, Technology & Society, and doctoral courses in Qualitative Methods and Ethnography.


Princeton University
Ph.D., Sociology

Princeton University
M.A., Sociology

Wesleyan University
B.A., Sociology


Jeffrey Lane studies urban communication issues and has written the first book about neighborhood street life in the digital age. Lane’s research has informed a needs assessment and a strategic plan for juvenile gangs convened by New York’s Center for Court Innovation. This is vitally important, because, as Lane notes, “There's a question of which adults in the community get to kids in trouble first. In New York City, we have a social media unit within the police department focused on juvenile justice, but public school teachers are not permitted to have contact on social media with their students. The police are so far ahead of other constituencies in online intervention that they double sometimes as social service providers for at-risk teens and their families.”

As a child growing up in New York City, Lane began thinking about differences in childhood and adolescence, depending on which part of the city kids were from. His interest grew in college when he became fascinated by urban ethnography, the “tradition of participant observation of city life.” He was, and still is, fascinated by accounts of everyday interaction within neighborhoods. In his research, he takes these accounts online. The extension of street life online is an important part of the urban experience and a key dimension of urban change.

The Digital Street is the title and subject of his new, award-winning book with Oxford University Press on the social media use that brokers street life. The project draws on nearly five years of ethnographic research online and offline in Harlem with a set of teenagers and the adults concerned about them. Lane's previous book, Under the Boards (University of Nebraska Press) focuses on the production of race, masculinity, and popular culture in the basketball industry. 

Centers, Labs, Working Groups, and Clusters

Selected Publications

Lane, J., Ramirez, F. A., & Patton, D. U. (2023). Defending against social media: Structural disadvantages of social media in criminal court for public defenders and defendants of low socioeconomic status. Information, Communication & Society.

Lane, J., & Ramirez, F. A. (2022). Carceral communication: Mass incarceration as communicative phenomenon. New Media & Society.

Lane, J., & Lingel, J. (2022). Digital ethnography for sociology: Craft, rigor, and creativity. Qualitative Sociology45, 319–326. 

Lane, J. (2019). The digital street. New York, Oxford University Press.

Lane, J., Ramirez, F.A., & Pearce, K.E. (2018). Guilty by visible association: Socially mediated visibility in gang prosecutions. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication23(6), 354–369.

Awards & Recognitions

2019-2020 Rutgers University Chancellor’s Faculty Excellence Honoree

2019 Best Book Award for The Digital Street, Communication, Information Technologies, and Media Section (CITAMS), American Sociological Association (ASA)

2019 Nancy Baym Book Award for The Digital Street, Association of Internet Researchers (AoIR)

2019 Honorable Mention, Book of the Year Award for The Digital Street from the Human Communication & Technology Division (HCTD) of the National Communication Association (NCA)

2019 Distinguished Achievement in Research Award, Department of Communication, Rutgers University

2017 Outstanding Ph.D. Faculty Award, Doctoral Student Association, School of Communication & Information, Rutgers University

2017 Distinguished Achievement in Teaching Award, Department of Communication, Rutgers University

Additional Resources

Social Media as Criminal Evidence: New Possibilities, Problems

Research cited and interviewed in The Atlantic, “When Cops Check Facebook,” 4/19/15

Research Keywords