John G. Dale is Associate Professor of Sociology at George Mason University. He earned his PhD in Sociology from the University of California, Davis, in 2003, and was National Endowment for the Humanities Visiting Scholar at Columbia University in 2005. He is author of Free Burma: Transnational Legal Action and Corporate Accountability (University of Minnesota Press, 2011) and co-author of Political Sociology: Power and Participation in the Modern World (Oxford University Press, 2009). He serves on the Steering Committee of the American Association for the Advancement of Science's Science & Human Rights Coalition and as a Council Member of the American Sociological Association’s Section on Human Rights. Dale often advises NGOs and provides expert analysis on contentious politics in Myanmar (Burma) for major news media throughout the world. His current research explores how big data and digital technologies reshape the practices and politics of human rights, and understandings of humanity.

Project Summary

Humanitarian relief and human rights organizations are forging new partnerships and projects using big data, artificial intelligence, machine learning, satellite remote sensing, video synchronization, sound search, and other digital technologies to document (and possibly predict) famines or genocides. This reflects two converging processes that are reshaping how we address human rights and humanitarian relief: (1) the digital transformation of human rights science and (2) the ascendancy of social enterprise models for solving social problems. This project explores potential positive benefits of innovation, as well as what harms such a convergence might pose for participatory human rights practices and the democratic production of knowledge. It examines how these new scientific practices reframe and reprioritize which issues do and do not become part of the human rights agenda, including our understandings of what it means to be human.

Major Publications

  • Free Burma: Transnational Legal Action and Corporate Accountability (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2011)
  • “Smart Transitions? Foreign Investment, Disruptive Technology, and Democratic Reform in Myanmar.” (with David Kyle). Social Research: An International Quarterly, “Special Issue: From Burma to Myanmar: Critical Transitions” Volume 82, No. 2 (Summer, 2015): 291-326. Available at
  • “Smart Humanitarianism: Re-imagining Human Rights in the Age of Enterprise.” (with David Kyle) Critical Sociology Volume 42, No. 6 (2016): 783-797.
  • Available at