My research poses questions about technology, writing, and public discourse that are increasingly relevant to rhetorical education in the 21st century.
I have been awarded UMass Amherst’s Walker Gibson Prize for the best graduate essay on a topic in Rhetoric and Composition, the Rhetoric Society of America's Michael Leff Award, the Conference on College Composition and Communication's Chairs' Memorial Scholarship, and the Rhetoric Society of America's Gerard Hauser Award for the best paper presented by a graduate student at its biennial conference. In 2016, I produced a piece of digital scholarship that was published in Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy. In 2017, I published a chapter in the collection Methodologies for the Rhetoric of Health and Medicine (edited by Lisa Meloncon and J. Blake Scott, Routledge). I recently co-authored a piece with Matthew Barton that considers the shifting landscape of the digital public sphere and its implications for the writing classroom (forthcoming in Computers and Composition, 2019).
In my dissertation, Rhetorical Investments: Writing, Technology, and the Emerging Logics of the Public Sphere (2017), I argued that an “infrastructural” model of public discourse lays the groundwork for writing pedagogies that engage students in meaningful reflection about the dynamics of the digital landscape. Through two cases studies—one focusing on “old media” (the turn-of-the-century public lectures of sex educator Emma Elizabeth Walker) and one focusing on “new media” (the #blacklivesmatter discourse that emerged in a viral Facebook thread)—I developed the concept of rhetorical investment. I argued that this concept helps attune us to the ways that individual rhetors contribute to the transformation of the public sphere.
I am currently working on a book project. This project investigates the ways that everyday writers use networked technologies to catalyze social change (The New Information Warriors: Rhetoric, Writing, and Social Change in the Digital Age). Drawing upon in-depth qualitative interviews, the project studies the writing practices of these “information warriors”—racial justice activists, disability advocates, economic justice activists, gender activists, and climate change activists—in a variety of networked contexts.
While the project conceptualizes persuasion in broad terms, it pays particular attention to a category of writing practices that I term practices of networked mass persuasion. Influenced by techniques developed in the domains of public relations, marketing, political campaigning, and information warfare, networked mass persuasion is characterized by two tendencies: (1) a tendency to privilege strategic messaging, amplification, and coordination over deliberative dialogue, and (2) a tendency to strategically exploit the algorithmic infrastructures of the social web. Though practices of “crowd swarming,” “viral marketing,” and “memetic warfare” are often assumed to be inconsistent with democratic ideals, this project’s richly-contextualized accounts of everyday digital activism aim to demonstrate that practices such as these are increasingly central to struggles for democracy today.