Research

Digital networked technologies have become thoroughly enmeshed in everyday life, forming the backdrop of experience. We live not only with these technologies but also through them as they mediate our interactions and support and shape our activities. Few (if any) activities or realms of life are unaffected by ongoing technological development and design. Making sense of the role of technologies in our world and their associated social and experiential dynamics is thus a crucial challenge for both academic research and design.

The goal of my research is to explore, analyze and theorize the role of digital technologies in everyday life in ways that can speak to their design. A major challenge in doing this is accounting for the complexities and unpredictability of the social world and human actors while also remaining grounded in the properties of artifacts that are the subject of design and configuration decisions. Because of this, I focus on technological mediation: the connecting point between artifacts and their use. I draw on postphenomenology (and philosophy of technology more generally) in focusing on the ways in which digital technologies mediate awareness, perception, and engagement with the world. In order to conceptualize this role of technologies I use concepts of architecture and infrastructure, both in order to think about how structures can create interactive social spaces that allow or restrict visibility, and the role of digital material in making activities visible. In my dissertation, I developed a theoretical framework based on these concepts using close analyses of a set of small case studies.

There are a number of critical perspectives that can productively be brought to bear in exploring and designing for the phenomena of human-computer interaction—or, more importantly, human-world interaction through mediating technologies. This project is thus fundamentally interdisciplinary. It is anchored in sociotechnical and science and technology studies (STS) scholarship, philosophy of technology, and human-computer interaction (HCI) design, and is also connected to media studies, critical digital theory, and (digital) cultural studies. The challenge of framing research in this interdisciplinary context, coupled with the fact that my work is quite theoretical, means that publishing takes longer than it would if I were working in a research lab or on more empirically-oriented projects. However, my current dissertation work should lead to several papers and also lay some of the groundwork for a book project. I am also well positioned to make substantive contributions to the conversations about (digital) materiality that are becoming increasingly prevalent in a variety of research communities; because of this, my research efforts in the immediate future will likely be directed toward this issue in some way.

One of my major long-term goals is to develop a discipline of technology criticism that involves critique of specific artifacts and systems in relation to their social dynamics. Such a practice would aim to feed into the design process in productive ways while maintaining theoretical and analytic richness. My ideal future includes ongoing development of my critical theoretical perspective, as well as collaboration with designers on some critical/exploratory design projects in which I could perhaps apply and refine these ideas and test out their usefulness in design work. I am also interested in thinking about how this perspective might be applied in exploring how certain processes or conditions could be made visible in critical/political ways, particularly given that visibility in the ‘network society’ is typically a function of money and power.

The common thread running through all of my research interests and that is the heart of my research agenda is a critical perspective on the role of digital technologies in society and human experience, and a concern with design and scholarship in service of social good.

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