New Media, Postpedagogy, Social Media, Technology
My research, teaching, and administrative work all point to the same question: how does technology alter rhetorical, pedagogical, and administrative practices? Online, social media practices are rhetorically significant interventions into personal, political, and educational interactions. I work to better understand these practices via qualitative coding, close reading, and case studies, including my dissertation project, which investigates the social media aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing. Such approaches allow me to align pedagogical and administrative practices with a robust, networked theory of action and agency.
My most recent publications focus on the capacity of technological advances to alter classroom practices. In particular, my research investigates the instantiation of a postpedagogical approach to teaching and connects postpedgogical practice to emerging new media genres. Postpedagogy (Ulmer; Rickert; Hawk; Shipka) advocates the creation of classroom spaces and writing assignments that encourage spontaneity and creativity. In “Reflection, Detours, and Postpedagogical Practice," I argue that reflection is an underdeveloped part of postpedagogical practices, while in "Toward a Technical Communication Made Whole: Disquilibrium, Creativity, and Postpedagogy," my co-author and I use end-of-project and end-of-term surveys to investigate how students respond to postpedagogical projects and classroom approaches and found that the confusion associated with postpedagogical practice produces anxiety that can be productive for students when paired with classroom practices that encourage flexibility and creativity. Further, in "Our [Electrate] Stories," my co-authors and I examine Gregory Ulmer's digital postpedagogy and grapple with the challenges of working in new digital writing spaces while engaging with challenging theoretical material. Ultimately, we argue, Ulmer's emphasis on disorientation forces students/writers to move beyond comfortable genre conventions and work creatively in emerging genres.
In addition to studying the impact of emerging genres and technologies on pedagogical practices, I am also interested in how new technologies and writing spaces change administrative and assessment practices. In a book chapter co-authored with Karen Langbehn and Joe Moxley, "Remediating Writing Program Assessment," we recount how our approaches to programmatic assessment were altered by the creation and implementation of a digital assessment tool for our First-Year Composition Program. Ultimately, the large amount of data offered by these new digital assessments allowed us to make evidence-based changes to our composition curricula, changes that resulted in an improvement in student performance and self-efficacy.
My interest in the connections between technology and rhetorical theory can be most clearly seen in my dissertation, entitled "Relational Rhetorical Agency, Networked Technology, and the Aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing." This project begins with a disciplinary question: how can we reimagine agency in a way that (1) better represents rhetors' lived experience and (2) opens additional ways of understanding the role of technologies in our communicative acts? This disciplinary question, however, has broader implications for our perception of agency, especially in terms of how we understand the role of the rhetor, how we understand the need for conscious intention, and how we value the nonhuman members of these communicative networks. Ultimately, I argue that agency does not belong to any single actor, whether human or nonhuman; rather, agency emerges from the relationship between actors and exists only at their point of contact. I take as my site the April 15, 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. In particular, I'm interested in the role of a few nonhuman actors: the Twitter conversations with the hashtags #BostonMarathon and #BostonHelp, the Reddit conversation threads in which the perpetrators were mis/identified, and the finish line camera and footage. In order to investigate the connections between these nonhuman actors and the agentive acts produced in the wake of the bombing, I work to trace (following Latour's new materialist theories and methodologies) the networks of actors that participate in the production of these agentive acts. I am currently revising the dissertation into a book manuscript.
FUTURE RESEARCH PLANS
As noted throughout, my ongoing research focuses on how emerging technologies impact rhetorical, pedagogical, and administrative practices. As my research evolves, I will pursue two linked questions: first, how do new media technologies and spaces alter where and how we practice rhetoric and writing? This first question leads to a second pedagogical and administrative question: how do we create courses and programs that better prepare writers to participate in these emerging forums? Currently, I am pursuing this question by investigating social media spaces/sites in order to better understand the rhetorical value and conventions of this emerging writing space. In particular, I am interested in how users share and respond to grief in these seemingly personal yet profoundly public spaces. For this project, I plan to produce a number of webtexts (for publication with Kairos or University of Utah Digital Press, which publishes book length multimodal texts) that mix personal narratives of grief and loss with a new materialist approach to understanding networked spaces.
Image by Twechie. Available on Flickr.