Media and Processes of Subjectivation

    Posthuman Media Studies

    My dissertation analyzes emerging media, with a focus on big data, from a posthuman perspective that eliminates any natural or essential self. I develop a concept of information that is material and embodied, extending this to big data as a way to investigate how data affects our construction as subjects. Understanding big data in this way allows for experimentation with new approaches to data use, such as using it as a form of counter-memory or expanding the methodology of citizen science as a way to more fully open up the collection of and access to data. The theoretical core of this project is balanced with qualitative empirical research. For example, I analyze the way that students in the Posthuman Media Studies course that I designed are reflecting on their own processes of subjectivation through their use of Facebook, a big data driven new media environment. By better understanding current impacts of big data, I am then able to offer suggestions for new interventions and approaches to these processes of subjectivation.

    Interests

    • Media Studies
    • Critical Data Studies
    • Philosophy of Communication
    • Informational Ontology
    • Digital Rhetoric
    • Digital Pedagogy

    Materialist Conceptualization of Information

    This project involves interdisciplinary work at the intersections of communication and media studies, philosophy, biological sciences, and science, technology, and society (STS). My work pushes the boundaries of the conversations associated with big data, adding questions of processes of subjectivation to the debates about privacy, anonymization, and the power gap between individuals and the corporations and governments who have access to such data. In particular, my materialist conceptualization of information from a posthuman perspective puts this work in conversation with ethical issues surrounding big data, embodied feminist posthuman research, and recent microbiome research in the biological sciences that is challenging the classic understanding of what constitutes an individual. Moving forward, I plan to revise my dissertation work as a monograph for publication with an academic press and am currently preparing a proposal for the Posthumanities series with the University of Minnesota Press.

    Experimental Approaches to Big Data

    • Aperveillance: Watching with Open Data

      Aperveillance: Watching with Open Data

      While teaching a special topics course (COM/ENG 395) on Big Data and the Rhetoric of Information I asked my students to create data visualizations with either Tableau or P5.JS, and I joined them in creating my own project for the assignment. Although much of the concern in my field surrounds issues related to surveillance, I thought it would be interesting to think about the types of watching that are now becoming increasingly possible with open data. Thus, I coined the term aperveillance for my project, which derives from the Latin "aper" meaning open, and "veiler" meaning to watch.

      This project uses webcam images that are publicly available in North Carolina, primarily around Raleigh, but including other areas of the state. Additionally, if a webcam is attached to the computer that is running the visualization, it will capture an image from the camera to be included randomly with the other webcam images. It also uses Raleigh's open crime data to randomly include information about the previous day's crimes juxtaposed on top of the webcam images. This is intended to provoke questions about the type of watching we as citizens are able to do with open data on the web.

      The project can be viewed live on the web at http://www.aperveillance.com.

    As I begin to work on my next major project, I plan to expand on the work I have done in my dissertation by developing interdisciplinary grant-based research projects that implement and analyze new experimental approaches to big data use. In particular, I am beginning to explore the ways that open data, in conjunction with citizen science, can affect processes of subjectivation at the level of cities. My Aperveillance: Watching with Open Data project, presented this year at the Critical Invention: Media, Engagement, Practice conference, explores both the potentials and risks related to the availability of open data generated by cities and citizens.

    In addition to my interests in big data and critical theory, my research also reflects my emphasis on innovation and rigor in digital pedagogy. This can be seen in my recent publications on social media in the classroom (Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies in Education) and collaborative conference presentations on creativity (“Give Me Hope, A Pencil, and a Phone: What Students Can Teach Instructors about Creativity;” “Critical Making and Creativity in the Classroom”) and critical thinking (“No Philosopher Left Behind: Critical Thinking Makes a Comeback in the Science Classroom;” “Using Comics in the Classroom to Make the Abstract Ideas of Philosophy and Critical Theory Concrete”). This research facilities my use of engaging and sound pedagogical practices in the classroom. I also work to connect my research to issues in popular culture in ways that are more concretely accessible to students and general audiences. In particular, I have explored questions related to social media (Doctor Who and Philosophy), television (Supervillains and Philosophy), and rhetoric (Radiohead and Philosophy).