What am I up to?

Core Philosophy

Writing moves and circulates in our world. With the ubiquity of digital mediation, audiences are now inherently participatory. As a consequence, what writers do after they publish matters as much as what they do before they publish.  This circulation, and how it shapes writing processes, is what I study.

For example, academic researchers often use social media to promote their publications. Knowing that their work will appear on social media has an observable effect on what they will write and how they frame their research.

My research consequently reframes social media users, engineers, and scientists as writers, thereby stressing the composing practices of these contexts. This perspective also allows me to apply writing theory to digital artifacts and computational processes. To study circulation in this way, I typically combine qualitative research (interviewing, observations) with quantitative audience metrics and statistics.

Credit: T-Stagg Photography http://www.tstaggphotography.com/

Research Interests

  • User experience and information design
  • Social media interactions, chiefly how writers respond to their audiences
  • Algorithms, from cultural and technical perspectives
  • Computational methods, including web-scraping, data structuring, and web development
  • Machine learning, specifically using techniques to study audience interactions. More recently, I have been studying the types of writing machine learning scientists engage and the genres they employ
  • Science Communication, including engineering writing and the communication processes of research labs. Specifically, I am interested in how scientists disseminate their research online.
  • Writing across the Curriculum

Applications of Research

  • Creating and improving social media followings
  • Designing more civil and relevant online interactions (via comments)
  • Improving feedback on writing using automated processes
  • Better online interfaces
  • Identifying strategies for improving online discussions
  • Designing pedagogical assignments for science writing

Current Projects

Interested in working with me? Current and future plans include:

  • (current) monograph on digital case study methodology
  • (current) monograph about the communication practices of machine learning scientists
  • (current) an article on algorithmic folklore
  • (current) an article about the lifecycle of a writing assignment as it is handed down between faculty
  • a study of Emojination and how they try to create more inclusive emojis for our phones through technical writing
  • (current) Refining a database of 14 million comments from the NYT for widespread dissemination (prototype here: http://consider-comments.herokuapp.com/)
  • (future) a study of how authors inculcate followings as they embark on online book tours.
  • And, of course, some surprises…


I always encourage people to develop interests valuable to them. In addition to taking care of my children, I skateboard, swim, weightlift, write fantasy novels, read comics, and garden. I am good at cooking too. I aim to one day write an ethnography of skateboard culture.

University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign