I am part of the Writing Studies program at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Located in the English department, we study writing–both as artifacts and processes. From a very broad perspective, I qualitatively and quantitatively study the way writers contend with textual participation. Specifically, I study online web-writing with a focus on interactive and participatory Internet environments. I am currently working on a manuscript length project titled The Continuing Conversation.
The Continuing Conversation contributes new and important empirical evidence the field of interactive audience by answering the following question: how do writers contend with their participatory audience, notably their online comments. I draw on millions of texts from online writers and dozens of personal interviews with well-known writers on Reddit.com, Amazon.com, and the online versions of The New York Times and Forbes. I document three strategies that these writers adopt online: textual timing, textual listening, textual management. Coupling big data methods (statistical analysis, topic modeling, and data mining using Python and R-studio coding procedures) with in-depth qualitative methods enables me to take a macro and micro view of the ways online writers perceive and construct their texts as emergent—and hence continue to update them. Supported by these examples, my book argues that the “update culture” of online comments transforms the very aims of writing: online writing does not yield discrete documents, but continuous texts meant to be repeatedly engaged, revisited, and updated.