I am an associate professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I earned my Ph.D. in 2014 from the Media, Technology and Society program in Northwestern University’s School of Communication.
My main research interests concern how individuals and groups use technology to collaborate across technical and occupational boundaries. I conceptualize collaboration as more complicated than the simple integration of group members’ knowledge toward a common end. Specifically, I am interested in how individuals express their political and pragmatic motives when choosing to represent (or not represent) information to one another, and the effects these choices have upon higher level group activity. I have primarily used ethnographic methods to examine these phenomena in a number of contexts including: applied atmospheric science, interdisciplinary computational science, automobile engineering, children’s hospitals, car enthusiast communities, service organizations, and couples driving together.
I have several areas of current research:
- Fostering innovation on diverse scientific teams: For the past several years, I have been the lead investigator on a series of grants seeking to apply findings from research on innovation, interdisciplinary teams, and group dynamics to recruit and support diverse teams of scientists interested in addressing societal grand challenges. In addition to their unique opportunity to apply findings from our field to important issues, these projects have offered our team unique access to understanding the challenges scientists face when seeking to collaborate across institutional and disciplinary boundaries. My research team is particularly interested in using data from this project to understand how to build effective policies and procedures to meaningfully support diversity and inclusion through science policy. Some descriptions of our work are available here, here, and here.
- Working in Cross-Boundary Collaboration: My research team performed mixed-method study of interdisciplinary relationships at a medium sized research center with an emphasis on the application of computational methods. As an organization with a 30 year tradition of successful interdisciplinary projects, the CRC was an ideal context to explore the strategies individuals deploy to construct and maintain cross-boundary relationships. Using a mix of interviews, observations, and a social network survey, my team and I are curious to understand the conditions under which social structure serves to support or hinder attempts to collaborate. I am working on this project with four excellent graduate students: Kaitlyn Childs, Ly Dinh, Chengyu Fang, and Hallie Workman.
- The Work of Applied Weather Science: I performed an ethnographic study of collaborative relationships between weather researchers and industry and government organizations as they built state of the art numerical weather prediction models for use in applied contexts. Over a year spent in the field, I captured a detailed account of researchers’ communication with outside collaborators, and with each other as they performed their daily work. Through my analyses of these data, I was particularly interested in unveiling how engaging in applied collaborative relationships shapes the scientific process and the technologies it produces.
- Policy Implications of New Simulation Technologies: Paul Leonardi and I are collecting data from three different occupations (automobile engineers, atmospheric scientists, and urban planners) to examine how the increasing adoption of computer simulation technology is affecting organizational decision-making and policy development.
- Rapidly Coordinating Knowledge on Distributed Teams: Paul Leonardi, Jeff Treem, and I are involved in an ongoing project looking at the communicative and technological mechanisms through which a network of hospitals organizes to rapidly provide care to urgently ill children.
- Collectively Appropriating New Technology: Alan Clark, Paul Leonardi, and I are working to develop theory about how individual, communicative, and material mechanisms affect the way that new technologies come to be used in particular ways. We have explored this phenomena conceptually and through agent-based modeling. We are now seeking to develop our theory further through empirical study.
While I was a grad student at Northwestern, I was lucky to be a member of a thriving research community. I worked on projects with several faculty including my advisor, Paul Leonardi, as well as Noshir Contractor, Pablo Boczkowski, and William Ocasio. I also collaborated closely with other graduate students including Jeffrey Treem (now a professor at UT Austin) and Alan Clark (now a researcher at Facebook).
Prior to Northwestern I spent two years studying car culture as an associate researcher at General Motors Research & Design. I also have a B.S. in Cognitive Science from University of California, San Diego./