Research

My research uses ethnographic and participatory design methods to understand how people use information and communication technologies for community formation and economic development in the rural Midwestern United States. I am more broadly interested in the ways in which identity and social systems, particularly sexuality, class, and rurality, affect the creation, transmission, storage, and access of information in social settings.

Current Projects

Rural Reinvention and Rural Advantage (2018-present)

My dissertation, “Rural Reinvention and Rural Advantage,” is based on two years of research in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. In it, I investigate the promotion of innovation and technological entrepreneurship as a form of rural economic development. By embedding myself in local development organizations and start-up communities, I find that policy governing and funding modern technological and economic development concentrates resources in already well-resourced rural communities. Through my examination of their efforts to attract a young technological workforce and democratize modern development and planning tools such as GIS and asset management systems, I argue that the widespread future success of rural America relies on a structured and systematic sharing of technological resources among under-resourced communities. This research has immediate implications for the design and use of ICTs for the purposes of governance and development in the United States and abroad.

Preliminary theoretical research from this project was published in the Companion of the 2019 ACM Conference on Designing Interactive Systems (PDF pre-print) where it won the Best Provocation Award. A comprehensive scoping review of human-computer interaction literature on rural research (co-authored with Dr. Susan Wyche and Dr. Tiffany Veinot) will be appearing in Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction and presented at the 2019 ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing.

The LGBTQ Futures Project: Exploring the intersection of technology and community for LGBTQ people in the Rural Midwestern United States (2017-present)

I lead a research team including co-researchers from Northern Michigan University and Michigan Technological University conducting participatory design workshops with LGBTQ people living in rural and remote communities across the Upper Midwest. We are exploring how our participants envision the future of technology and community institutions for LGBTQ people. This research seeks to generate a better understanding of both rural and LGBTQ users of digital technologies and provide information and data to community service providers in rural areas so they may better service LGBTQ populations.

Preliminary results from this research were published in the Companion of the 2019 ACM Conference on Designing Interactive Systems (co-authored with Stefani Vargas; PDF pre-print) and Interactions Magazine (co-authored with Chanda Phelan, Dr. Norman Makoto Su, Dr. Morgan Vigil-Hayes, Dr. Susan Wyche, and Dr. Phoebe Sengersopen access PDF here). This research was funded by the University of Michigan Spectrum Center’s Gadawski-Callam LGBTQ Project-Based Grant and the School of Information’s Initiative for Information Impact.


 

Past Projects

Social technology and LGBTQ people in the rural Midwest (2015-2018)

This long-term ethnographic investigated the uses of social technologies, particularly social media, by LGBTQ people in the rural Midwest. I am interested in the ways rural LGBTQ people use social media to navigate identity-based resources and information, social relationships, and the need for community space in lieu of resources typically utilized by LGBTQ populations in urban areas (e.g. bars, bookstores, community centers). Results of this research appear in Information, Communication & Society (PDF; blog post).

Making in Michigan Libraries (2017-2018)

From August 2017 to August 2018, I was a research assistant on this IMLS-funded grant project, lead by Kristin Fontichiaro (PI) and Dr. Silvia Lindtner (Co-PI). The project was broadly about supporting professional development for “making” (broadly defined) in rural and small-town libraries in Michigan. My role on the project was resident ethnographer, traveling on a monthly basis to two libraries in Michigan for interviews and observations with library staff and community members. My interest in this project lies in how libraries and their staff identify community needs and articulate formal and informal relationships with community organizations in their local making and DIY ecologies. Preliminary results of this research were shared at the CHI 2019 workshop on the Future of Work and are in progress to be submitted at Library Quarterly.

Developing a culturally responsive framework for promoting computing among adolescent girls in STEM programs (2016-2017)

This research is lead by Dr. Patrica Garcia through her NSF EAGER grant #1651653. My role in the project was to work with Dr. Garcia to recruit, train, supervise, and work alongside undergraduate research assistants on a qualitative coding project. The coding project took data provided by our institutional partner (BLACK GIRLS LEAD) to analyze program application responses (alongside interview and observational data) to generate a culturally responsive framework for working with girls of color in STEM education.

Location-based social networks and rural gay men (2014-2016)

This research began with a Master’s thesis project on the use of location-based social network, SCRUFF, by gay men in the rural Midwest. The resulting thesis focused primarily on the mediating role of rurality in finding community, navigating sexual relationships, and privacy and safety concerns. It used content analysis of user profiles in urban and rural areas throughout Michigan and semi-structured interviews with users in the rural Midwest. Some results of this work (co-authored with Silvia Lindtner) appeared in the Proceedings of the 20th Annual ACM Conference on Computer Supported Cooperative Work and Social Computing (PDF pre-print) and received an Honorable Mention for Best Paper (top 5% of papers).

User acceptance of location tracking technologies in health research (2015-2016)

This research lead by Dr. Tiffany Veinot assessed the feasibility of using GPS-based data collection techniques for measuring chronic illness management activities. To do this, we deployed smartphones and smart-watches with approximately 25 people with chronic illnesses for a month long period in which the devices recorded location data and daily surveys were pushed to participants. In addition, we conducted two interviews with participants about the devices, their ease of use, and data quality. The results of this research (co-authored with Dr. Veinot and others) appear in the Journal of Biomedical Informatics (PDF pre-print) and the Journal of Medical Internet Research (open access available here).

LGBT parents and social media (2015)

Our team conducted interviews with 28 LGBT parents, in collaboration with PhD pre-candidates Lindsay Blackwell and Tawfiq Ammari, Dr. Tiffany Veinot, Dr. Cliff Lampe, and Dr. Sarita Schoenebeck. This study explores the unique experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender parents as they navigate their own identity and privacy concerns in tandem with the challenges of child-rearing in an increasingly digital context. The results of this work appeared in the Proceedings of the 34th Annual ACM Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems (PDF; 23% acceptance rate) and received an Honorable Mention for Best Paper (top 5% of papers).