Research Projects

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 how rural places, their contemporary and historical problems, and the proposed future solutions, are envisioned as being essential to American economic and technological progress.

Current Projects

Rural Transformation in the 21st Century (2017-present)

I am engaged in a long-term ethnographic project investigating the promotion of innovation and technological entrepreneurship as key elements for contemporary rural economic development. I am concerned with how unique aspects of rural culture, natural resources, and geographic remoteness get transformed into assets that can be leveraged by a variety of actors in the name of technological advancement and post-industrial economic recovery. Through this work, I have collaborated with a variety of regional economic developers and civic leaders in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

Key insights from the first 2.5 years of this research make up the basis of my PhD dissertation, titled Rural Transformation in the 21st Century: Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and High-Tech Economies in Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. Preliminary theoretical research on the role of social media in remote rural communities 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) appeared in Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction (PDF pre-print) and was 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 focused on how 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).

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 networks 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. 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)

This interview study explored the unique experiences of LGBT 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).