My research agenda is strongly influenced by the research I have completed for my dissertation and my general approach to scholarship in rhetoric, writing, and communication. That is, I am always concerned with research questions that attend to different levels of scope – more grounded concerns that affect technology users and students and broader issues that impact cultures and institutions. Further, I am always excited to work with community partners and to create research that is meaningful to the locations in which I teach and research.
An interest I am eager to pursue with greater depth lies in exploring students’ mobile composing practices. Very little research has been accomplished in this area, aside from emergent work at the Writing in Diverse Environments (WIDE) center and Rylish Moeller’s “ReWriting Wi-fi: The Surveillance of Mobility and Student Agency” (2009). I hope to broaden this research through empirical, student-centered research that addresses a range of concerns about how students compose on-the-go through and with mobile devices. The rise of texting, for example, has garnered much attention due to the shortened syntax of written communication, but very little research has interrogated the ways in which this technology has afforded writers radical new mobilities. A number of new questions come to light. How does the mobility of textual production affect larger writing processes? How do students conceptualize their own mobile writing practices? Do invention heuristics adapt to or emerge from specific environments? How will mobile compositions shape our assignments, courses, and expectations? Further, what new methodologies and methods will composition researchers need to adopt in order to study these new writing practices? In the last few years, we have only been able to understand how these questions, and their answers, could play a significant role in the future of composition studies. I hope to attend to these issues, and more, as I pursue emergent forms of mobile composition.
I am also quite energized by the line of work that I have established in my dissertation research. Much of my dissertation builds a theory for a rhetorical approach to movement technologies, from intimate, material interactions to the broader implications of how people are convinced by mobility technologies. I have attempted to answer my main research question, “how is transportation rhetorical?”, as a theoretical question, so that my more practical research concerns can have a solid footing. While I believe this study has the potential to be published as a book-length monograph, in making links between rhetoric and mobility I have made a number of connections that will lead to new research projects. For example, I am enthusiastic about exploring connections between rhetorical conceptions of metaphor and interface studies, as I believe it could have an impact on both usability studies and Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) studies. My links between the canon of delivery and the Greek logistikos could be of use in understanding new forms of delivery in mediated environments. I have already attempted to broaden my research concerns in an article (currently under requested revision) that suggests one way to approach the problematic divide between rhetoric and materiality is through rhetorical conceptions of movement and mobility. My dissertation research is also more than theoretical, as the autonomous transportation project that serves as my major case study includes an archive of student material. So far, I have worked with some of this archive at a grounded research workshop for the Association of Teachers of Technical Writing (ATTW) conference in 2011. Though I have just begun to devote critical attention to this work, it shows much promise.
The locations and institutions where I work always impact the focus of my research. While at Case Western Reserve University, I taught a course on the local history of Cleveland, taking up the challenge to research such a topic, even though I had only been a resident of Cleveland for a short time. I also try to engage local student or community groups as my research concerns shift. As part of my study of mobility technologies, I worked in the Electric Purdue on Demand (EPOD) Club, a student organization dedicated to designing and building an autonomous, electric pod car. I began my work with the club as a member, first as head of the Marketing & Logistics Working Group (from 2009-2010) and eventually as a consultant. This work has not only been invaluable to my dissertation research, but resulted in a presentation at this year’s International Professional Communication Conference (IPCC) about sustainable documentation practices in student-run organizations. Three major concerns came from this study: researchers have many unanswered questions about how sustainable documentation shapes teaching and pedagogy development, researchers often neglect the writing students perform in their clubs and organizations, and many researchers neglect their own university’s student groups as sites for research. I doubt these findings would have been available to me had I not elected to seek out, and work within, a local organization. I look forward to building relationships both in and outside of the academy, as I situate my research.