My research focuses on relations between changing media technologies and the processes by which entrenched social divisions are remade, reconfigured, or overcome in practice. Lately, I have been examining the widespread assumption that the successes of “creative technologists” in places like Silicon Valley can and should be generalized through cutting-edge educational interventions. My research is primarily ethnographic and, as such, I direct attention toward the quotidian ways in which both structural divisions and changing cultural forms and practices are made, altered, and sustained. I also address these themes in my teaching through an undergraduate and a graduate level course on Situated Practices, an undergraduate studio course on Critical Design Practice (with Lilly Irani), and several undergraduate courses on the relations between technological change, institutional reform, and processes of social and cultural transformation.
I am currently working on a book for Princeton University Press about the design and launch of the first school in the United States to organize its entire curriculum to be “game-like.” The school, which opened in Manhattan in the fall of 2009, was founded by a team of highly qualified media-tech designers and progressive educational reformers who believed that games, the internet, and digital production technologies afforded exciting new opportunities for transforming public education. Between 2005 and 2008, I was a researcher for the Digital Youth Project, the largest qualitative study of young people and new media to date, and a co-author of the project’s final book, Hanging Out, Messing Around, and Geeking Out (MIT Press 2010). At UC San Diego I am a faculty member in the Department of Communication, a founding member of the Studio for Ethnographic Design, and a member of the Laboratory for Comparative Human Cognition. Prior to graduate school I worked in interactive media design, primarily in collaboration with the design consultancy Tellart. I received a B.A. from Bowdoin College in 2000 and a Ph.D. from the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Information in 2012.