I am an assistant professor in the Department of Communication and an affiliated faculty member in the Department of Ethnic Studies at the University of California, San Diego. I work at the intersection of science and technology studies, moral and political anthropology, and design. My scholarship focuses on relations between technoscience, morality, and politics. I am particularly interested in how moral concerns and yearnings come to be mobilized for and experienced within expert-designed interventions. In doing so I look at how morally sanctioned expertise relates to issues of power, social division, and technocratic modes of governance. Having worked as both an ethnographer and a designer, I am also interested in how ethnography – and social science more generally – can and do play a role in making and shaping public processes. In that vein, I am the current director of the Studio for Ethnographic Design at the University of California, San Diego and a founding member of the University of California Collaboratory for Ethnographic Design.
My forthcoming book, Disruptive Fixation: School Reform and the Pitfalls of Techno-Idealism (Princeton 2017), is an ethnography about an ambitious attempt to reinvent the public school in the United States for the digital age. The book also draws on my experiences working on several cutting-edge philanthropic projects while I was a graduate student and new professor. It explores how techno-philanthropism manages to renew itself even though actual interventions routinely fall short of hoped for outcomes, often dramatically so. The book examines what this resilient idealism does manage to accomplish – politically and for whom – even as the interventions that it sets in motion do not accomplish wished for outcomes.
Prior to graduate school I worked in the field of user experience design, primarily for large not-for-profit organizations and 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.