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, 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 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 publics. 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 first solo-authored 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 optimism for the philanthropic possibilities of new media technologies is continuously regenerated even though actual interventions routinely fall short of hoped for outcomes, often dramatically so. The book also examines what this resilient techno-idealism manages to accomplish – politically and for whom.
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.