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Research

My research aims to understand the impact and role of mobile and social media in the world. To this end, there are three main areas of my research:

1) integration of mobile media into everyday life

2) historicizing mobile and social media

3) mobile media and privacy

4) research methods and ethics

I work with both undergraduate and graduate students at Cornell on a variety of research projects. I also co-lead the New Media & Society Working Group. If you are interested in working on research with me, please email me directly. See Publications for specific articles within these areas.

Current Projects

Mobile media

Much of my research examines mobile media, and more specifically location-based or mobile social networks. I have been studying these since 2005 and continue to work in this area. In particular, I am interested in exploring issues of communication and social interaction through these systems. I also am interested how these services can impact and be impacted by the social construction of space. I continue to collaborate with undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty on projects related to mobile social networks.

I just recently completed a replication study of my original ‘Mobile Phones in Public‘ study (2005) thanks to a small grant from Cornell’s Institute for the Social Sciences. I’m currently collaborating on a project about the adoption and development of the Internet of Things.

Historicizing mobile and social media

I recently finished my book, The Qualified Self: Social Media & the Accounting of Everyday Life, in which I argue that many of the ways we use social media today have longstanding precedents in historical media like diaries, journals, and scrapbooks. Throughout this book, I outline several media practices important to social media that have historical parallels. These are the media practices that facilitate sharing of everyday life activities – both mundane and momentous, identity work, remembrancing, and reckoning ourselves and the world around us. These practices together constitute what I call “media accounting”.

Media accounting allows people in their own words and ways to apprehend, document, and reflect on the world they encounter. Media accounting are the ordinary social practices of documenting, cataloging, and curating our lives and the world around us. Fitting broadly with the sociology of media, this book examines the practices surrounding the role of media to document, reflect, and share experiences, perspectives, insights, and activities.

I continue to be interested in questions of self-representation, mobile technology, and everyday practices, in both historical and contemporary contexts. Increasingly I’m looking at infrastructures to support such communication practices. I’m currently working on an archival project about AT&T and the shifting nature of telecommunication, information networks, and media.

Mobile media & privacy

It’s hard to study mobile and location-based technology and not study privacy. I wrote a chapter for Michael Zimmer and Katharina Kinder-Kurlanda on the ethics of locational data in their  book, Internet Research Ethics for the Social Age: New Challenges, Cases, and Contexts.

Previously, I received a three-year USDA-Hatch grant to explore privacy practices on Twitter. This was a two-part study where we conducted a content analysis of public tweets and then conducted interviews Twitter users in New York City and Binghamton, NY. The content analysis of the public tweets was published in Information, Communication & Society. The analysis of the interviews was published in Digital Media: Transformations of Human Communication.

 

Methods & Ethics

Increasingly I have become interested in how we do communication research. In 2017 I co-edited a special issue on Mobile Methods in Mobile Media and Communication. I led the review of the qualitative methods submissions, while my colleague, Jeff Boase, at the University of Toronto led the review of the quantitative methods submissions. The collection we put together included the work of scholars from around the world and reveals the important ways that mobile phones have moved beyond just being a subject of research to enabling innovative social science research methods due to the increasing presence of these technologies in society today.

I also wrote a chapter for Eszter Hargittai’s Digital Research Realities handbook about qualitative sampling in internet research. Too often when generalizeability is not the goal of the research, thoughtful sampling is dismissed as unimportant. However, as I argue in the chapter, sampling can certainly be tied to issues of validity even in qualitative research.  Here is a link to a short presentation I gave on the topic.

Recently I put together a panel for ICA about Open Science and qualitative methods. Here is a link to my presentation “What Empirical Qualitative Research Has to Say About Replicability”.

I’ve also worked extensively with the ICA to lead the development of the association’s Code of Ethics and to add a public good clause to the mission of the organization.

I’m also currently leading Cornell Center for Social Sciences‘ efforts to promote and advance qualitative and interpretive research methods,  which I am very excited about.

 

A list of my publications can be found here or on my CV.