Broadly, my research engages with questions of how computational technologies have led and continue to lead to political marginalization. I am currently completing a book manuscript entitled Byting Out the Public: Personal Computers and the Private Sphere exploring the historical socio-cultural development of personal computing during the 1970s and 1980s as a reactionary backlash to the preceding Civil Rights and Women’s Liberation movements. I am also developing a series of articles on the intersection of digital humanities methodologies and the history of computing, and I am conducting preliminary research on a secondary manuscript on the role of “creativity” in the marketing of educational technologies. This work stems from my experience in the classroom and my current work as an instructional designer at the University of Richmond’s Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology.
My principal research project is a book manuscript examining how the historical development of information technology contributes to the marginalization of minorities, women, and non-heteronormative families. Journalistic and popular accounts of the personal computer’s emergence often stress the importance of a select group of “visionaries” in the Silicon Valley area, but these portrayals fail to address why most Americans adopted information technologies. Fleshing out this contrast, my manuscript relies on qualitative socio-cultural analysis of films, newspapers, games, hobbyist magazines, newsletters, and material culture to read “against the grain” and recover voices overlooked due to the emphasis on dominant social groups. Through this, I show that the computer was not a source of liberation but instead served as a reactionary cultural force.
My manuscript elucidates the computer as a force of whiteness, masculinity, and heteronormativity. In Part 1, I situate the computer within a broader range of amateur electronic kits rather than a continuation of mainframe information technologies. In doing so, I demonstrate that early adopters saw the computer as a reactionary force that strengthened the heteronormative nuclear family and challenged the Civil Rights and Women’s Liberation movements of the 1960s. In Part 2, I inspect the personal computer as a powerful force of whiteness. By placing the reception of personal computers in the historical and cultural development of American “childhood,” I show how the machine became a tool to bring about “creatively prepared” children. Rather than viewing children’s development and education as a public plight, parents, manufacturers, and commentators turned to the personal computer as a supplementation and replacement for “traditional” schooling. In Part 3, I weave the development of video game arcades with space/place and hegemonic masculinity. In the arcade, commentators feared that teenage boys would fall into vice and consequently fail to assert the conservative ideal of masculinity that had reemerged in the 1980s. Finally, I conclude by asserting the implications of these developments on contemporary backlashes and debates against social media and political discourse.
In addition to completing my manuscript, I am heavily involved in the research of how computational techniques can enhance the production and dissemination of humanities scholarship, more commonly known as the digital humanities. I have published refereed articles on these issues in Digital Humanities Quarterly, The Programming Historian, and Gnovis. While digital humanities research has focused on historical or literary sources, I have a growing interest in how historians will conduct research on digital culture in the next two decades. As a result, I am generating a series of articles assessing the impact of large-scale data analytical methodologies on qualitative research in computational history. I plan to submit these articles to Digital Humanities Quarterly, IEEE Annals of the History of Computing, and New Media and Society upon completion. I have also begun research on a second book manuscript examining the role of “creativity” in the historical and contemporary marketing/reception of educational technologies such as Atari computers, LEGO Mindstorms, the XO Laptop, and Chromebooks and the ways that this promoting marginalizes women and minorities in the classroom.
In short, my research emphasizes the importance of computational technologies on marginalized groups through a unique blend of quantitative computational techniques and “traditional” humanistic qualitative approaches. Rather than viewing information technology as a new occurrence, I elucidate the historical origins of contemporary computer culture to demonstrate longer patterns. In doing so, I provide a novel viewpoint of these phenomena often overlooked by other scholars of new media, information studies, and computational technology.