My interdisciplinary research brings together rhetoric, archives and information and feminist studies. My main line of research uses digital humanities methods to explore how digital protocols, such as categorization, indexing and tagging practices, rhetorically shape notions of race, gender and national belonging in archives. My first book, Layered Lives: Rhetoric and Representation in the Southern Life History Project written with Lauren Tilton and Taylor Arnold, combines archival and quantitive methods to recover the history of the Southern Life Histories Project part of the Federal Writers’ Project during the 1930s (Stanford University Press, 2022). This innovative digital book demonstrates how gender and race informed the writing practices used to create the concept of “life histories,” which documented the lives of Southerners struggling to survive the Great Depression.
My second line of research emerges from my role as Director of the Digital Literacy and Communication (DLC) Lab. The DLC serves as a space of innovation in digital pedagogies by exploring strategies to teach digital writing through web development, social media, and games. I am particularly interested in how theories of play and gaming can help create critical pedagogies that interrogate race, gender and sexuality as well demonstrate how algorithmic rhetoric shapes narrative structures. Recently, I received a NEH grant to create a Critical Gaming Initiative that centers questions of identity and representation in the development of a Critical Game Studies minor. The cornerstone of the initiative is the Greenlaw Gameroom, UNC’s first game-based classroom
My work can be found in College Composition and Communication, Rhetoric Review, and Digital Humanities Quarterly. My full CV can be found here.
Layered Lives: Rhetoric and Representation in the Southern Life History Project
Layered Lives: Rhetoric and Representation in the Southern Life History Project takes a deeper look into the Southern Life Histories Collection through an interdisciplinary lens that weaves together Composition and Rhetoric, Digital Humanities, and Digital Public History. The Life Histories Project began as monumental effort by the Work Progress Administration’s Federal Writers’ Project to collect the stories from everyday people by putting unemployed writers to work during the Great Depression. At its height, the project employed 6,000 writers and wrote nearly 10,000 life histories. These life histories mark a unique genre of writing that bring together social documentary, ethnography, and oral history that reveal as much about the writers as the interviewees. Through a theory that we call “thick mapping,” we fuse metadata mapping practices with text analysis to interrogate these life histories in ways never done before. Utilizing the affordances of the digital monograph, our argument unfolds in a series of map layers each digging more deeply how into how race and gender are represented in the composition and narrative structures of the life histories. Together this analysis reveals how notions of Southern identity were negotiated through this unique new genre, created at a time of political, economic, and social turmoil.
The Invention of Disaster Archives and the Rhetorics of Race, Gender, and Nation
In this book manuscript, I investigate the new methods deployed by many U.S. historical institutions to collect and display materials relating to two contemporary disasters: September 11, 2001 and Hurricane Katrina. These new methods, which I define as “disaster archiving,” contain four key elements: (1) immediate collection of physical materials, rather than the previous methodological tenet that called for significant time and distance before initiating collection procedures, (2) preservation of objects in perpetual destruction to maintain their authenticity, (3) a focus on stories rather than historical context, and (4) digital collection of born-digital materials that demonstrate the general population’s thoughts and feelings relating to the event including emails and digital to a scale never before possible. Using new and emerging theories surrounding archival rhetorics, I demonstrate how this new method of collecting ‘history-in-the-making’ reveals the ways in which notions of race, gender, and national belonging become built into archival structures.