Research and Writing

Research Areas

My work combines some conceptual and methodological tenets of media and cultural studies with contemporary topics in communications regulation and freedom of expression. In the past few years, I have written primarily about these issues in terms of the evolving relationship between reputation and freedom of expression on internet platforms.

My current book project (under contract with Routledge) looks at the fascinating work of “reputation management” practitioners. Both some recently published work and several articles in progress investigate the efforts of platforms (and users) to reconcile competing interests in managing user-generated content. The approach taken in this research is, of course, also influenced by my earlier work on representations of social identity in popular culture (past and present).

I’ve also become more interested in the politicization of “free speech” as a concept. Some 

recent writing has explored current issues regarding speech in higher education. This writing is part of the groundwork for a subsequent project that examines the politics of contemporary antimonopoly rhetoric and the ongoing debate over regulating “big tech.”

Recent Publications

I have a review essay in the June 2018 issue of American Quarterly that examines some recent books about free speech in higher education. I argue that the books offer valuable defenses of the liberal free speech tradition but also somewhat overlook recent perspectives that try to re-conceptualize the link between speech and violence.

A piece on popular attitudes about the content policies of consumer review websites has recently been published in Social Media and Society.

Another piece that addresses how the “reputation management” industry functions as a kind of American substitute for the “right to be forgotten” was recently published in First Amendment Studies.

Other Publications and Presentations

An article about the sponsorship of the seminal American radio program called Amos ‘n’ Andy was published in the Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television. The piece is based on research conducted at the NBC archives in Madison, WI.

A review that I wrote of Tim Dwyer’s 2016 book “Convergent Media and Privacy” is online at  Journalism and Mass Communication Quarterly.

Over the years, I have presented my work at the conference meetings of organizations like the National Communication Association (NCA), Southern States Communication Association (SSCA), International Association of Media and Communication Research (IAMCR), Law and Society Association, Cultural Studies Association, and Policy History Association.

Request my full CV.

Dissertation

I finished my Ph.D in Communication at UCSD in 2016. The dissertation analyzed the relationship between the legal and non-legal tools that people use when then feel unduly maligned by speech on internet platforms. Three platform-specific case studies examine the implications of the pervasive contemporary panic about reputational fragility for public culture and freedom of expression.

The analysis illustrates that the neoliberal imperative to manage one’s reputation using “self-help” today has conflicting implications. On one hand, it vindicates some longstanding legal reform efforts to encourage negotiation and rebuttal instead of lawsuits. The law indeed often plays little role in resolving disputes about perceived reputational harm online. At the same time, reputational panic also perpetuates a problematic conception of the precariousness of digital identity. This conception threatens to undermine the important democratic function of critical speech and the potential of online platforms for self-expression.