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. I am currently pursuing research in this area regarding the fascinating work of “reputation management” companies and the efforts of platforms (and users) to reconcile competing interests in managing user-generated content.
Some of my interest in this area is more directly informed by my previous work that focused on representations of social identity in popular culture (past and present). For instance, I’ve become interested in the gendered logics of reputational harm that seem to inform both legal and journalistic discussions of “revenge porn.”
I’ve recently also become more interested in populist rhetoric and politicized constructions of the idea of “free speech” itself. I’m in the exploratory stages of a project that investigates the different meanings that have been attached to this term in the service of (sometimes surprising) political critiques — for instance, regarding topics like communications industry concentration and intellectual freedom on college campuses.
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 essay that I wrote about Tim Dwyer’s recent 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 International Association of Media and Communication Research (IAMCR), Law and Society Association, Cultural Studies Association, and Policy History Association.
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My dissertation (defended 2016) 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.