As an advanced doctoral candidate in Rhetoric & Technical Communications at the University of South Florida, my research puts the Digital Humanities in conversation with Sociology, Computer Science, and Public Policy, generating new methodologies for research in public rhetoric, policy development, and social change. I have developed big data methods of analyzing large corpuses of texts to understand the ways in which language influences public policy, specifically in the case of the herbicide called ‘Agent Orange’.
I have published three peer-reviewed scholarly articles and a book chapter. “The Rhetorical Challenges and Methodological Opportunities in Facilitating Citizen Participation in Technology Assessment and Development,” another manuscript in progress, has been accepted for publication in a forthcoming edited book collection. Most of these publications resulted from conference talks delivered at more than a dozen national and international conferences, and all explore the intersections of technology, rhetoric, and social justice. I also bring to the Academy more than 15 years of industry experience in Communications, Visual Design, and Public Affairs. My consulting practice informs my scholarship and teaching, and students seem to appreciate my focus on application and service learning.
An avid traveler, triathlete, and SCUBA diver, I have lived in England and Vietnam, have had the great fortune to visit more than 15 countries, have dived with sharks in the Bahamas, Belize, and off the coast of Africa, and recently completed my first sprint triathlon.
My work in English Studies falls under the rubric of Rhetoric and Composition with a specialization in Professional and Technical Communications. Whether I am teaching a traditional composition course or an introduction to technical communication, I organize my classes around the rhetorical principles and concepts that drive communication. This supports my subscription to a social epistemic philosophy of knowledge...
Words are never innocent. They are charged with human values. Linguistically, ‘Agent Orange’ is a synonym for TCDD-dioxin, but it’s also a metonym—a part representing the whole of how Americans and Vietnamese think about the ethics of chemical warfare. To some, Agent Orange it is a symbol of deceit and betrayal. To others, it is a symbol of scientific ingenuity and military necessity. Volumes of rhetoric have been generated about Agent Orange, but few studies have systematically explored how and in what ways those rhetorics resulted or frustrated changes of policy and modern political practice on ground in Vietnam, or at home in the United States. Rhetoric of public policy and affordances of big data and technology help me understand the rhetorical activity of policy and opinion development. This has descriptive power, but also the potential for practice, application, and collaboration between Rhetoric and STEM disciplines...
My work in English Studies falls under the rubric of Rhetoric and Composition with a specialization in Professional and Technical Communications. Whether I am teaching a traditional composition course or an introduction to technical communication, I organize my classes around the rhetorical principles and concepts that drive communication. This supports my subscription to a social epistemic philosophy of knowledge. I believe that human knowledge and culture is a collective achievement; we co-create the worlds in which we live. Though the term social epistemology carries it’s own conflicts, it is in line with my work within the interdisciplinary field of the Digital Humanities and Science and Technology Studies and the originating work of Thomas Kuhn, Michele Foucault and more recently Bruno Latour.
It is important to acknowledge these beliefs and theoretical frames upfront because they influence and shape my classroom practice. Accepting the idea that, as human beings, we co-construct the realities we then live means that when my students and I talk about culture or politics or art through a rhetorical lens, we tend to talk about the processes by which language, metaphor, and frames shape our values, attitudes, and beliefs. Words, like images, are never innocent; they carry immense power and nonhuman agency. All of my courses have as their base these fundamental beliefs about rhetoric, language, power, and belief.
We all belong to multiple discourse communities. Part of my responsibility as a teacher is to help students identify the discourse communities to which they belong and then offer them tools they can use to participate in those communities or to critically assess the influence of rhetoric at work on them or in such communities. To explore visual and verbal discourse is to look behind the construction of labels (criminal, professor, queer) and to see these labels—wife, politician, revolutionary—for what they are: performances. This kind of active, critical rhetorical work requires a certain level of playfulness, curiosity, even bravery, which is sometimes difficult to find or encourage in students who are there only because the course is required. To overcome this natural resistance, I try to sample references, stories, and exemplars from popular culture and to design assignments that ask for both creativity and criticality, and to use technology or software applications in novel ways. I believe brain games, movement, humor, multi-media, experiential learning opportunities, and a generous definition of what counts as a “text” are all effective tools with which to teach writing and rhetoric. I use these tools like tokens that buy me access to and the ethos needed to ask students to honestly participate in the critical rhetorical work I want us to do together throughout a course.
I like technology and so I feel comfortable integrating it into the classroom, but technology is always only a means, and I attempt to use that means in service of more effective teaching, learning, and retention. I subscribe to a connectivist model (Seimens 2004) of learning and teaching. In the digital age, an age of chaos, this approach is supported by the fact that virtually everything is connected to everything else. Connectivism can be thought of as the integration of principles explored by chaos, networks, complexity and self-organization theories. Learning is a process that occurs within nebulous environments of shifting core elements, not entirely under any one individual’s control.
What I call learning or, actionable knowledge, can reside in or outside the self, our institutions, or a database, but its focus is connecting specialized information sets that enable us to learn even more about an issue or idea. My curriculum is designed to help students understand that they are responsible for acquiring new information from multiple channels and that the best skill I can help them develop is not the use of a particular software program, which will likely be outdated by the time they graduate, but the ability to discern between important and unimportant information—the ability to recognize when new information has altered the landscape of the decision they made yesterday. This means they have to develop a penchant for tinkering. Technical and rhetorical competence, I believe, is formed through the connections we make between things: teachers and students, students and students, students and technologies, technologies and other technologies, and so on. Students have to have opportunities to tinker and try out these connections to see how they make new connections. Developing these connections and tinkering is part of producing written and visual texts that are rhetorically appropriate and useful. Some may rightly question how this is “writing,” but I take a wide view of texts and include in my definition digital space, written texts, body art, and even certain environmental designs. Where there is intent to persuade, an audience, and a communication act there is a text. Where or how these are inscribed is not as relevant as the processes that go into their inscriptions.
Assignments in Visual Rhetoric include a brand and visual audit, a visual metaphor analysis and remix, and several smaller projects, which test students’ abilities to research, analyze, tinker with and visualize their own data. I use technology extensively, even in basic Rhetoric and Writing courses, and encourage students to think about and compose texts broadly using tools that spur creativity as much as rhetorical analysis. Though I have not yet taught a Linguistics or Network analysis course, I imagine that I would require students to find, mine, and attempt to visualize data extracted from archives of interest and then to attempt to apply insights gleaned to a bewildering social or public policy problem.
I delight in teaching, and I think that shows. My students often tell me they learned a lot, but they also feel cared for and heard. Students have said, “She is AWESOME. Definitely helps with areas not only related to the classroom but the work world as well. Wonderful communicator, intelligent, and flexible with her students,” and “She helped me to begin to think about rhetoric and writing outside of the classroom.” Recently, a student wrote that I was one of the “best” professors at USF. Blush. Learning where to get information, what to do with it, how to nurture connections, and how to see connections between fields, histories, and languages is a core curricular objective and skill, regardless of subject. Learning is no longer an internal, individualistic activity. The rhetorical engagement with others that has always been a part of writing is now manifest in the technologies and networks within which we communicate. In order to successfully participate in the multiple rhetorical situations that await them in and beyond college, students must realize that rhetoric does not produce a product but constitutes a performance that requires the author to examine, play, commune, locate, connect and, ultimately, to act.
Words are never innocent. They are charged with human values. Linguistically, ‘Agent Orange’ is a synonym for TCDD-dioxin, but it’s also a metonym—a part representing the whole of how Americans and Vietnamese think about the ethics of chemical warfare. To some, Agent Orange it is a symbol of deceit and betrayal. To others, it is a symbol of scientific ingenuity and military necessity. Volumes of rhetoric have been generated about Agent Orange, but few studies have systematically explored how and in what ways those rhetorics resulted or frustrated changes of policy and modern political practice on ground in Vietnam, or at home in the United States. Rhetoric of public policy and affordances of big data and technology help me understand the rhetorical activity of policy and opinion development. This has descriptive power, but also the potential for practice, application, and collaboration between Rhetoric and STEM disciplines.
I believe the very best ideas are usually the result of connecting two seemingly disparate fields, ideas, or images together and putting them to some new end. Because my work draws from so many theoretical frameworks—cognitive science, linguistics, computer science, communication, sociology, and political science—I often find myself happily collaborating with others outside my home department. In example, I recently co-authored a research grant with Scott Graham from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. If funded, this grant will use parts of the methodology proposed in my dissertation to explore stakes and interests in FDA testimony and regulation, and will generate publications. I envision similar national and international opportunities for such collaboration and intend to apply for grants from the NSF and NHF, as well as the Ford and Luce Foundations, both of which work with ‘Agent Orange’ issues directly and network analysis indirectly.
I’m interested in learning to use and leverage the best technologies by which to mine and measure aspects of language and their influence on belief and behavior in various social or political contexts. In the tradition of Lakoff, Johnson, and Charteris-Black, I have spent the past four years studying and developing a semi-automatic method for mining a corpus for its metaphors. Currently, I am finishing my dissertation, which attempts to “map” these metaphors, or rather, the shifts in their use, across time and discourse community. For the dissertation project, I sampled multiple discourse sites: congressional testimony, U.S. and Vietnamese news media, and marketing content generated by NGOs involved in the remediation and remuneration of ‘Agent Orange’ victims at home and abroad. I am not interested in the linguistic value of the metaphor in as much as I am interested in the metaphor’s power to move human emotion and shape behavior.
Currently, I have mastered programs like WordStat, developed by Provalis Research, and visualization tools like ‘R’ and ORA (Carnegie-Mellon), both of which are, more or less, open-source and free. Use of such tools allows me to analyze large corpuses of unstructured texts, as skill that is particularly useful in projects that touch on Digital Humanities, Technical Communications, Public Policy or Marketing.
Though metaphor and sentiment is the unit of analysis I chose to investigate for my thesis project, I am interested in and have studied semantic network analysis. This method can be applied to any topic or corpus. Semantic network analysis and networked rhetorics are used by the U.S. military, the Ford Foundation, several universities and businesses and in technical communications to study the psychological grip terrorist ideologies have on mainstream publics (McCullouh 2009), the influence of social documentaries on behavior change (Graduate School of Library and Information Science at the University of Chicago), competitive advantage (Grimes 2011), and decision-making practices (Thayer, Evans and McBride 2007).
Perhaps not surprisingly, my scholarship and consulting work inform one another. I am deeply committed to projects grounded by visual and rhetorical design theory, social marketing theory, and public polling and social opinion mining. For the past 8 years I have owned and operated Conversa, a consulting firm specializing in public affairs, public relations and public research. Our clients include Fortune 500 companies, national nonprofits, foundations, associations, and government entities. Most recently, I was able to use my dissertation methodology to mine public complaint forms to get a sense of our client’s perception issues among their key stakeholders, and I recently completed a social network analysis, mapping assets in the Tallahassee sustainable agriculture community. My teaching and research is always first priority, but having a consulting firm has allowed me to hire and train former students interested in the field, and often provides a site of study for my students working on visual design projects. Further, it buys me significant credibility in the classroom and in public research forums, and affords me constant opportunities to research, test, and apply theory.
> Link to Academia.edu Profile
I am a Managing Partner at Conversa, a minority-certified communications, public affairs and research firm. Link to full statement…
Words have a very particular kind of magic. They can catalyze nations or dissolve them; terrorize and crush, or uplift and excite the human spirit. Words activate emotions. They make up the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves, and others. These stories, told in social spaces, on the news, in literature, at public policy briefings or in brochures aren’t mere tales. What we say and how we say it reflects and shapes our values, attitudes, and beliefs, which motivates our behavior.
At Conversa, we practice a research-based approach to integrated communications, advocacy, and multicultural marketing. We instigate conversations with key audiences and then listen closely, studying what drives people to make the decisions they make—to buy a product, vote for a candidate, donate to charity, organize, quit smoking. Then, we design custom communication campaigns that engage, excite, and inspire action.
Our brand promise is uncomplicated, but effective—build relationships, conduct rigorous research, deliver results.
> Link to Conversa
This two-sided, full color infographic was designed to explain key services the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida offers clients and to celebrate points of success throughout the year. The piece was created using Adobe Illustrator and Indesign and printed professionally.
The Florida Hospital Association has to report each year on PAC activities, as legislated by law. This data was designed professionally into a booklet sent to leadership. The booklet was 8.5. x 5.5. finished, saddle-stitched, and printed using 4-color process.
This postcard was one of a series of postcards designed to advertise new shows performed at the Little Theater. The postcard was printed on a felt-matte stock using 4 color process and distributed using a direct mail system.
This annual report was designed using multiple custom graphs and infographics used to detail and report on the organization’s key legislative, financial, and academic accomplishments throughout the year. The piece was used to secure additional legislative funding for new services and was printed commercially using 4-color process printing and saddle-stitch binding.
This self-enclosed, self-mailing brochure was used by the Shelter of Leon County to both advocate for the homeless and raise funds for shelter services. The brochure used an innovate design to save on printing, mailing costs and increased the rate of return responses with sponsorship dollars enclosed by nearly 200%. The brochure was printed commercially in black and white to save on printing costs.
This interactive brochure helped market and solicit participation from international audiences traveling to the United States for the first time to attend the International Coaching and Consulting Professionals conference. Feedback from the PDF included, “This is absolutely fantastic! Very well done and very excited!” The interactive PDF was part of a larger digital campaign that included a Microsite, vanity URLs, social media and analytics.
Conference Presentations Delivered
Grant or Scholarship
or Courses Taught