My research follows the organizing principle of exploring interrelationships between rhetoric, science, technology, and culture. At any given time I'm involved with several research projects, some of which are described here.
As part of a research team including four professors and two graduate students, I am helping to explore language differences among groups of people interested in bioeconomy, land management, and agriculture. Our goal is to learn how farmers, agriculture corporations, government representatives, and others convcieve of a wide variety of land management practices. This study is funded by the Center for Excellence in the Arts and Humanities.
One of my ongoing projects is an examination of sustainabilityforum.com. The study combines my interest in communications technology and in scientific discourse. Sustainaiblityforum is interesting because it is a constructed community that is viable online, and supports a wide variety of notions about "sustainability." I'm trying to learn what makes this website work and why it does not fracture along lines of contention within the community.
As part of a group of graduate students in th human-computer interaction interdisciplinary program, I am involved in a user study of perceptual learning in virtual environments. We are interested in how users adapt to visual information that contradicts their normal perceptual expectations. We tend to observe an initial confusion period, followed by a period of experimentation as users learn to override their previously developed motor responses to visual stimuli.
Clean coal is a hot topic in the energy debate, but is it a substantive solution that may play a role in America's energy, or is it primarily a rhetorical tool to satisfy the public's environmental concerns? While both are possible, media representations seem to suggest the later is practically operating even while the former is under development.
Rhetoric of science around technology also manifests in offical research reports advocating energy policies.
Over the year of 2008, I have been worked with my fellow graduate student Scott Graham on a project exploring the rhetoric of imaginay numbers. We've found that imaginary numbers were particularly difficult to concieve of in the history of mathematics, and the debate over whether they "made sense" lasted for centuries. After around 1800, mathematicians began to employ them as a useful category of measure because of changes in technological, philosophical, and rhetorical treatments of imaginary numbers.