Research Statement

I see myself as a cultural rhetorics researcher, drawing from the traditions of the field to research both communities of which I am a part and how I might help those communities. Thus, the majority of my research projects have as an end goal the betterment of whomever I am studying. Put another way—in the language of the academy—I am a community-engaged researcher and scholar, and I draw on both cultural rhetorics and qualitative methods to construct my research projects in a way that honors the people I am researching while also building relationships with them. I am still learning and thinking about how to do that work, though. For now, I can say that I am a researcher interested in how relationships—among people, to land, to cultures—shape the world, world making, and meaning making.

(Scroll down for an abstract of my current research projects.)

“This is My LGBT+ Community”: An Examination of Queers Forming Community on Twitch

As social media sites such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, and other similar online spaces allow for more people to digitally congregate around topics, hobbies, and entertainment, so too has the notion of the online world being a safe space or communal hub for likeminded people. Moreover, online life is often vital to queer worldmaking and community formation, especially for those living in rural areas. The same can be said for the playing of video games.

Thus, this project takes the following as its primary research question: How do queer gamers create safe community spaces for themselves on Twitch? Furthermore, this primary research question spins out the following subquestions: What rhetorical affordances does Twitch as a platform allow for queer gamers to create their spaces? What are the rhetorics of creating and maintaining an online queer community? This study aims to bring together two discrete approaches to studying online life. As a driving force, this study works to understand how companies such as Twitch might better incorporate into their platforms the work vulnerable communities might already do to create safe spaces for themselves.

This project is ongoing—though as a graduate student, I have not had time to stream/research much. Initailly, I was set to present on the data I collected thus far at Queerness & Games Conference 2018, but issues with my passport prevented me from traveling and presenting. I plan to propose a presentation on this research to the Computers & Writing Conference in 2019.

“My Blood Cells When I Take My Truvada”: Examining Twitter Users’ Engagement with PrEP, Truvada, and Sexual Health

Throughout the summer of 2018, much attention was given to a patent case in the United Kingdom. Gilead, a company that “[strives] to transform and simplify care for people with life-threatening illnesses around the world” was taken to court by numerous public health groups to break the patent on its medication, Truvada. The medicine is a common part of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) for the prevention of HIV and, since its introduction in the general population of the U.K. and the United States in 2012, has become a topic of much concern for queer men and people of color in general. Gilead has been accused of increasing the price of Truvada, thereby precluding regular adoption amongst the poorer of the aforementioned groups, especially those without medical insurance. However, with a court ruling, the patent was broken in the U.K., with most public health officials seeing this as a move for increased accessed and reduced HIV infection rates (Fitzsimons, 2018). Similar efforts have ramped up in the U.S., as well, with most seeing the patent breaking as a means for eventually ending the HIV/AIDs crisis. As a lead-up to this project, much of the energy surrounding the case generated much content on Twitter.

This content provides researchers a useful repository for examining how information about Truvada and PrEP is circulated amongst public health advocates and organizations, members of the general public, and medical professionals. Of note for the purpose of this project are the typically examined New Media sites that minority groups use for sexual health communication, as well as their effectiveness or ineffectiveness in getting information from medical professionals in an efficient, digestible manner. What remains to be examined is how a certain topic gets taken up by a specific community—of which is directly affected by that medical development—within particular New Media spaces.

This project examines this plethora of context-specific content by drawing on an ecologies-based model of internet research. Using the Moments feature on Twitter, a repository of tweets posted from July to October 2018 was gathered through keyword search using the terms “Truvada” and “PrEP.” These tweets were posted by 1) members of the general public; 2) public health advocates and health organizations; and 3) medical professionals (insofar as these details were available on the users’ profiles). They were then ran through a coding schema based on the ecological model of internet research to see how health information surrounding Truvada flowed among multiple stakeholders. For the purpose of this project, the knowledge of Truvada and PrEP, as well as the events described earlier, act as the initial point of rhetoricity traced through the tweets. Put another way, the data was approached as already having been based on the existence of PrEP and how people mitigated multiple factors around learning about Truvada, the regimen, and any other details around the topic.