I am a rhetoric and writing studies scholar working on a disciplinary through-line between technical communication, computers and writing, and cultural rhetorics.
As a researcher, I use a cultural rhetorics research paradigm to use qualitative research methods (i.e., Twitter archiving, internet case study, qualitative coding) to conduct community-engaged participatory research in online spaces, situating my work within computers and writing and technical communication scholarship. This research paradigm also steers my ethical approach to research, community engagement, and data analyses.
In my dissertation research, I examine the rhetorical strategies that queer, trans, and otherwise people of color use to make meaning of their sexual health on Twitter amid shifting sexual mores, prophylactic developments, and pressure from the medical industrial complex. Using cultural rhetorics as a guiding principle, I specifically focus on sexual health communication by foregrounding place (i.e., history and culture) in understanding how meaning making occurs with and against the numerous forces of late capitalist biomedicalization. My primary argument in my dissertation hinges on the expansion of popular health literacy frameworks to account for community knowlegdes and the places in which they circulate. I argue that such a refiguring of health literacy as a public health tool counteracts what Sean Valles calls epistemic hubris, or the colonial paternalism undergirding much of if not all of biomedicine.
Theoretically, I work on a through-line between Black Feminist Technology Studies, Black cyberfeminism, Indigenous science and technology studies, and settler colonial studies. These approaches follow the legacy of Black Feminism, Third World Women of Color Feminism, Indigenous epistemologies, and de- and anti-colonial praxis and theory. These perspectives also shape the citational politics undergirding the bulk of my dissertation, which you can read more about here.
To read more about my dissertation project and other manuscripts that I am working on, see below!
Table of Contents
Dissertation: Examining Twitter Users’ Engagement with PrEP, Truvada, and Sexual Health (tentative title)
Since the pharmaceutical company Gilead introduced Truvada to the general population of Europe and the United States in 2012, it has become a topic of much concern for gay and bisexual men, specifically queer Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). The conversations surrounding pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which involves a daily regimen of Truvada, have involved the changing mores of queer men’s sexual behavior in the wake and existence of the HIV/AIDs crisis (Scott, 2016), but more conversations have honed in on question of access, class, and how queer BIPOC health is tied to both in complicated ways. Throughout summer 2018, for example, much attention was given to a patent case in the U.K. involving Truvada.
Gilead was accused of increasing the price of Truvada, thereby precluding regular adoption amongst the poorer of the aforementioned groups, especially those without medical insurance. However, through a court ruling, the patent was broken in the United Kingdom with most public health officials seeing a move to increassed accesse to PrEP and reduced HIV infection rates (Fitzsimons). Similar efforts have also ramped up in the U.S., and many see the patent breaking as a means for stemming the HIV/AIDS crisis (Summers, 2018). In November 2019, for example, the Trump Administration sued Gilead on the company’s patent use, and some have argued that increased access might come about as an unintended side effect (Summers, 2018).
The dissertation-length project I am conducting hones in on these debates, connecting them to concerns within academia across disciplines about the role and goal of academic research and community-informed research and engagement. Put another way, the general discourse surrounding PrEP and sexual health in varying arenas as spurred on by larger events happening in the world provides a unique opportunity for the project I hope to do with my dissertation. I plan to achieve this work through an interdisciplinary approach to public health communication (i.e., online advertising and grassroots activism) via a constellative arrangement of disciplinary perspectives and appropiate metodological considerations.
In short, my overall approach is grounded in community-based participatory research (CBPR) (Israel et al., 2010) and internet research using qualitative methods (i.e., internet case study, Twitter archival methods, and thematic analysis, interviews, storytelling). The research questions that I pose grounded in this appoach are as follows:
R1) What are the rhetorical practices of queer Black, Indigenous, and People of Color who tweet about their sexual health practices online?
R2) How might these practices be ethically integrated into public health communication outreach? How might writing and rhetoric studies benefit from a cultural rhetorics orientation to community engagement research practices?
The project’s methodology is informed by a theoretical framework that links the material internet to the embodied realities of internet users via concepts in Indigenous materialisms, Indigenous and Black feminisms, technofeminism, internet studies, and cultural rhetorics (Gelms & Edwards, 2019; Watts, 2013; Collins, 2000). As such, I follow the idea that land—as a biopolitical subject vis-à-vis settler colonial technologies (paperson, 2017)—serves as the basis of everything done within a cultural community, including the research I am other researchers have and will conduct and the overall goal of the medical industrial complex (i.e., profits). Extending that idea, I view online community spaces as not being a virtual, non-existent space but rather a physical, embodied manifestation constituting a set of relations between humans and non-humans. As such, these online spaces can supplement grassroots organizing in specific places given that all are in relation with each other when understood through indigenous epistemologies. The work outlined in my dissertation project actualizes this perspective through the methodology and overall goal of the project beyond degree completion.
I have presented prelimanary findings from a soft launch of the project at ATTW 2019 and the Digital Praxis Poster Session at CCCC 2019. Currently, I am in the process of drafing the introduction and methodology chapters, with plans to perform coding and analysis over the summer.
“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 have presented on this research at the Computers & Writing 2019 conference, and am currently writing a manuscript for submission to Computers and Composition. I am also writing a piece for submission to Karios' PraxisWiki section on how to incorporate Twitch in online community research.
Composing in Flowers: Learning from Land through Multimodal Making
A commonplace in rhetoric and composition and especially in multimodal making is considering the ecologies of our lives as they contour rhetoricity and agency in the composing process. Of interest to me is the fact that land is at the epistemological base of ecological thinking, but those using the ecology commonplace have deployed land as merely a metaphor. In contradistinction, scholars drawing on Indigenous perspectives (i.e., Gabriela Raquel Ríos, Kristen Arola, Angela Haas, among others) ask us to pivot toward thinking literally about land, the environment, and place as inherently tied to who we are as people and our compositions.
In that vein, in this piece, I argue that we in rhetoric and writing need to think materially—not metaphorically—about the ecology commonplace. I also argue that our field must think materially about ecology to show how the constellative work of thinking literally about compositional materials can innervate a decolonial imaginary in rhetoric and writing writ large.
Drawing on my experience working as a florist, I outline a methodology of coincidence tied to the idea of constellating one's life through a cultural rhetorics orientation to design. Using this idea of coincidence, I detail how we in rhetoric and writing are primed to counter the settler colonial forces that seek to metaphorize land. I also offer two approaches in a first-year writing class instructors can use: multimodal work rooted in land-based design and rhetoric instruction based on learning from land based on my own knowledge of the river trails in Lansing, MI.
This piece is currently being finalized, and I had planned to present some the pedagogical aspect of the piece at CCCC 2020, but the conference was cancelled because of the COVID-19 Pandemic.