Research

Digital Cultural Rhetorics| Technical and Professional Communication | Qualitative Methods

I am a rhetoric and writing researcher who uses qualitative methods to understand how internet-based cultural communities make meaning and share knowledge. My work constellates across technical communication, digital rhetorics, and cultural rhetorics, and I am especially attuned to issues of health and disability justice, technological colonialism, and Black, Latinx, and Indigenous thriving and futurity. I deploy cultural rhetorics-informed methodologies to focus on the rhetorical-relational work of community-specific practices that queer people of color use to survive and thrive amid racism, heteropatriarchy, and ableism.

My research agenda on online communities is informed by my community organizing and activism for and with Latinx, Indigenous, and queer communities in Lansing, MI. As a community-engaged scholar and researcher focusing on health who has worked with and in community for some time, I have learned a central maxim that energizes my work: community knows best for itself. I operationalize what Alicia Gaspar de Alba terms activist methodologies for the goal of community empowerment through culturally responsive and adaptive methods, and at the core of my research agenda is activism and social justice. My work is both led by and accountable to the communities of which I am a part.

Table of Contents

Dissertation

"OK Sexual Health Twitter": Toward an Online Community Health Literacy of Sex

In my dissertation, I develop an HIV/AIDS health literacy framework built from the rhetorical strategies that queer and trans Black and Latinx people use to make meaning of their sexual health on Twitter. Over the past two years, the pharmaceutical company Gilead and its patent for Truvada, an HIV prevention medication, have received much scrutiny. Likewise, prophylactic adoption and changing stigma around sexual health within queer and trans communities have undergone rapid developments, and both have commensurate energy on various social media and especially Twitter. With my dissertation project, I tuned into these conversations to see how queer and trans Black and Latinx peoples make meaning of their sexual health amid shifting sexual mores, prophylactic developments, and pressure from the medical industrial complex, connecting them to current public health scholarship. By incorporating these strategies into a non-clinical public health tool, I argue that scholars and public health officials must expand popular health literacy frameworks to include both community knowledges and the ways they circulate on social media platforms such as Twitter.

With the project driving my dissertation, I built a self-populating Twitter Archiving Google Sheet (TAGS) in fall 2018 using Twitter and Google’s open API that gathered tweets relevant to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), an HIV-prevention regimen. Over two years, my TAGS archive collected 15,000 discrete tweets from various users the site. After cleaning the data (i.e., reviewing each tweet and applying inclusion criteria), I developed a two-round coding schema to construct a grounded theory of what I term body talk, or the literacies built from the embodied and sexual knowledges of communities of color. My results revealed three strategies people of color use to use to make meaning of their sexual health on Twitter: 1) spotlighting bodily reactions to medication despite stigma or shame to inform or seek such knowledge from community; 2) deploying descriptive hashtags such as #U=U (undetectable = untransmittable) or #TruvadaWhore to push against restrictive sexual mores and stigma regarding HIV/AIDS serostatus; and 3) recognizing and countering the complex systems of late capitalist biomedicalization that prioritize profit over life and portray communities of color as always at risk.

The theoretical framework of my dissertation, which I term the intersectional internet as land, actualizes the notion that the internet stands as a relational network comprising biopoliticized, so-called resources when viewed through Black feminist thought and Anishinaabe cosmology. By framing the internet in this way, I cast a hyperfocus on the internet’s material demand, including its concomitant issues (i.e., land grabbing, climate change, water usage), and the Indigenous concept of material relationality. In this manner, I see online communities as extensions of their real-life counterparts and not merely shared cyberspace, which I argue leads to richer analysis of social media-based data such as tweets. This approach follows the genealogy of Black feminist technology studies, Black feminist health sciences, Indigenous science and technology studies, Chicano/Latino studies, disability studies, and settler colonial studies. By investing in this lineage, I am dedicated to working as a researcher for and with Black, Latinx, and Indigenous folks to interrupt settler colonialism’s effects on health and wellness with specific attention to queer and trans folks.

Other Project Descriptions

#Twitch #Relationality #Queer #PlatformRhetorics

"'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.

#Multimodality #FYW #Ecology #Land #IndigenousEpistimlogies

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.