Profile of a Researcher

I am a rhetoric and writing researcher who uses qualitative methods to understand how internet-based cultural communities make meaning and share knowledge about their health via digital platforms. My research and community organizing constellates across technical and professional communication, digital/cultural/material rhetorics, health and medical rhetorics/literacies, and science, technology, and medicine studies.

As a community-engaged scholar, I am especially attuned to issues of health and disability justice, technological colonialism, and how queer and trans Black, Indigenous, and People of Color survive and thrive. I am a founding member of and current organizer in Queer Medicine, a grassroots coalition of queers taking their health into their own hands that operates in and around Lansing, MI, through which I have worked with the Michigan Public Health Institute, the Ingham County Health Department, and the Salus Center, Lansing's first and only queer resource center.

My current manuscript projects focus on community-specific health literacies of HIV/AIDS on social media and attuning communication design for such knowledges, Indigenous science/cosmologies as digital rhetorical praxis, and ethical community-engaged research methodologies. I am also planning a book project that examines three case studies of queer and trans BIPOC digital rhetorical practices to outline a community-based framework of health literacy. You can read more about my current projects below.

Current Projects

Below, you will find details, abstracts, and references for some my main manuscript projects. If something strikes your fancy and you'd like to talk more, please reach out. I'm always happy to talk!

Dissertation

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

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, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) make meaning of their sexual health amid shifting sexual mores, prophylactic developments, and pressure from the medical industrial complex, connecting them to current health and medical rhetorics and health literacy 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 on 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, Indigenous science and technology studies, disability studies, health and medical rhetorics, and settler colonial studies. By investing in this lineage, I am dedicated to working as a researcher for and with BIPOC to interrupt settler colonialism’s effects on health and wellness with specific attention to queer and trans folks.

Journal Article Draft: Communication Design Quarterly

Emplacing Infrastructure: Toward a Material Inventory of Tech Colonialism

In her keynote for EPIC2019, Sareeta Amrute (2020) advances a critical truism of the globalized, technological, and infrastructural regime endemic to so-called modern life: “In the realm of science and technology, risks are generally borne by colonial subjects while metropolitan elites assume the role of developers and innovators of new technologies.” This colonial innovation operationalizes much of what Amrute (2020) terms tech colonialism, which functions on an array of extractive colonization, racial hierarchy, and paternal exploitation. These technological facets persist today in often unseen, mundane settings—cables buried underfoot deep in stolen land and cooled with stolen waters (Edwards, 2020), white settlers benefitting from colonial holdovers (Benjamin, 2019), and waste shipped to a foreign somewhere away from the metropole (Hogan, 2018). Technology users are seldom privy to the colonial histories endemic to their devices and their uses (Ramos, 2014). The internet, too, as techno-sociological infrastructure (Harvey & Luka, 2019), machinates through the march of tech colonialism, especially within the context of empire on the North American continent (Hu, 2017). With a formative starting point in the militarism of the modern United States (Chun, 2011), many scholars of race, infrastructure, and technology have noted how the internet’s developmental horizon is propelled by settler colonial futurity (Todd, 1996; Hu, 2015; Noble, 2016; Benjamin, 2019; Brown, 2019; Brock, 2020). Colonialism technologizes itself to persist.

This article intervenes in this critical march, interrupting tech colonialism via a theoretical intervention into current understandings of the internet's social and material infrastructure. Specifically, the article I am drafting comprises a theoretical argument for revising the internet's popularized and metaphorized definitional schemas (Frith, 2020) within Indigenous cosmologies and Black epistemologies. In so doing, I forward the concept of the internet as land, which forces a consideration of settler colonialism as the socio-material force underpinning design and writing. As a corrective grounded in digital material rhetorics (Hass, 2018; Edwards, 2020), I offer emplacing as a method for collapsing the divide between social and material infrastructure. In this revised material formula, the beingness of infrastructure is at once re-landed and agentially reinvigorated via an attention to the relational agency of the non-human things that make up the internet’s socio-material infrastructure (Duarte, 2017). I outline—via a case study of Arctic fiber optic cables made possible via melting ice—a decolonial attunement to “animals (including nonhumans), technologies, and landbases” (Haas, 2018, p. 421). Ultimately, I argue that emplacing functions as a theoretical tool for assessing the material inventory of internet use for design and writing, beginning at the environmental toll—the digital damage (Edwards, 2020)—and ending at the adventive possibilities of relational thinking amid disaster (Haas, 2018).

Readers will learn how to use emplacing as a theory of 1) ascertaining the colonial holdovers of settler colonialism as they relate to and manifest within design and writing tools and practices and 2) using these motives to account for the non-human relatives comprising the internet and to work toward a decolonized tech horizon. Moreover, readers will learn how to tune into ongoing activism related to Black and Indigenous technological use and to attune their work to new, just futurities.


References

Amrute, S. (2020, February 25). Tech colonialism today. Points, Data & Society. https://points.datasociety.net/tech-colonialism-today-9633a9cb00ad

Brock, A. (2020). Black technoculture and/as afrofuturism. Extrapolation, 6(1–2), (pp. 7–28).

Brown, N. M. (2019). Methodological Cyborg as Black Feminist Technology: Constructing the Social Self Using Computational Digital Autoethnography and Social Media. Cultural Studies - Critical Methodologies, 19(1), 55–67.

Chun, W.H.K. (2013). Programmed Visions: Software and Memory. The MIT Press.

Duarte, M. (2017). Network sovereignty: Building the internet across Indian Country. University of Washington Press

Edwards, D. W. (2020). Digital rhetoric on a damaged planet: Storying digital damage as inventive response to the Anthropocene. Rhetoric Review, 39(1), 59–72.

Frith, J. (2020). Pushing back on the rhetoric of “real” life. Present Tense, 8(2). https://www.presenttensejournal.org/volume-8/pushing-back-on-the-rhetoric-of-real-life/

Haas, A.M. (2018). Toward a digital cultural rhetoric. In J. Alexander & J. Rhodes (Eds.), The Routledge handbook of digital writing and rhetoric (pp. 412–422). Routledge.

Harvey, A., & Luka, M. E. (2019). Space, place, and the materiality of Internet Studies: An introduction to the #AoIR18 special issue. Information Communication and Society, 22(6), 767–773.

Hogan, M. (2018). Data is airborne; data is inborn: The labor of the body in technoecologies. First Monday, 23(3). https://doi.org/10.5210/fm.v23i3.8285

Hu, T.-H. (2015). A prehistory of the cloud. The MIT Press.

—. (2017). Black Boxes and Green Lights: Media, Infrastructure, and the Future at Any Cost. English Language Notes, 55(1–2), 81–88.

Mckenzie, M., & Tuck, E. (2015). Place in Research: Theory, Methodology, and Methods. Routledge.

Noble, S.U. (2016). A future for intersectional Black Feminist Technology Studies. Scholar & Feminist Online, 13(3), https://sfonline.barnard.edu/traversing-technologies/safiya-umoja-noble-a-future-for-intersectional-black-feminist-technology-studies/0/?print=true#identifier_7_2621

Ramos, S. (2014). Digital is dead: Techno-seduction at the colonial difference, from Zapatismo to Occupy Wall Street. In D. Hicky & J. Essid (Eds.), Identity and leadership in virtual communities: Establishing credibility and influence (pp. 220–236). IGI Publishing.

Journal Article Draft: Rhetoric of Health & Medicine

Un-Settling Epistemic Hubris: Colonial Constructions of Health in the Flexner and Lalonde Reports


Background & Context


Throughout the 20th century in North America, biomedicine and public health, respectively, reconciled developmental shakiness to essentially form the extant models of today. In 1910, Abraham Flexner, an education specialist and reformer, released Medical Education in the United States and Canada: A Report to the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching (hereafter the Flexner Report). This document served as the establishment of medical education in North America to work primarily via the construction of a physician’s ethos, functioning via scientific theory and an unwavering commitment to science (i.e., discovery and innovation) (Duffy, 2011).


Later, in 1974, then Canadian Minister of National Health and Welfare Marc Lalonde published A New Perspective on the Health of Canadians (hereafter the Lalonde Report). Although the Lalonde Report received a cool reception in Canada, it quickly set the stage for shaping public health outreach for decades to come in the United States (Hancock, 1986; Braveman & Gottlieb, 2014). Lalonde, in his nearly 80-page report, pivoted popular notions of health away from solely medico-scientific touchstones to include the social lives of patients. More importantly, the Lalonde Report laid out the conceptual framework on which the notion of at-risk populations operates (via the social determinants of health), fundamentally shaping public health as the social face of medicine (Frohlich and Potvin, 2008).


Though these documents were groundbreaking in their respective periods, both rhetorically construct models of precarity that are found at the core of how Western scientific theory functions (Krieger, 2011). Moreover, the history of colonization on the North American continent and its role in creating the contemporary medical landscape, including current-day public health and biomedicine, have much to do with both reports (Greene et al., 2013; Bailey & Peoples, 2017; Sylvestre, 2019). More specifically, the top-down structure of public health and biomedicine—which casts the physician and epidemiologist at the top of the hierarchy and the patient at the bottom—functions via epistemic hubris (Valles, 2018; Teston et al., 2019), which delegitimizes too often self and community knowledge—especially for marginalized communities (Hoberman, 2012; Bailey & Peoples, 2017).


These documents also have rhetorically constructed health and consequently healthiness along biological, social, and racial lines that together mold an almost impossible placeholder in which only the white, male, abled, cisgender, heterosexual male can reasonably fit (Bailey & Peoples, 2017; Clare, 2017; Schalk, 2018). Together, the Lalonde and Flexner Reports offer much in excavating the rhetorical nature of North America’s public health and biomedical models as they are constructed with(in) settler colonialism as an innervating structure. Put another way, the cultural production of medicine founds itself at the nexus of multiple oppressions that follow along the commodification of health and its consequent tendrils in the well-being for many marginalized communities, and these documents map out the historical construction of settler colonial biopolitics (Morgensen, 2011).

Journal Article Description

The journal article I am drafting, which I also have submitted to the 2021 RHM Symposium, focuses on the theme of redressing social injustice via reinvention. In this case, my journal article attends to settler colonialism as the innervating force of the many wicked problems against which rhetoricians of medicine might direct their attention, pivoting away from theories of biopower and Western biopolitics. In this decentering of Europe and pivoting away from continental philosophies of health and medicine, I nudge the field to attend to the material reality of white supremacy and cisheteropatriarchy as the structure of modern-day medicine, foregrounding white settler culpability as a generative space of interrogation for the field. Moreover, my article offers practical strategies that rhetoricians of health and medicine might adopt within healthcare settings, strategizing rhetorical interventions that disrupt epistemic hubris while prioritizing individual and community and knowledges.


In this article, I first historicize the publication of both reports with the contemporaneous (and ongoing) colonial settlement within both the United States and Canada, contextualizing the nature of evolution and innovation regarding both biomedicine and public health. After, I provide a rhetorical analysis of both reports using an ideographic analysis that focuses on the contextually specific occurrences of colonial perpetuation. Through this analysis, I trace lingering issues of medical antagonism to the actual colonial histories of both settler empires, outlining the temporal plasticity of both medical racism and cisheteropatriarchy, which intersect to affect multiply marginalized communities. To conclude, I outline an anti-racist model of unsettling epistemic hubris, which rhetoricians of health and medicine might adopt within ongoing community engagement projects. Focusing on my ongoing work in community health settings, I provide an example of how unsettling epistemic hubris might reasonably—and more importantly, practically—function when working with public health officials and/or physicians.


References


Bailey, M., & Peoples, W. (2017). Towards a Black feminist health science studies. Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience, 3(2), 1–27.

Braveman, P., & Gottlieb, L. (2014). The social determinants of health: It’s time to consider the causes of the causes. Public Health Reports, 129(2), 19–31.

Claire, E. (2017). Brilliant imperfection: Grappling with cure. Duke University Press.

Clarke, A. E., Mamo, L., Fishman, J. R., Shim, J. K., & Fosket, J. R. (2003). Biomedicalization: Technoscientific transformations of health, illness, and U.S. biomedicine. American Sociological Review, 68(2), 161–194.

Duffy, T. P. (2011). The Flexner Report — 100 Years Later. Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine, 84, 269–276.

Frohlich, K. L., & Potvin, L. (2008). Transcending the known in public health practice: The inequality paradox: The population approach and vulnerable populations. American Journal of Public Health, 98(2), 216–221.

Glouberman, S., & Millar, J. (2003). Evolution of the determinants of health, health policy, and health information systems in Canada. American Journal of Public Health, 93(3), 388–392.

Greene, J., Basilico, M. T., Kim, H., & Farmer, P. (2013). Colonial medicine and its legacies. In P. Farmer, J. Y. Kim, A. Kleinman, & M. Basilico (Eds.), Reimagining global health: An introduction (pp. 33–73). University of California Press.

Hancock, T. (1986). Lalonde and beyond: Looking back at “A new perspective on the health of Canadians.” Health Promotion International, 1(1), 93–100.

Hoberman, J. (2012). Black and blue: The origins and consequences of medical racism. University of California Press.


Krieger, N. (2011). Epidemiology and the people’s health: Theory and context. Oxford University Press.

Mikdashi, M. (2013). What Is settler colonialism? American Indian Culture and Research Journal, 2(37), 23–34.

Morgensen, S. L. (2011). The biopolitics of settler colonialism: Right here, right now. Settler Colonial Studies, 1(1), 52–76.


Schalk, S. (2018). Bodyminds reimagined: (Dis)ability, race, and gender in Black women’s speculative fiction. Duke University Press.

Sylvestre, P., Castleden, H., Denis, J., Martin, D., & Bombay, A. (2019). The tools at their fingertips: How settler colonial geographies shape medical educators’ strategies for grappling with anti-Indigenous racism. Social Science and Medicine, 237, 1–9.

Teston, C., Gonzales, L., Bivens, K., & Whitney, K. (2019). Surveying precarious publics. Rhetoric of Health & Medicine, 2(3), 321–351.

Valles, S. A. (2018). Philosophy of population health: Philosophy for a new public health era. Routledge.

Journal Article Draft: Technical Communication Quarterly

Toward Relational Design: Rethinking HIV Outreach for Queer Users of Color (Experience Report)

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a daily medication regimen that users undertake to prevent a new infection of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Since its introduction to queer sexual health, along with Truvada, the primary medication in the regimen, queer Black, Indigenous, and men of color (QBIMOC) have seen a particular focus on their sexual health in relation to public health’s hyperfocus on risky populations (Teston et al., 2019). Specifically, user outreach has shifted toward the visual rhetorical work of spotlighting particular populations more susceptible to new HIV infections as determined by the social determinants of health (Belluz, 2014; Scott, 2016; Shahani, 2016; Spieldenner, 2016). At the core of this engagement are outdated if somewhat offensive approaches to assessing sexual health practices.

Specifically, following recommendations from the International Classification of Diseases, Tenth Revision, Clinical Modification, many medical coding systems, including counties within New York and Los Angeles, do not designate specific billing codes for PrEP, instead defaulting to categories such as “high-risk homosexual/bisexual behavior.” QBIMOC are understandably fed up with this approach (Guta et al., 2011). This approach delimits a larger trend withing public health, particularly with outreach, that prioritizes these narratives of risk that too often showcase QBIMOC as either always at risk of a new infection or as already seroconverted and who serve to augur new infections for others. The integration of at-riskness is then compounded by the way that identities are operationalized through the rhetoricity of risk as innervated by the epidemiological logics of public health (Teston et al., 2019). At the core of this issue is leveraging at-riskness with narratives of empowerment for such communities—intervention work that technical communicators are primed to conduct (Jones, 2016).

This experience report relays a methodology for employing user-centered design within health and medical contexts underpinned by an ethics of relationality. By reviewing key findings of a qualitative analysis of user-generated social media content related to PrEP and Truvada, I outline a methodology for energizing user-centered design practices with the Indigenous concept of relationality, which outlines a reciprocal ethics for doing community-facing work (Haas, 2012; Mukavetz, 2014). Focusing specifically on medical racism and the colonial history of public health, I present a case study redesign of a popular advertisement for Truvada that showcases the advocacy work that technical communicators might bring into health and medical workplaces. This work resonates with a broader trend in the field regarding rethinking technical communication as a site for intervening in health outcomes for queer people, though as of yet, no work exists primarily for QBIMOC (Edenfield et al., 2019; Green, 2020; Ramler, 2020). This report also coincides with the conference themes of advocacy and coalitions as the methodology outlined rethinks participatory design along the axes of queer of color sensibilities. Attendees and readers will take away practical strategies for advocating for marginalized groups such as QBIMOC in addition to design strategies that account for community knowledge.


References


Belluz, J. (2014). The Truvada wars. BMJ (Online), 348. https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.g3811


Edenfield, A. C., Holmes, S., & Colton, J. S. (2019). Queering tactical technical communication: DIY HRT. Technical Communication Quarterly, 28(3), 177–191. https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2019.1607906


Green, M. (2020). Resistance as participation: Queer theory’s applications for HIV health technology design. Technical Communication Quarterly, 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2020.1831615


Guta, A., Murray, S., & McClelland, A. (2011). Global AIDS governance, biofascism, and the difficult freedom of expression. Aporia: The Nursing Journal, 3(4), 15–29.


Haas, A. M. (2012). Race, rhetoric, and technology: A case study of decolonial technical communication theory, methodology, and pedagogy. Journal of Business and Technical Communication, 26(3), 277–310. https://doi.org/10.1177/1050651912439539


Jones, N. N. (2016). The technical communicator as advocate: Integrating a social justice approach in technical communication. Journal of Technical Writing and Communication, 46(3), 342–361. https://doi.org/10.1177/0047281616639472


Mukavetz, A. M. R. (2014). Towards a cultural rhetorics methodology: Making research matter with multi - generational women from the Little Traverse Bay Band. Rhetoric, Professional Communication and Globalization, 5(1), 108–125.


Ramler, M. E. (2020). Queer usability. Technical Communication Quarterly, 0(0), 1–14. https://doi.org/10.1080/10572252.2020.1831614


Scott, J. B. (2016). Sexual counterpublics, disciplinary rhetorics, and truvada. In J. Alexander & J. Rhodes (Eds.), Sexual Rhetorics: Methods, Identities, Publics. Routledge.


Shahani, N. (2016). How to survive the whitewashing of AIDS: Global pasts, transnational futures. In QED: A Journal in GLBTQ Worldmaking. 3(1). https://muse.jhu.edu/article/614679


Spieldenner, A. (2016). PrEP whores and HIV prevention: The queer communication of HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Journal of Homosexuality, 63(12), 1685–1697. https://doi.org/10.1080/00918369.2016.1158012


Teston, C., Gonzales, L., Bivens, K., & Whitney, K. (2019). Surveying precarious publics. Rhetoric of Health & Medicine, 2(3), 321–351. https://doi.org/10.5744/rhm.2019.1015

Invited Chapter in the Routledge Handbook of Queer Rhetoric

"Methodologies Not Yet Known: The Queer Case For Relational Research"

How might queer rhetorics be reconfigured via cultural rhetorics theory and de/anticolonial praxis as a relational literacy for conducting research? This question underpins the chapter invited for the methodology section of the Routledge Handbook of Queer Rhetoric, which I have tentatively titled "Methodologies Not Yet Known: The Queer Case for Relational Research." The title of this chapter echoes Scott Morgensen's reimagining of queer identity politics (or the lack thereof) as tied to the relational solidarity required of coalition building, or what Adela Licona and Karma Chávez call relational literacies.

In this chapter, I briefly outline the connections between queer and cultural rhetorics, centering practice as a means by which we might be consider queer rhetorics as a theory of relational being and doing in the world. I link the notion of doing queer rhetorics to de/anticolonial theory and praxis, expanding on Morgensen’s argument that queer critiques of power must actively engage with queerness as it is shaped by settler colonialism. In so doing, I outline how queer rhetorics research can function as a relational literacy of coalition building that interrupts settler colonialism, expanding on Alicia Gaspar de Alba’s notion of activist methodologies. Through this work, I demonstrate how queerness might be reconfigured as a constellative beingness tied to land and historicity and offer an example of how I do such work. Overall, I argue in this chapter that we queer rhetoricians must attune our research on queer worldmaking to be in line with undoing the systems of settler colonialism.

Works Cited

Morgensen, Scott. "A Politics Not Yet Known: Imagining Relationality within Solidarity." American Quarterly, vol. 67, no. 2, 2015, pp. 309–315.

Licona, Adela and Chávez, Karma. "Relational Literacies and their Coalitional Possibilities." Peitho Journal, vol. 18, no. 1, 2015, pp. 96–107.

Gaspar de Alba, Alicia. “Introduction: Activist Scholarship and the Historical Vortex of the ‘Bad Woman.’" [Un]Framing the "Bad Woman”: Sor Juana, Malinche, Coyolxauhqui, and Other Rebels with a Cause, University of Texas Press, 2014, pp. 1–38.