Research

Please link to my publications page.

My research aims to develop new communication methods through collective memory studies, data-driven narratives, mobile and social media, and the visual arts. In recent years, I created a studio-based pedagogy to complement this work with a bridge to collaborative and process-oriented spaces.

My unique approach to media research stems from a PhD thesis I defended in 2015 at York University, which focused on European migrant narratives, socially engaged art, and the futures of the image in “postnational” memory practices. Drawing from the interdisciplinary humanities, my dissertation situates digital, cinematic, literary, and sculptural interventions aimed at challenging specific imaginaries of European “home” during the tumultuous financial crisis in 2008-9. By bringing the history and theory of memorialization together with approaches from critical race and ethnic studies, I argued that the most significant interventions into European collective memory were initiated at this time by second-generation migrants pursuing “translocal” (El-Tayeb, 2011) identity politics.

Spatial Humanities

With my PhD completed, I moved on to develop questions of locality in relation to stratified urban experiences, technologies of mobility, and the critical infrastructures that are needed to sustain everyday life. I have published work exploring how mobility, technology, and infrastructure operate within commemoration rituals, the ethical questions raised by data visualizations such as crowdsourcing maps, the discursive practices around smart cities, and theories of space in visual culture. I describe some highlights of this work below:  

In “Geospatial Detritus: Mapping Urban Abandonment” (Routledge, 2016), I examine how digital mapping visualizations have helped to transform abandoned cities into motors of sensory experience, sociality and public initiative. By drawing from Fran Tonkiss’ (2013) theory of “austerity urbanism,” I position demands to mobilize an international tourism industry in relation to equally provocative initiatives to develop and refurbish abandoned cities, highlighting the important role that digital media plays in this endeavor.

In “Geolocating Popular Memory: Recorded Images of Hashima Island after Skyfall” (Popular Communication: The International Journal of Media and Culture, 2018), I grapple with efforts to document Japan’s Hashima Island following its appearance in the popular film Skyfall (2012). I describe how the film’s commercial success led to subsequent efforts by Google to produce images of the island’s built environment using digital navigation technologies, which in turn led the Japanese government to include Hashima Island in a contested bid to gain UNESCO heritage status for sites of industrialization during the Meiji period. By focusing on the period “after” Skyfall, I connect this geopolitical maneuvering to the Google Street View initiative, exploring the latter’s impact on navigation, spatial presence, and heritage.

In “The Geospatial Rhetoric of Asylum: Mapping Migration in Fortress Europe” (Networking Knowledge: Journal of the MeCCSA, 2016), I isolate a cluster of connections between geospatial imaging technology and relations between users, interfaces and publics, focusing on a German neo-fascist group’s publication of a Google Map containing locational information of the country’s asylum houses. I examine how the group’s information gathering tactics reflect long contested relationships between maps, power and the construction of identity, and I question the viability of addressing anti-migrant sentiment by appealing to spatial demands that are historically aligned with social justice initiatives. I address methodological, historical and theoretical issues, such as the epistemic assumptions behind rejecting politically motivated maps as propaganda, the logistical or strategic novelties associated with crowdsourcing information, and the narrative power of maps.

In Geospatial Memory (Media Theory, 2018), I sought to develop existing polyvocal expressions on geospatial media’s ability to shape our navigational and sensed reality, but with a particular focus on aesthetic, cultural, historical, and archival objects. Both me and 17 contributors found ways to infuse collective memory practices together with the experiences, discourses, and technologies of geospatial media, whether by drawing from film and archival studies, psychogeography and urban studies, or media archaeology and communication methods.

Data-Driven Narratives

Another side of my published work engages with relations between media and literature, whether by exploring how archiving technologies are reflected by a philosophy of language (“Technicity, Trace and Metaphor,” 2012), the institutional constraints involved in digitizing library holdings (“The Library in Ruins,” 2020), or the power of the narrative voice in films about digital media (“‘Where does this world end?’ Harun Farocki’s Parallel,” forthcoming). In 2020, I was awarded a SSHRC Explore Grant to develop work on Ecology, Infrastructure and Mobility in Communications Research. This grant has fueled an interest in how narrative-centered approaches can help us to grapple with the impact of ubiquitous surveillance infrastructures, including biometric sensor devices, safety apps, amber alerts, and weather instruments.

Initially, I focused on exploring how the posthuman values associated with Quantified Self (QS) have been factored into mobile app design protocols. Since the pandemic, this work has narrowed on issues of policing, urbanism, and data ethics as it pertains to Citizen App, a social media company which has developed a gaming interface to connect users with police and aid in local crime prevention. Framed in ethical terms, I argue that while Citizen App is a symptom of neoliberal responsibilization, it is, in fact a profound technology that changes the stories we rely on to create senses of belonging to a place.

In my Digital Media Lab workshop, I encourage students to produce their own narratives by experimenting with mapping and GIS tools, location-based media, and VR experiences. By emphasizing curiosity-based inquiries that are tested and reworked through dialogue and peer support, I bring my expertise to bear on helping students acquire the foundations of a humanities education together with transferable skills in specific media technologies.

Monograph (draft phase)

Title:

Geomemory: Locative Arts and Technologies in Experimental Cultures

Abstract:

Why do locative arts persist in an era of ubiquitous mobile and social media? By reprising some of the earliest collectives, movements, and exhibits, Geomemory identifies the niche appeal of technology-driven artistic engagements with urban geographies. Offering both a critique of contemporary digital placemaking rubrics, and a work of collective memory, the book revives locative pasts to reveal common preferred artistic strategies such as detournement, opposition, tactical resistance, and refusal. It argues that these are needed more than ever given the colonializing patterns of stratification, inequity, and affective controls that are woven into pervasive algorithmic cultures, machine learning environments, critical infrastructures, and supply chains. The book further addresses the changes experienced by artistic practitioners amid a renewed interest in fields of research creation, and by highlighting digital preservation techniques that can be applied to creative works embedded in cities from the past. Geomemory makes an important contribution to the scholarship on locative arts with a bridge to media studies, geography, and the sociology of mobilities.

Keywords:

Computational arts, Geography, Memory studies, Mobile and social media, Research creation.