Please link to my publications page.
My research focuses on a range of communication methods as explored through collective memory studies, data-driven narratives, mobile media, and the visual arts. Recently, I have developed studio-based pedagogies as a means of critically extending this work into collaborative and process-oriented spaces.
My PhD dissertation on European migrant narratives, socially engaged art, and the futures of the image in “postnational” collective memory was defended at York University (Canada) in 2015. Drawing from the interdisciplinary humanities, this work situates digital, cinematic, literary, and sculptural interventions aimed at challenging specific imaginaries of European “home” amid the financial crisis in 2008. By bridging the history and theory of memorialization together with approaches from critical race and ethnic studies, I argued that interventions into European collective memory were largely initiated at this time among second-generation migrants pursuing “translocal” (El-Tayeb, 2011) identity politics.
My dissertation work provided motivation to continue exploring questions of locality, stratified experiences in urban spaces, technologies of mobility, and the role of critical infrastructures in sustaining everyday life. I have published work exploring visual technologies of commemoration, representations of urban abandonment, the political uses and misuses of crowdsourcing maps and data visualization, 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 visualization has helped to transform abandoned cities into motors of sensory experience, sociality and public initiative. By drawing from Fran Tonkiss’ (2013) concept 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 refurbishment.
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 that exist 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, a volume published in Media Theory (2018), I sought to develop existing polyvocal expressions surrounding the geoweb to address digital media’s ability to shape our navigational and sensed reality, but with a particular focus on aesthetic, cultural, historical and archival objects. A total of 17 contributors found various ways to infuse collective memory practices together with the experiences, discourses and technologies of the geoweb, drawing from film and archival studies, psychogeography and urban studies, and media archaeology.
Beyond geospatial issues, I have published work that explores media engagements with literary approaches, archival preservation technologies, the institutional constraints involved in digitizing library holdings, and other work focused on narrative approaches to communication technologies broadly speaking. In 2020, I received a SSHRC Explore Grant in Ecology, Infrastructure and Mobility in Communications Research, fueling my commitment to exploring alternative methodologies for understanding ubiquitous surveillance tools, including biometric sensor devices, safety apps, amber alerts, and meteorological systems.
Earlier, pre-pandemic outputs from this grant were focused on exploring how values associated with the Quantified Self (QS) have been fully adopted by the field of mobile app experience design, but unfortunately this project was sidelined by the rush to develop a contact tracing app during the spring of 2020. In recent months, I have refocused this work on issues of policing, urbanism and data ethics, focusing particularly on Citizen, which is a policing and safety app featuring a gaming interface that connects users with policing infrastructures as a symptom of the neoliberal state. Framed in ethical terms, this app also produces stories that guide our movements through the city.
In the first two iterations of my studio-based pedagogy, I have encouraged students to engage these and other questions through experimentation with mapping and GIS tools, location-based media, and VR experiences toward creative projects. Emphasizing curiosity-based inquiries that are tested and reworked through dialogue and peer support, I bring my expertise in collective memory studies, spatial media, and comparative literature to bear on helping students acquire both critical foundations and transferable skills in specific media technologies.