I use sociological methods and theories to understand how and why people use digital technology for different purposes, and with mind to (design) interventions for related social problems. My current projects use empirical cases in the areas of education and youth, but I’m also actively working with other colleagues on other intersections of sociological inquiry. I’ll also share a bit here about my industry-specific research. Published papers are linked on my cv page. Feel free to reach out for drafts; constructive feedback is always welcome.

Working Projects:

Institutional Influences on Technology Use

  • We know very little about how institutions shape the way digital technologies are used in our everyday lives. In this project, I explore how educational institutions inform the way teachers and students come to see the value of digital technologies and subsequently enact them in practice. I’m currently writing from comparative ethnographic data I collected in three technology-rich middle schools over the course of one academic year (2013-14). My capstone dissertation work focuses on how students’ skills with digital technologies are differently cultivated by school and with effects on how youth come to see the value of programming, digital tinkering, and other forms of creative play online. But I’m mining this data for papers on other topics, as well: school influences on bullying, the function of teacher beliefs and school culture in social reproduction, and student orientations to big data and privacy.

Learning in Networked Environments Online

  • New movements in education look to digital platforms as a means to teach valuable 21st century skills in programming, logic, design, and online collaboration. As part of the Connected Learning Research Network and the Digital Media and Learning Hub, both MacArthur Foundation-funded initiatives, I am exploring and evaluating the affordances of online communities for learning. Our research team is currently finishing a book on how youth learn among peers in interest-driven communities online. I focused on two cases for this project, including a production-centered community for LittleBigPlanet 2 players and a digitally-inflected camp for aspiring fashionistas. My writing on this data tends to focus on how maker communities “work,” both online and offline, an teach us about youth culture, learning processes, and structures that foster innovation.

Online Interactions, Dating, and Group Boundary-Making

  • Sociologists who study inequality are jumping at new opportunities to examine social phenomenon that were hard to reach in an era before social networking online. With colleagues at University of California-Irvine, I collected data from a massive online dating platform and we are currently exploring what shapes who has opportunities to date and who does not. Specifically, I am interested in how cultural preferences for specific markers of social status – race, masculinity, femininity, or even tastes for activities like wine tasting, sports, and art – shape partner preferences and generate hierarchies for ideal partnerships.
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