My research centers on contemporary literature, media studies, and the digital humanities. I investigate the political, aesthetic, and affective dimensions of the relationship between print and digital media, focusing on what might be called a media theory of literature. I am also interested in how digital technologies and methods are changing scholarly practice in literary studies.
I am currently working on a book manuscript on national security and fiction as an epistemology. I am also working on a large-scale computational text analysis project engaged in collecting and analyzing public statements about the humanities.
Training for Catastrophe: Fiction, Preparedness, and the Management of the Future
Training for Catastrophe investigates the use of fiction as a mode of knowledge production within contemporary US national security discourse, arguing that this dependence on fiction – at once strange, remarkable, and unsettling – is a political tool for shaping how we imagine and respond to catastrophe today. The book focuses specifically on preparedness, a national security paradigm that moved to the center of US policy after September 11, 2001 and that simulates future catastrophic threats in order to plan for their emergence. I examine a rich archive of preparedness genres and forms of media, including policy documents, workplace disaster training materials, emergency management textbooks, simulation exercises, and preparedness plans. Drawing on affect theory, media studies, and new formalism, I explore how these materials use fictionality, or the concept of fiction, to produce a certain experience of future catastrophe in the present. This experience is a form of management: preparedness trains people to accept catastrophe as part of everyday life and to expect its perpetual re-emergence.
At the core of this project is a desire to rethink what fiction does in the world and how it matters, especially in contexts where we might least expect it to be operating. Preparedness may seem to center on possible future threats, but it is in fact relentlessly focused on the present. It tells us the future is already here, that it is catastrophic, and that we can do nothing to change it. A literary studies of preparedness – one that takes the affects of fiction seriously – seeks to make change possible by resuscitating the futures preparedness media produce, allowing us to reimagine the different forms preparedness might take.
WhatEvery1Says is a large-scale computational text analysis project initiated by 4Humanities and including participants from the University of California, Santa Barbara, California State University, Northridge, and the University of Miami. We are collecting tens of thousands of online articles from newspapers, magazines, and blogs to form a corpus of public discourse on the humanities. By analyzing the corpus using a variety of statistical methods, we aim to explore the shape of contemporary discourse on the value of the humanities, both to debunk myths about the “uselessness” of the humanities and to discover new ways to communicate their value.