Here is a sampling of my projects, including my publications, my dissertation, and projects in development.
I have a variety of projects underway via the Media Manipulation research initiative at Data & Society, with some due to release in the coming months. My Points piece, What's Propaganda Got to Do with It? is a good introduction to the work we'll be releasing over the summer and into the fall.
I have several pieces in the works and/or under review...watch this space!
My essay, Imagining the Sharing Economy, digs into the stories people tell about the 'sharing economy,' what they help us see, and what they hide from our view.
My think piece Meaning and Persuasion: The Personal Computer and Economic Education was published recently in the IEEE Annals of the History of Computing. In it, I argue that the personal computer became associated with business identities in the final decades of the 20th century, and concurrently, software became an increasingly viable site for reflecting, maintaining, and shaping cultural understandings of business and economics. This is a space where I'm developing some ideas I have about maintenance, ideology, and media, with debt to Andrew Russell and Lee Vinsel for their wonderful points about the importance of maintainers.
Fun and Facts about American Business: Economic Education and Business Propaganda in an Early Cold War Cartoon Series was the lead article in the September 2015 issue of Enterprise and Society. It is a historical case study of "Fun and Facts about American Business," a series of short theatrical cartoon films that reached audiences of multiple millions in the late 1940s and early 1950s (example here). The paper is an account of the political economy of the films' creation and distribution through the partnership of philanthropist Alfred P. Sloan, filmmaker John Sutherland and George Benson, a fundamentalist educator and anti-Communist media personality.
Atomic Anxiety and the Tooth Fairy: Citizen Science in the Midcentury Midwest was co-authored with Stephanie Steinhardt and published in the October 2014 issue of The Appendix, an experimental journal of narrative history. The article offers a meditation on uncertainty and science in cold war American society through a narrative account of the St. Louis Baby Teeth Survey, a massive public health project that demonstrated the presence of nuclear fallout in the American food supply.
My dissertation is a comparative, historical study of corporate-sponsored media campaigns intended to teach the public about economics. Using textual and discursive interpretation, I analyze both the media texts themselves and the archival documentation of their production and distribution. Throughout, I draw out the cultural meanings my historical actors ascribed to the media technologies by which they distributed their messages to the public.
In this research I explore the political economies and cultural discourses of corporate-sponsored media in the late twentieth century as expressed through three such ‘economic education’ projects: The Advertising Council’s 1975 booklet The American Economic System and Your Place in It; public broadcasting station WQLN’s 1980 television series Free to Choose: A Personal Statement featuring economist Milton Friedman; and the business-advocacy organization Junior Achievement’s Applied Economics high school curriculum, which from 1983 onward provided high schools with curricular materials ranging from textbooks to digital simulation games.
Critics often charged that such corporate-sponsored 'economic education' media campaigns were simply propaganda for big business. However, the production records demonstrate that the sponsors, producers and distributors of such media very often considered their work to be a vital service to community and country. I argue that this public-service characterization of 'economic education' relied on particular shared understandings of media, democracy and the role of business in society. Further, I find that drawing on these shared understandings was a way of asserting social legitimacy and securing access to public resources.
For me this is not merely an historical exercise, but rather a way to open up new perspectives on contemporary practices. In our own time, banks and other corporations fund the production of digital economic literacy media, bolstered by narratives of technological empowerment and entrepreneurial opportunity; activists create online role-playing games to dramatize the pressures of living on a low wage; and a new set of institutional intermediaries is emerging to advocate for or against practices within the 'sharing economy.' My dissertation work complicates and historicizes these present-day efforts.