Research

What kind of mature information societies do we want to build?
What is our human project for the digital age?

—Luciano Floridi, 2018

Research Overview

I received my PhD in Information Studies from the Drexel University College of Computing & Informatics, where I am an Assistant Teaching Professor.

I am working toward a future where people can live better with digital technology—that is, where they can be more attentive, aware, present and wise in the digital age. To me, this is a matter of both ethics and design: Today we are all like sailors steering our ship while it’s still being built.

To help realize that vision, my research explores information experience, or people's in-the-moment engagement with information. This goes beyond the traditional aims of human information behavior, which usually focuses on identifying information sources that people need, seek and search for. As I see it, information experience offers a first-person perspective on information, bringing into focus concepts such as the self, understanding and meaning. My work contributes to theory in human information behavior and human-centered computing, as well as the design of more humane information systems.

Research framework of information experience

As my particular area of focus, I study people’s information experiences in personally meaningful activities such as making and viewing art. I ask questions such as: How do people use information in these activities? How are the activities informative? And how are they changing in the digital age?

I conduct both conceptual and empirical research. My conceptual research is philosophical, informed by hermeneutic phenomenology and the philosophy of information. My empirical research is predominantly qualitative in nature, using descriptive and interpretative methods to inspire wonder, thoughtfulness and tact in designers and users.

My research bridges several academic disciplines, including human information behavior, human–computer interaction, document theory, and information ethics. So my research is rooted in the tradition of information science, but with an eye toward the future. I am a proponent of the iSchools movement, and I am working to bring together the various subfields of the information and computer sciences (including newer, digital-centric fields such as social informatics and human–computer interaction).

Before coming to Drexel, I earned a BA in Advertising and Spanish from Marquette University; a graduate certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee; and an MA in Hispanic Linguistic, Literary and Cultural Studies from New York University.

I blog about written language and documents at ScratchTap.

 

Current Research Projects

Art, Information and Moral Knowledge

We can learn from art, but it's not facts that we learn. Rather, art contributes to our moral knowledge—that is, knowledge of how we should be and act to live the best life we can. In this project, I explore art as an information source in this sense, and how information contributes to moral knowledge. Part of this work is in contributing to the design of information technologies to help people cultivate their own moral knowledge through engagement with art.

Publications

 

Self-Documentation and Society

A characteristic of modern life is our reliance on documents in virtually all sectors of society, and the nature of these documents influences the way we understand reality and ourselves. Among these documents are ones we create about ourselves, as evidence of some aspect of the self, a phenomenon I refer to as self-documentation. We are compelled to write resumes and CVs, we build personal websites and online profiles for socializing, commerce, dating and education, and we snap selfies with abandon. How does the concept of the document lend coherence to all these different forms of information creation? How do we construct and understand the self through documents? What dynamics are at play?

Publications

 

Running and Information Technology

Ultrarunning is a hobby of mine, and it's also become a research object. During ultramarathons, athletes confront many potential problems. As such, participation in such events can put athletes in states of high stress, which may be sustained for many hours. My first paper, Information on the Run, explored some of the information processes at play in endurance running. I have conducted some further research on how ultrarunners make sense of the sport, and a number of questions remain to be explored.

Publications

 

Document Phenomenology

What is a document? When is a document? How is a document? Since Michael Buckland's famous 1991 article "Information As Thing," research in document theory has flourished. I situate some of my work in this current, and I contribute to the theoretical aspects of documents through phenomenological exploration. That is, the study of how documents reveal themselves to us. I have written on how documents are part-human, how documents come to be authoritative by their fixity, and how documents unfold as time. My paper co-authored with K. F. Latham proposes a framework for discussing the phenomenological aspects of documental being and becoming.

Publications

 

Theorizing Information Experience

What do we mean by information experience? How does this construct relate to other cocnepts in information science, particularly theories of information behavior? How should it be researched? I have conducted conceptual and empirical research on these questions, and at present I am working to bring these ideas together into a coherent picture in a monograph. In the meantime, if you are interested in these questions I'd also recommend checking out the 2014 edited volume Information Experience: Approaches to Theory and Practice, by Christine Bruce and colleagues.

Publications