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 am working toward a future where people can live better with digital technology—that is, where we can be more aware, present and wise in the digital age. A big part of this is understanding what it means to live a good life in a fast-changing world. To me, this is a matter of ethics and design: Today we are all like sailors steering our ship while it’s still being built.

Coming from the information field, my research is rooted in understanding people's experiences with information and technology, and exploring what this means for the ethical development of new sociotechnical systems. In this sense, my work is UX research at the fuzzy front-end of the design process, where the goal is deep exploration of human contexts. More generally, my research combines philosophy and design—though it has been argued that philosophy is also a kind of design: conceptual design.

My early work centered on information experience, and more recently I have been applying virtue ethics to questions of information seeking, experience and design. Along the way I have also published research in philosophy of sport, particularly around ultramarathon running.

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

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 intermittently blog about written language and documents at ScratchTap.

Research Snapshot

  • Disciplines: information behavior, human–computer interaction, information ethics, philosophy of technology, philosophy of sport
  • Key Concepts: virtue, information experience, information creation, personal meaning, self-documentation
  • Domains of Study: visual art, ultramarathon running, online search

 

Current Research Projects

Applications of Virtue Ethics

Virtues are the traits, behaviors and attitudes that characterize a life well lived. These include honesty, self-control, courage, flexibility and more. Beyond these general moral virtues, we can also consider the intellectual virtues, which are particularly relevant to the information field. These are the virtues that characterize good thinking and wise reasoning—for instance, intellectual humility and love of learning. In my ongoing research, I am exploring the intellectual virtues and working to apply them to research and design in information technology.

Publications

 

Information Experience and Reflection

Information has a relationship to attention; namely, the more information we have, the less attention we can spare. Reflection, too, is all about attention: being deliberate and precious with where we bring our mind. In this project, I am exploring the fruitful intersection of information technology and contemplative experience, specifically information-based reflection. I am blessed to be part of a salon with a handful of other scholar-practitioner-educators interested in these issues.

Publications

 

Art, Information and Moral Knowledge

Theories of information creation and documentation tend to focus on textual forms of information. In this project, I articulated how visual art forms are also informational. We can learn from art, but what we learn is not in terms of facts. Rather, art contributes to our moral knowledge—that is, knowledge of how we should act to live the best life we can.

Publications

 

Past Research Projects

Theorizing Information Experience

Information experience is a person's in-the-moment engagement with information. This goes beyond identifying the information sources that people need, seek and search for to see what happens next. As I see it, information experience offers a first-person perspective on information, bringing into focus concepts such as the self, understanding and meaning. I articulated my thinking in this area in my 2020 book Information Experience in Theory and Design. You can read the introduction here.

Research framework of information experience

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 Experience

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