Back in 1995, I stumbled upon Marshall McLuhan’s The Medium is the Massage in a used bookstore on Newbury Street in Boston. To my surprise, I had discovered a kindred spirit from an earlier decade, asking the same unsettling questions about the subtle but powerful influence of mass media and communication technology over the lived experiences of modern life that I had fluttering in my mind. McLuhan was asking questions that I heard no one else asking in our public conversations and debates. I just didn’t understand why the role of media and technology wasn’t at the foreground of all of our discussions about relationships, community, politics, education, parenting, and personal identity.
Since then, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the place of media and technology in our contemporary lives. I continually wonder about how it shapes the most fundamental ways in which we interact, think, and even perceive reality. Having majored in History as an undergraduate at Yale University (BA), I began carving out an intellectual journey through graduate work in Communication Studies at Northwestern University (MA) and Sociology at University of Virginia (PhD).
I had the good fortune of starting my academic career with the formative experience of teaching in the journalism and mass communication program at Louisiana State University during the rise of social media platforms, mobile technologies, and the attention economy during the early 2000’s. As a sociologist among industry experts and practitioners in news media, public relations, advertising and political communications, my eyes were opened anew to the massive shift occurring in the contemporary media and influence landscapes.
My early research projects have included explorations into the democratic potential of early online communities from the late 20th century (published as Virtual Communities: Bowling Alone, Online Together, 2009), and several smaller studies on the role of the digital in motherhood, including studies into the information-seeking habits of expectant mothers, online consumer research and motherhood, and the evolution of “mommy bloggers” into social media professionals.
Currently, I am a Professor of Sociology at Westmont College in Santa Barbara, California. I regularly teach Sociology of Family, Internet & Society, Senior Research Capstone, and in the college honors program.