I teach at James Madison University in the School of Rhetoric, Writing and Technical Communication and study literacy, or literate acts. How do individuals “read” situations whether delivering a speech, or making conversation at a small gathering? When would the people involved in an exchange mark it as successful, and why? What prohibits the exchange of ideas? What encourages a productive exchange? And who determines what counts as productive?
Sometimes my work approaches traditional literacy studies, i.e., the written word, limited exclusively to alphabet rich text; other times, I’m more interested in broadly defined ecologies of literate acts happening in a range of media. Whether researching social media venues and online advocacy arguments for cyclists’ rights to the road, or queries with local riders about how they interpret the cues on the road (white lines, stop signs, width of roads, driver behaviors), I’m curious about how a nation-state articulates its values, how state power moves through a nation’s institutions, how the individual experiences those nation-state framings, and how the individual attempts and understands agency in the midst of an often shifting set of economic, institutional, and social realities. This desire to understand these underlying issues associated with literate acts becomes specific in current research about how communities articulate appropriate relations to risk taking.