Current Research

I currently am working on two book projects in addition to a digital public humanities project that will advance my methodological contributions to rhetorical studies.

First, I am working on a new monograph titled Rhetorical Impressions that uses auto-ethnographic research practices to study how the mundane things in our local environments generate affective experiences and persuasive force in our everyday lives. If we take seriously, as new materialist rhetoric proposes, that agency always emerges through human-non-human relations, this project asks: What kind of lingering recollections, affects, and moods do our encounters with things actually trigger? What epiphanies or insights about the world and our places in it do we gain from such inter-actions? And how are we moved to feel, think, act, otherwise through our affective-persuasive relations? To address these questions, this book—designed as a critical introduction with a series of short vignettes—introduces and models a critical-creative approach I call new materialist ontobiography (NMO) that, in research and writing, can help account for the ideas, feelings, moods, and concerns that emerge as people mingle with various entities in their local environments.

Second, as a follow up to Still Life with Rhetoric, I am lead editor of a digital book collection titled Doing Digital Visual Studies: One Image, Multiple Methodologies. Doing Digital Visual Studies will be unique in that it will take the Obama Hope image and perform eight different kinds of visual studies of this single image. The objective of this book is threefold. First, it will further explore what we can learn about visual rhetoric, cultural rhetorics, and media studies from Obama Hope by taking different visual approaches to study this single image. Second, it will use Obama Hope to showcase the different potentials of various visual-digital methodologies. Typically, visual methodology books delineate different research approaches via a discussion of past scholarly projects with various objects of study. I argue that using one visual object of study to introduce different methodologies will help readers better understand the distinctions between various approaches and their unique affordances. Third, this book will illustrate how digital technologies are influencing the way we do visual studies in productive ways. Chapters will include a wide range of approaches such as but not limited to critical AR (augmented reality); critical making (3D printing); iconographic tracking; digital media archaeology, and virtual geosemiotics. For my part, in addition to editing all the chapters, I am coauthoring the introduction and afterward as well as a chapter that puts iconographic tracking into conversation with critical genre studies to investigate how new media images contribute to rhetorics of resistance against white supremacy. 

Finally, in an effort to further bring visual rhetorical studies into conversation with new materialist research, I am embarking on a digital, public humanities project titled The Swastika Counter Initiative. While much as been written about the swastika’s migrations and cross-cultural uptake, no work in rhetorical studies has yet to strictly focus on its historical circulation and function across various U.S. American contexts, much less its most recent manifestations. Such research is especially important considering that my research thus far indicates that this sign is evolving to target a wider range of marginalized groups and take on new unexpected political functions. From communicating messages of hate on Latino homes and gravestones, to satirizing Trump on large billboards, to targeting gay males on college campuses, the swastika is simply functioning in uncharted rhetorical territories. With a rhetorical focus on its historical and contemporary role in the U.S., this research will contribute to longstanding scholarly efforts to understand the swastika’s role in visual and political culture at large.

This research will also help demonstrate the critical role that rhetoric scholars can play in deepening public understanding about increasing hate and bias related incidents in the U.S. While it is extremely important to track other incidents such as verbal and physical violence, tracking the spread of vandalism, graffiti, and visual threats is also key to documenting, analyzing, and interpreting this current social dilemma. We need to better understand how hate and bias spread—who is committing these social crimes, who is being targeted and why, and what consequences emerge for individuals and communities. Of particular importance are also the connections between swastikas, Donald Trump, and white nationalism. By the end of summer 2019, my team and I will thus build a website called The Swastika Counter that will provide data visualizations, updated in real time, that document the swastika’s emergence in the U.S. Also included will be a crowd-sourced database to which citizens across the country can contribute and of which other scholars can access for their own research. This digital public humanities project will not only assist my own research about the swastika’s rhetorical transformation in the U.S. but also assist citizen-generated open data efforts to provide adequate data about hate crimes in our current cultural climate and enrich public debate. It will also help diversify the value of iconographic tracking and further refines its techniques to help make this method more useful to all. You can access preliminary findings from this research here.