Breaking Through the Signal: Disruptive Politics and Network Communications Technology
My dissertation research looks at the politics of disruption in networked communication technology. It is supported by a Vanier Canada Graduate Scholarship and a Richard Thomlinson Fellowship from McGill University.
“Disruption” is a fashionable phrase. In the recent past it has been deployed as a central, motivating concept in a number of different areas, including politics, technology, economic growth and development, and social development, without being strenuously defined in any of these areas. Appeals to Christensen’s concept of “disruptive innovation,” in technology, in Silicon Valley, in governance, and in the economy, come close to arriving at a definition of the phenomenon, but the use of the concept of “disruption” in these areas has drifted from Christensen’s original deployment. In this project, I am not looking for a single, unified account of disruption. Rather, I want to construct a theory of the multiplicities of disruption, specifically as occurs within networked communications technologies, in the present moment. This might be best described as a panoramic, theoretical snapshot of the ways in which “disruption” is understood and deployed now, how those understanding were arrived at, and the ways in which those deployments knit together to construct the broader, macro-level understanding of disruption at the present moment.
You can read my comprehensive exam text on the historical politics of disruptive action here.
Civic Fiction and Misrepresentation in Public Life
I define “civic fiction” as the construction of complex counterfactuals that enable a person or an event to take a role in a public dialogue that they feel they wouldn’t be able to otherwise. This project examines this phenomenon, which goes beyond the familiar “lying in politics,” as a manifestation of a certain type of “outsider” political action with implications for cosmopolitanism, sympathy, the role of false witnessing in politics, and the potential for unwilling audience collusion with the fictive act. An early paper on this theory, focused on the Gay Girl In Damascus case study, was presented at Theorizing the Web 2014.