research statement

A conceptual design sketch that envisions a transportation corridor as a green space.

A conceptual design sketch that envisions the future of a transportation corridor as a green space. Image courtesy of the University of Stuttgart Institute for Urban Planning and Design.

Citizen Participation in Urban and Transportation Planning

Urban environments are in continuous change. Urban and transportation planning decisions have the potential to shape entire cities, communities, and cultures—for better or worse. However, a failure to involve citizens in decision-making processes can lead to choices that impact the livelihoods of entire communities, where marginalized populations are especially at risk. As postindustrial cities like Detroit currently have nearly 50 square miles of open, blighted, and undeveloped space, it is vital that members of Michigan communities play a key role in planning decisions that impact everyday life, such as decisions regarding development, transit, and mobility.

A failure to allow all citizens with an opportunity for genuine participation will result in perpetuating the same physical and social barriers that have separated and oppressed populations since the origins of planned communities in the United States, such as gentrification, poorly designed and implemented transportation systems, and public distrust of municipal, state, and federal bodies.

I am interested in issues of citizen participation, especially those that relate to urban and transportation planning processes. My research examines the communication processes between experts and citizens, citizen resistance to those processes, and participatory ways that can help benefit and engage all stakeholders in composing inclusive designs.

To illustrate, I’m currently engaged in a community-focused project that investigates the transportation planning process for a proposed bus rapid transit system in Mid-Michigan. This project involves a mixed methods approach that employs interviews, digital methods, and content analysis. In turn, the outcomes of this project will aid future planning projects to be more participatory and to help truly honor citizen perspectives on design.

In addition to my primary research interest, I am also invested in two secondary research areas that relate to design issues, pedagogy, and technology:

 

Adversarial Design & Composition

Design thinking allows for recognizing the full digital and material conditions of composing, offering a rich paradigm for students to engage in the process of making. While scholars have offered a range of perspectives on design thinking and its relationship to composition pedagogy (Marback, 2009; Purdy, 2014; Leverenz, 2014), scholars of rhetoric and writing are still seeking to accelerate an imminent turn to design. In my research, I argue that adversarial design (DeSalvo, 2012)—a design approach that evokes and engages political issues—can offer a needed action-focused orientation to design thinking in composition.

For instance, in a spring 2015 course taken primarily by STEM majors, I emphasized the design processes of technologies. Later in the semester, students identified real-world issues, designed technologies that responded to those issues, and presented their projects in an in-class technology forum. This project exposed students to the process and rhetoricity of design decisions. I hope to offer emerging approaches to teaching composition that emphasize a problem solving approach guided by the ideology of adversarial design.

 

A VOSviewer network visualization that represents terms included in the journal corpus. The terms that have more connections with others are larger (such as guide, technical writing, and student). This graphic represents the average month and year of each term's use as well. Terms used in the corpus (range 1975-2015) are represented on a color scale. Blue indicates older use, whereas red indicates recent use. The term "technical writing" is light blue, whereas "design" and "web" are closer to red. "Usability" appears to be the darkest red node in the network.

A VOSviewer network visualization that represents terms included in a journal corpus spanning 1,992 articles in technical communication journals. The terms that have more connections with others are larger (such as guide, technical writing, and student). This graphic represents the average month and year of each term’s use as well. “Usability” appears to be the darkest red node in the network.

Bibliometric Visualizations & Disciplinary Trends

In Invisible Colleges: Diffusion of Knowledge in Scientific Communities, sociologist Diana Crane (1972) surveyed the structure of citation networks in the sciences. To Crane, citation networks could be traced and studied, in turn demonstrating how researchers build and construct communities of knowledge. Despite an ongoing interest in bibliometrics—or the statistical analysis of publications—in the sciences, the sociology of science, and science and technology studies (STS) over the past four decades, the field of technical communication has not fully explored bibliometric networks and displays as a means to understand our own knowledge production and communities.

In my research, I’m interested in investigating visualizations as a means to understand not only knowledge production and communities of practice, but also to visualize patterns that indicate connections (and non-connections) between individuals and ideas. This work is important for identifying both histories and future directions for the field.