Since writing my dissertation on hackers and hacktivism, my research has brought together rhetorical criticism and new media technologies. This research began mainly with examinations of the construction of identity in social movements and protest actions, and has expanded to include the idea of embodiment in both mediated and offline environments.
My research on the rhetoric of the body has examined how the body acts as argument itself, rather than the medium through which one expresses an argument through language. My recent book, Naked Politics: Nudity, Political Action, and the Rhetoric of the Body, also considers the rhetorical implications of the medium through which the body is displayed. For example, in a chapter on lactivism (politically motivated breastfeeding), I examined protests both in physical space and on Facebook. My work suggests that the physical protests were covered by the news media much more sympathetically because the women possessed a legal right to breastfeed in public and the immediacy of the hungry child mitigated accusations of exhibition. In contrast, the women who posted breastfeeding photos on Facebook had only a perceived right to self-expression because they mistakenly placed Facebook into the same category as public space. Some of my other work, especially surrounding hacktivism, has considered the rhetorical dimensions of online space.
Other recent publications have considered the ethical dimensions of technology, media, and society, especially as they relate to embodiment. Several of these articles and book chapters explore elements of gender and sexuality. A recent article in Explorations in Media Ecology considers the ethics of online infidelity in light of the increasing potential for telepresence. Other articles and book chapters have examined sexting by adolescents, body modification through technology, and the ethics of cosmetic surgery from a posthumanist standpoint.
My current research draws together these themes of gender, sexuality, and embodiment, and is the subject of my current book project, tentatively titled The Body in Public. Where Naked Politics focused on actions that generally disavowed the sexual dimension of nudity and focused mainly on Western activists, The Body in Public examines political actions that embrace sexual display and focuses more on transnational rhetorics. For example, one chapter describes how Egyptian blogger Aliaa Magda Elmahdy’s nude photo posted on Twitter with the hashtag #NudePhotoRevolutionary served as both a repudiation of religious norms concerning how women should display their bodies and a call to action for like-minded women. The photo spread through social media channels and spurred similar displays. My manuscript for The Body in Public is almost complete and I have already spoken to several acquisition editors; I plan to submit a formal book proposal this fall.
I am currently working on several other projects, including an article examining public memory and space in Iceland’s 1944 declaration of independence and an essay on propaganda and rhetoric. I am also completely revising my dissertation work on the rhetoric of hacktivism for possible publication.
My work has been well received both in the scholarly community and in the mass media. My work has been cited in a wide range of scholarly outlets within communication / rhetorical studies and beyond. Some examples include Rhetoric & Public Affairs, Critical Studies in Media Communication, Pediatrics, Sex Roles, Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, and Theological Studies. My work on public nudity has caught the attention of the popular media, leading to interviews with such outlets as Slate, Elle, and the Brazilian magazine Época, as well as mentions in such outlets as The Guardian. Naked Politics was reviewed favorably in Rhetoric Society Quarterly and Journal of Popular Culture and my work on technology and the body was recognized in 2014 with the Walter Benjamin Award for Outstanding Article in the Field of Media Ecology.