INTERDISCIPLINARY WRITER & SCHOLAR
ANDREW W. MELLON POSTDOCTORAL RESEARCH ASSOCIATE
@ Lehigh University
PhD in English + Science, Technology, & Society
DIGITAL CULTURE | VISUAL MEDIA | HEALTH & ILLNESS | FEMINISM | NARRATIVE
As a researcher I am preoccupied with the interaction between bodies and media, and with generating new methods to engage critically with the ongoing visual media histories of the present. My dissertation, Modern Feels: Interwar Britain and the Bodily Politics of Visual Social Media, juxtaposes interwar texts with digital theoretical concepts in order to examine how everyday media use impacts subjects’ responses to material human bodies.Just as repeated contact with images of injured bodies in the media may numb viewers and shape their real life responses to pain, my dissertation argues that mundane habits of media readership can likewise inure subjects to violence with profound political consequences. Tracing seemingly benign habits of reading to encounters with violence in the fraught political context of the 1930s – an era haunted by the lingering trauma of WWI, anxiously anticipating WWII, and plagued by the rise of fascism – underscores the stakes of attending to everyday mass media practices across both eras. Through its historical juxtapositions, Modern Feels offers new interpretations of interwar texts and new definitions of digital concepts that link both to embodied practices of sense-making and an ethics of encountering the pain of others.
In this work and through several cross-disciplinary research collaborations I am committed to bringing humanist expertise into dialogue with other analytic approaches from social and data science in order to address pressing questions in digital culture surrounding mental health, disability, gender equity, disinformation, and media literacy.
See my article in REAL LIFE magazine, "Data Sweat," for some of my recent thoughts on digital media and feeling bodies .
FLAWS IN THE HIGHLIGHT REAL
Fitstagram, Diptychs, and the Enactment of Cyborg Embodiment
forthcoming in Feminist Theory
This article inverts Donna Haraway’s proposition that “the ideologically charged question of what counts as daily activity, as experience, can be approached by exploiting the cyborg image”by instead exploiting everyday experience to approach the contemporary cyborg. It utilizes digital tools to compile a corpus of Instagram posts that foreground corporeal hybridity and examines this social media data through the lenses of feminist STS, affect theory, and digital studies. This strategy offers a new vantage on the cyborg by connecting it to concrete, ongoing user practices. To make these interventions, the article focuses specifically on a genre of post popularized by Instagram fitness (or fitstagram) influencers – diptych photographic montages that draw on the opposition between imperfectly real material bodies and unrealistically perfect media bodies. Although they formally rely on binary logics (real v. perfect, offline v. online), the posts simultaneously deconstruct them in a number of ways. These repeated boundary transgressions reflect users’ lived experiences of hybrid online/offline corporeality and help forward a theory of cyborg embodiment that relies on everyday practices as opposed to fixed products or identities. Moreover, close engagement with a final data set of 89 posts illuminates three particular modes of enacting the cyborg corpus on Instagram: occupation of multiple bodies, awareness of the analog body, and anxious boundary-work. This research extends the cyborg as a critical figure by situating it within a social media context, attending to its imbrication in ongoing everyday practices, and affirming female social media users as theorists of their cyborg selves.
#PRO-ANA/MIA MEETS #PRORECOVERY:
Depathologizing the Uses and Gratifications of Pro-Eating Disorder Social Media Content
What motivates vulnerable individuals to use social networking sites (SNSs) in ways that exacerbate or trigger eating disordered behaviors? Moreover, how can understanding the gratifications of this usage enhance the impact and reach of recovery-oriented social media? Considering these questions, this article draws on a uses and gratifications framework to amend Richard Perloff’s “transactional model of social media and body image concerns” (2014) by incorporating research on the motivations behind general social media usage and also, more specifically, on the consumption of pro-anorexia/bulimia (pro-ana/mia) online content. Better identifying the gratifications of triggering social media reveals how SNSs might be alternatively mobilized to aid vulnerable individuals in active recovery by providing adequate motivations to access protective content instead of reverting to previous media usage habits.
Visual cross-platform analysis: digital methods to research social media images
Warren Pearce, Suay M. Özkula, Amanda K. Greene, Lauren Teeling, Jennifer S. Bansard, Janna Joceli Omena and Elaine Teixeira Rabello
Information, Communication, & Society (June 2018)
Analysis of social media using digital methods is a flourishing approach. However, the relatively easy availability of data collected via platform application programming interfaces has arguably led to the predominance of single-platform research of social media. Such research has also privileged the role of text in social media analysis, as a form of data that is more readily gathered and searchable than images. In this paper, we challenge both of these prevailing forms of social media research by outlining a methodology for visual cross-platform analysis (VCPA), defined as the study of still and moving images across two or more social media platforms. Our argument contains three steps. First, we argue that cross-platform analysis addresses a gap in research methods in that it acknowledges the interplay between a social phenomenon under investigation and the medium within which it is being researched, thus illuminating the different affordances and cultures of web platforms. Second, we build on the literature on multimodal communication and platform vernacular to provide a rationale for incorporating the visual into cross-platform analysis. Third, we reflect on an experimental cross-platform analysis of images within social media posts (n = 471,033) used to communicate climate change to advance different modes of macro- and meso-levels of analysis that are natively visual: image-text networks, image plots and composite images. We conclude by assessing the research pathways opened up by VCPA, delineating potential contributions to empirical research and theory and the potential impact on practitioners of social media communication.
MOURNING WITH DISGUST IN DELBO’S AUSCHWITZ AND AFTER
Twentieth Century Literature 64.4 (December 2018)
This essay argues that Charlotte Delbo’s deployment of disgust in her memoir Auschwitz and After challenges the ethics and possibilities of trauma representation. As opposed to beautifying concentration camp victims through elegiac memorialization or by claiming the sublime unspeakability of the events, Delbo’s text dialogically oscillates between self-consciously aestheticized language and graphic physical representations of abject bodies. The irruptive visceral descriptions confront the reader with automatic, embodied repulsion in order to highlight the gaps in symbolization and the difficulties of witnessing. Yet as opposed to merely marking the limits of what can be witnessed, disgust offers an alternative, affective way of encountering the pain of others that still challenges the more soothing logic of mourning and meaning-making. It has a particular countermemorial capacity to preserve and communicate the embodied realities of the victims, if only through shudders of revulsion.
Interwar Britain and the Bodily Politics of Visual Social Media
My dissertation examines how habitual engagement with visual social media shapes subjects’ embodied encounters with vulnerability in everyday life. While a long tradition of scholarship has focused on the mediated spectatorship of pain in the face of punctual, graphic imagery, my work looks instead at how mediated environments more expansively condition individuals’ quotidian capacities for feeling and sense-making even outside of explicit media consumption. While addressing these questions, this project simultaneously maps new methodologies for media studies scholarship. By shifting between a diverse multimedia archive of interwar and contemporary visual media phenomena, my research teases out human habits and affect from the constraints of technological and digital determinism without dismissing their historical, cultural specificity.
Health, Medicine, & Society/ Biological Sciences 095
UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN
English 298 Introduction to Literary Studies
English 124 Academic Writing and Literature
“Thinking, Writing, Speaking Machines”
English 125 Writing and Academic Inquiry:
Media, Celebrity and Identity
English 313.001 Topics in Literary Studies:
Yeats, Eliot, Pound
(Graduate Student Instructor)
ADDITIONAL TEACHING EXPERIENCE
Auxiliar de Conversación: I.E.S Lucía de Medrano
(Middle/High School ESL Instructor)
Private English Tutor
Creative Writing Instructor: Duke Talent Identification Program
University of Kansas, Lawrence
(Creative writing courses at inner-city elementary schools and a women’s shelter)