Ph.D., Sociology, Ohio State University
M.A., Sociology, Ohio State University
B.A., Sociology/Anthropology, Kent State University
One foundational lesson of sociology is that context matters. My research builds on that principle by investigating the physical and virtual environments in which social life occurs. Whether they are tangible, digital, or increasingly a bit of both, the places around us are partly the product of social action and partly an influence on those actions. We create these environments based on our needs and desires but, once created, they can exert their own influence back on us. My work examines how they influence our feelings, thoughts, behaviors, social organization, and culture, as well as how these in turn shape the environment itself. To examine these processes, I use diverse methodologies ranging from quantitative applications to ethnographic methods. Substantively, I have examined the role of environmental context across a diverse range of specific topics. For example, my work has addressed many questions like the following:
- How are urban legends, which people traditionally discuss face-to-face, disseminated and transformed in online forums?
- Why do internet conspiracy claims influence real world behaviors?
- Do urban environments nurture inclusive attitudes for the people who live in them?
- Why do microbreweries feature physical environments so prominently on their product packaging compared to larger firms?
- How do subcultural enclaves structure their physical and virtual worlds to accommodate their distinctive norms and values?
My overarching goal in this research is to improve our understanding of the significance of the environment in everyday life and, in the process, invigorate sociology’s contributions to this interdisciplinary concern.
As an educator, it is my mission to cultivate and encourage the inherent drive to learn new things and apply these lessons to the world around us. I believe learning should not be a chore, that it should emphasize the relevance of lessons to our lives or other interests, and that whenever possible it should occur through experience. I teach a wide variety of courses, ranging from Introduction to Sociology and Social Psychology to Qualitative Methods and Simulations, to name a few examples. I am also an enthusiastic supporter of student research and am always pleased to advise, mentor, or otherwise encourage emerging researchers.
Practice with research is important to cultivate the ability to produce and not simply consume knowledge. However, experience with the methods and logic of scholarly inquiry are beneficial for everyone, not just aspiring researchers. A strong familiarity with these tools empowers us all by allowing us to evaluate critically whatever claims we hear and to make informed decisions in our everyday lives.