In April 2019 I will defend my dissertation, “Developing New Materialist Frameworks for Collaborative Response,” which explores methods for collaborative research and response to complex problems.
Complex socio-technical problems such as climate change and the opioid epidemic strain current conceptions of public problem solving. Practitioners, including technical communication researchers, need methods that address immediate needs while supporting sustained community and policy response. Drawing on new materialist theory, technical communication research methods, and participatory research design, I trace the 2015 outbreak of HIV in Scott County, Indiana, and the subsequent passage of syringe exchange legislation, to craft frameworks for collaborative research calibrated to the messiness of wicked problems. My mixed methods study draws on empirical analysis of publicly available documents related to the outbreak, and interviews with public health practitioners, community activists and scholars in related fields in order to create situational maps that show differences in language and approach to public problem solving. Mapping these differences, and the networks that develop for policy-making, operational response and research makes visible the embedded work of technical communication. I hope my research will help scholars and practitioners work more closely and communicate more effectively with more interdisciplinary and diverse audiences, contributing to critical scholarship that builds better communities.
Dissertation Summary (PDF) Short summary of my motivations, frames, and a chapter outline
Prospectus and Research Plan (PDF) Complete dissertation prospectus and bibliography.