Research Statement

My work is on prototyping alternate ontology curricular cultures, largely in postsecondary TECH education (Technology, Engineering, Computing, and Hacker/Maker realms). In other words, I am concerned with the making of people who make things. What are the assumptions we make about reality (especially related to teaching and learning), and what kinds of worlds do these assumptions set up? How might we build different worlds where different realities are possible?

I use ethnographic, narrative, and other qualitative tools along with a wide range of theoretical lens to examine questions such as: What is engineering? Who is a maker? What does it mean to be a technology professor? In doing this work, I build and partner with communities that have alternative TECH curricular cultures (for instance: Deaf engineering classrooms, feminist hackerspaces, distributed computing apprenticeships) to make us aware of the assumptions we’ve embedded in the discipline thus far… so we can decide what worlds we want to build going forward.

I think of myself and my collaborators as terraformers. As an engineer who has built my career in open source communities and an educator with over a decade of teaching and curriculum development experience, I’m intrigued by the space between how hackers learn and how engineers are taught. Both open source and engineering academia require neophytes to learn complex collaborative processes in order to produce technology, but their approaches have historically been quite different; school is abstract and controlled, well-scaffolded and private – whereas open community projects are chaotic and improvisational, public and “real.” Understanding the patterns of how knowledge is spread in each culture allows us to bridge them and combine their strengths. This creates radically transparent communities of makers solving real problems for real users while being aware of how they teach their craft to new apprentices.

My job is to build worlds, both physical and virtual, where this can happen. Radical transparency means knowledge can be freely accessed and discussed by team members across all disciplines, leading to surprising insights and richer products. It also exposes the discourse of real engineering practice, allowing anyone to overhear and reflect on the stories behind our solutions. When we can overhear and be overheard, we become more able to find our own answers, our own connections, and our own routes into a field.

I’m a firm believer in Open Access, and am in the process of making all of the results of my own research freely available. I do my best to go a step beyond and make my data, methods, and analysis open and freely forkable whenever possible.