My research focuses on the practices, imaginaries, and influences of contemporary science and technology. I am interested in how scientists transform our understanding of what it means to be in the world. To study this, I think about the role of place and place-making in scientific work. My first book, Placing Outer Space: An Earthly Ethnography of Other Worlds, is about planetary scientists and how they transform planets from scientific objects into worlds. In so doing, Mars scientists and exoplanet astronomers are re-shaping our understanding of the universe, presenting a cosmos filled with places and destinations instead of an empty void. Earth, as a planet and a place, is implicated in this changing cosmology. My research asks how the planetary imagination developed by scientist looking outward might be turned inward and used to comprehend Earth on a planetary scale, necessary for confronting today’s environmental and political crises.
My current research investigates the re-emerging technology of virtual reality. As a technology of immersion, VR promises to transport us to existing and fictitious places. This research is supported by an NSF Scholars Award, and focuses on Los Angeles to study how the particular mix of entertainment, academic research, and industry development shape VR and its attending community.
Through reading, teaching, and writing, I endeavor to link conversations in sociocultural anthropology with other fields of inquiry, including science and technology studies, media studies, cultural geography, environmental humanities, and history of science and technology