Generally, my research is concerned with the effects and implications of new media technologies, including virtual worlds, video games, social networking sites, and mobile applications. In particular, I am interested in how our online selves and social interactions influence our offline identities, attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors, including relationship initiation, development, maintenance, and dissolution. I employ multiple methods in my research, including experiments, surveys, content analyses, focus groups, and interviews. I collaborate with several graduate students in my lab, VECTOR (Virtual Environment, Communication Technology, and Online Research).
My current projects are in three general areas: the role of social media in romantic relationships; persuasive avatars and virtual environments; and gender, sex, and sexuality in virtual spaces. Regarding social media and romantic relationships, we've investigated how users escalate relationships using social media; the positive and negative effects of social media use on relationships; and how breakups play out over social media. With persuasive avatars, we have built virtual environments designed to encourage healthy and pro-environmental behaviors and tested the effects of manipulating avatar features (e.g., self-similarity) to enhance prosocial outcomes. In other avatar research, we've investigated how embodying sexualized avatars affects female users and how men and women react to sexualized representations. We've also probed sex and gender in the context of video games, including sexual harassment in online games.
Teaching about new technologies is exciting because of the applicability of the material to our everyday lives. Learning to analyze, critique, and understand these technologies is crucial so that students can maximize their effectiveness in practice and make informed decisions regarding their use. My classes also focus on developing writing skills as they are a fundamental part of earning a degree in Communication.
When I’m not reading, writing, or researching, I enjoy listening to music, playing sports, learning trivial crafts and skills, frolicking in the outdoors, road tripping, cooking, and--my favorite hobby of all--eating. I proudly hail from Louisville, Kentucky, and love rolling hills, fried food, and all things bluegrass. Most of all, I love Derby (of the Kentucky, roller, and Hall varieties) and plan my calendar around the first Saturday in May.