Dissertation in a nutshell

I submitted my dissertation proposal to my committee this week, after no small amount of deliberation. Mostly, my dissertation is built upon watching the Texas landscape change in the face of ongoing drought. I’ve spent my fair share of summers standing waist-deep in the Brazos with a fly rod, or lazily kayaking on Caddo lake.

Given my sub-fields of study (digital media theory and political economy of the natural environment), I was curios to find out how we make decisions that affect our water. I became interested in groundwater in particular because it was a water source I couldn’t see, and often simply took for granted. I started to pay attention to the way ground water was discussed in the local media and the ways that people visualized a hidden water source. The confluence of these two fields began to take shape once I began sketching the groundwork for my dissertation, which is theoretically grounded in software studies, science and technology studies, as well as environmental communication.

My dissertation contributes to ongoing conversations about the way software interacts with culture and the ways in which software shapes our understanding of the environment. The dissertation, tentatively titled Models of Catastrophe: Groundwater Conflict, Software, and the Production of Knowledge during the Texas Drought (2010 – 2014) studies the cultural impact of geological modeling and simulation software. While emerging media and software studies scholars, such as Lev Manovich, have examined media-making platforms (e.g. Adobe’s Photoshop or After Effects) there has been little critical analysis on environmental software. I hope to offer a corrective by addressing the role software plays in producing environmental knowledge.



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