Broadly speaking, my research interests orbit around using digital technologies to provide access to archival materials - a simple statement on the surface. Questions lie just beneath about the extent to which those materials are representative of a wide range of lived experiences and subject positions, who is the intended audience, what is meant by "access" and so on. I approach the topic through an interdisciplinary lens that borrows - somewhat capriciously - from mutiple scholarly traditions and ways of knowing. My current research is loosely grounded in the following clusters:

Intersectional critiques of computational thinking and methods used in archival practice

As the archival, library and information professions increasingly adopt digital technologies into their practice, the responsibility to make visible the cultural histories of these technologies - and the dominant values encoded within them - becomes imperative. If archivists have more recently struggled to communicate the interpretive, constructed nature of their work to the public, the use of computational methods threatens to add an additional layer of abstraction, often opaque to even information professionals themselves. Numerous scholars in allied fields like Digital Humanities and software studies - as well as within information studies - offer productive critiques to form a basis for this research, including Safiya Umoja Noble, Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Lisa Gitelman, Oscar Gandy Jr., and Tara McPherson.

Preserving & providing access to non-textual digital records

In working with born-digital archives, I've become acutely aware of the continued privileging of textual information in preserving and providing access to archives, from the ease with which a WordPerfect document can be read 30 years after its creation to the natural language processing systems developed to automate the laborious task of item-level description. And yet, even though digital technologies offer affordances for documenting the numerous modalities through which knowledge and memory can be represented and expressed - from recorded oral histories to digital humanities scholarship - both their long-term preservation and access remain largely unattended to relative to textual records (even if non-textual media are more popular candidates for digitization). I aim (quixotically?) to investigate possibilities for remedying the logocentric bias in digital archivy and ensuring the future accessibility and discoverability of non-textual digital records.

Rethinking (digital) archival interfaces

I also have a particular interest in archival interfaces, where "interfaces" - after Margaret Hedstrom - are "critical nodes in the representation of archives and... a means through which archivists enable, but also constrain, the past. The interface is a site where power is negotiated and exercised."1 Hedstrom's formulation speaks to both the visionary potential and the conservative tendencies of digital interfaces, both of which I include in the notion of rethinking archival interfaces.

I contend that the conceptual space of digital archival interfaces is undertheorized and underexplored, due in no small part to the capital cost of developing a robust, fully-featured digital collections platform. However, the result is that systems like AtoM, Islandora and ContentDM have come to define a very narrow scope of possibilities for imagining online access (I have a soft spot for Mukurtu and Collective Access, but they likewise impose certain constraints in imagining online access). Although what I am proposing is admittedly not meant to be implemented on a large scale - essentially, a series of unsustainable "boutique" treatments for individual collections - my intent is simply to introduce new ways of thinking about enabling, enhancing and augmenting access that treat the archival encounter as an aesthetic experience.

While the body of knowledge within user interface design and HCI could potentially enrich an approach to designing digital archival interfaces, it is also important to note that, like the archival profession, there is an overrerpresentation of white practitioners in the field. Only recently have more critical stances emerged, premised on indigenous, non-/less-colonial and feminist approaches to HCI. Anthony's Dunne's earlier challenge to the assumed primacy of user friendliness, which he argues "helps naturalize electronic objects and the values they embody," is also provocative.2 My research interests, then, lie in creating prototypes that emphasize aesthetic experience above usability (which digital collections platforms haven't necessarily cornered the market on, anyway) and take seriously the idea of the archival encounter, and at the same time, gesture toward a critical theory of interface design.

[1] Margaret Hedstrom, “Archives, Memory, and Interfaces with the Past,” Archival Science 2, no. 1–2 (March 1, 2002): 22,

[2] Anthony Dunne, Hertzian Tales: Electronic Products, Aesthetic Experience, and Critical Design, Rev. ed. (Cambridge, Mass: MIT Press, 2005): 21.