Recently I was asked to share a brief summary of my research paradigm. For what it's worth, here's what I drafted:
The study of public life – especially that domain of structures, texts, and performances where ideas and ideals become naturalized and contested: that’s where I like to work. My original training is journalism, and the writers who inspire me are essayists. Consequently I get a bit heavy-lidded when conversations grind around paradigmatic, theoretical, and/or methodological considerations. Naturally one must be able to articulate a position within some recognizable framework of ideas, lest puffery trump precision. Yet the ends must stretch a bit further than the means for academic work to be relevant. For that reason, I get itchy at the sight of lengthy literature reviews and threadbare analyses. My passions lead me to topics and authors who seek first to say something worthwhile and then to find (or build) the necessary structural support to connect specific ideas to specific audiences. Scholar-as-explorer, not scholar-as-pedant, summarizes my approach to academic life.
The nature of this exploration, of course, does not demand that you wade through distant jungles to do meaningful work. An adventurous writer can forge exciting intellectual journeys even from relics that gather dust nearby. Carolyn Marvin’s book, When Old Technologies Were New, and Paul Fotsch’s article, “The building of a superhighway future,” spring immediately to mind. I’m also a fan of Greg Dickinson’s work, especially his QJS piece, “Memories for sale: Nostalgia and the construction of identity in Old Pasadena,” which first alerted me to our field’s spatial turn. These exemplars inspired my tentative tiptoeing into a larger world than the one sometimes envisioned in our journals.