Cross-Cultural Communication in Global Office Settings

Technology makes possible new kinds of collaborations across diverse cultures and distant time zones, yet communicating through technological interfaces often strips away much of the rich contextual detail people need in order to make sense of each other and check understanding. This project aims to better understand how to effectively communicate by taking into account culture and technology.

Narrative, Identity, and Kinship: Making Sense of the Life Course

This project investigates intergenerational narratives, with a focus on the transmission of parents’ personal biographies through narrative. The goal is to better understand the role of parents’ personal narratives in contributing to what younger generations know about their family’s history, and how narrative influences generational identities. Narrative is a key means by which experiences are made comprehensible, and patterns of talk and communication between generations can themselves serve to establish and maintain relationships. It’s important to understand generational change, as well as changing identity expressions over the life course, especially as older generations are characterized as requiring supplementary support from younger generations, not only in financial terms but emotionally and physically. The gap between parents’ experiences as young adults and their children’s experience as young adults grows wider in periods of rapid technological change. Rapid change poses additional obstacles to the rhetorical challenges of narrative, that is, to bring one person’s passions, experience, and perspectives into intimate proximity with another’s.

Intercultural Knowledge System Dynamics in Complex Services Offshoring

Research Collaborators: Sirkka Jarvenpaa, UT Austin McCombs School of Business and John Taylor, Georgia Tech University

Globalization of complex engineering design is a component of a much broader trend in the globalization of services which has far reaching impacts on work practices and society. The complexity of offshoring complex design work requires meetings to transfer the knowledge required to execute the work. Numerous knowledge system conflicts emerge which can require daily coordination. Our research examines knowledge system conflicts. The findings from this research will contribute to understanding the impact of intercultural knowledge system conflicts and it will provide input to the debates of policymakers concerned with the impact of globalization of services on the U.S. engineering workforce.

 Human-Technology Interactions

In the process of incorporating new technologies into our daily lives, we alter aspects of human interaction. Our activities with technology are not only shaped by culture but culture shapes our approach to technology. I am interested in how new shared conventions arise and what is the role of culture in creating, teaching, and learning.

Societal Impacts of Mobile Phones in 15 Societies

With the help of graduate student research assistants, I researched impacts of mobile phones in 15 countries, specifically how mobile phones have impacted people’s daily habits and how people in many cultures are incorporating this powerful and personal technology into established cultural practices. New technologies impact cultural practices and cultures impact how new technologies are used. The societies looked at include Australia, China, Brazil, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Lebanon, Russia, the U.S., Taiwan, Norway, and Korea. The societies range in size from small to large (e.g. India 1100 million, Norway 4.5 million) and in penetration rate of cell phones. This project was conducted in collaboration with NTT DoCoMo of Japan.

Societal Impacts of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology

In an era of environmental crises, many citizens and scientists are speaking to the issues of relationships between society and technology. Members of human societies have a well-documented diversity of world views based on cultural belief systems and local ecologies of knowledge. This includes different measures of ‘truth’ and what counts as knowledge as well as how readily it can be acquired or shared.

New Formats for Science Education: Societal Impacts and How to Transmit Research Findings to the Public

It is important to create a model for citizens and scientists to talk in appropriately complex ways about the impacts of science and technology on human societies in order to best benefit from science and technology. Together with Dr. Leslie Jarmon, I researched new formats for bringing together large numbers of diverse community members to engage with scientists in one-day Civic Forum events, such as “Societal Impacts of Nanotechnology” and “Surveillance and You.” The Forums were designed to create an environment rich in dialogue and information sharing from many perspectives, and to contribute to lifelong learning.

Examining Multi-Modal Conversational and Narrative Interactions of Deaf Children with Hearing Peers at School

Research Collaborator: Gene Mirus

Critics have raised serious questions about the isolation of deaf youth in public schools. Because the majority of deaf students are born to hearing parents who have no sign language skills, these children often arrive in school with poorly developed language skills in both spoken English and sign language. This communicative isolation can lead to cognitive, social and emotional impairments and affect how deaf students learn. Deaf students struggle in trying to communicate with and learn from hearing teachers, hearing parents, and hearing peers. We conducted an ethnographic study of communicative strategies of deaf children in mainstream classrooms in order to discover how they manage their day-to-day communicative interactions with hearing peers, across multimodal communicative channels, sign and speech.


How Culture and Technology Together Shape New Computer Tools: Investigating Interactions between Deaf Callers in Computer-Mediated Videotelephonic Communication

Research Collaborator: Gene Mirus
Research Assistant: Chris Moreland

The goal of this project was to learn about the impacts of technologies on human communication patterns, particularly communication among Deaf users of videotelephonic communication. Professionals in communication technologies are interested in the specific ways people interact with technological tools, and deal with technological challenges, as well as how new technology is integrated into existing social practices.

Power Sharing: Language, Rank, Gender and Social Space in Pohnpei, Micronesia

Pohnpei is an island nation in the western central Pacific Ocean, a member of the Federated States of Micronesia. In 1992-3 I conducted a research project to understand relationships between social hierarchies and language, using Pohnpeian society as a setting to investigate this issue. I was interested in closely examining particular social interactions between people at a “micro” level (focusing on small details) to show how they can explicate the nature and constitution of what are usually understood as “macro” (larger) social processes, such as power and status relations.

One of the principal aims of investigating status marked language is to understand how social relationships are built in particular interactions between particular members of society, and how building social inequality is a collaborative process. Status differences are constructed, maintained, and challenged through specific practices, namely language practices and other symbolic systems of communication and reproduction. In Pohnpei, as in many societies, hierarchy is socially valued and viewed as a “natural” and productive way of ordering social life.