Hello! I’m Alex.
Technology seemed somewhat inaccessible to me while I was growing up. It wasn’t that I had no access to technology. We had a family computer, and in my teenage years I was given a number of cell phones by my parents, ostensibly to be able to call them in case I got lost while in public, or there was some other kind of emergency. But, rather, I always felt that technology was something I used, but was incapable of really understanding. Circuits still seem otherworldly to me. I have no idea how most of the devices around my apartment actually work. The paraphrase from the eminent Strong Bad: technology is basically magic, and when it breaks, you buy a new one. I’ll never know how tech companies like Apple or Alphabet make their products or services, but I will have faith that they’ll keep making things that I will eventually buy or use. I also perceived technology to have two main goals: being used either for business contexts or for entertainment. That’s what I used to think, anyway.
Similarly, I always thought of digital things as “something else”. Anything that was digital or not “physical” was ethereal, and didn’t exist. Not really, anyways. Despite this, I was cautious in using technology. I was always cautioned growing up that what I post online (publicly, anyway) was always going to be “out there”, even if I didn’t know what or where “out there” was. While I have been an avid netizen for years, I was basically uninterested in the digital until after I graduated undergrad, spent a year working and figuring out if I wanted to go to graduate school, and started grad school in 2020.
Immediately, I was challenged to set aside my preconceived notions about technology/the digital. What I did online was not just something “extra” that happened parallel to the “real world”. I was immediately drawn to recent scholarship about circulation studies and social media for that reason: studying not only what was posted online, but how it traveled and took on a life of its own – perhaps even affecting the “real world” more than I assumed – was intriguing to me.
A mentor in that program immediately introduced me to Digital Samaritans, which has pretty definitively shaped my orientation towards digital rhetorics, circulation studies, technical communication, and UX – which are primarily the areas that I work in/around as a PhD student. Digital Samaritans, to me, went beyond seeing technology as something otherworldly and separate from the “real world”. In fact, the ways that technology and the digital intersect with people, culture, and politics is quite profound. While the digital world was, at one point, an “extra” layer, where I watched Homestar Runner videos and played online games with friends and strangers, my orientation towards it has changed since.
As a second-year PhD student at Michigan State University, I’m interested in the intersections between technology, people, and culture. More specifically, I’m interested in the ways that we use digital technologies to culture (Arola, 2018), whether that’s in order to disrupt, resist, or otherwise navigate dominant narratives and status quos (especially racist, colonial, and other oppressive status quos). I’m curious how the circulatory, often-changing nature of digital landscapes affects us and our ability to culture online, too. Social justice technical communication and cultural rhetorics influence my orientation towards these issues, too. After all, we’re all embodied in these digital networks, whether we’re instructors, industry professionals, or in other spaces, too. VR, data scandals, and AI have also challenged me to rethink the ways that these issues intersect, too.
I’m excited to bring these interests to the DRC, and to collaborate with and learn from other fellows in my cohort. I’m interested in exploring multimodality, circulation, and digital culturing, and how these things intersect with digital rhetorics and tech comm, as well as how others in the field currently make these connections and do the work they are doing.
You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I have an X (formerly Twitter) account at @alexmashny, but I’m not active on there as much these days. I’m still waiting for a Bluesky code, but once I get one, you can find me there, too.