The following are a selection of publications accompanied with the access link and abstract. Feel free to contact me with any questions regarding my work.
Abstract: Broadening participation in computing among underrepresented groups is important for not only increasing the workforce in computer science careers but also for ensuring that a broad range of stakeholders can contribute to technology development. However, stereotypes and stereotype threat represent a major barrier to underrepresented groups engaging with computer science education. To investigate alternative paths into computational work that sidestep the pressures of stereotypes, we interviewed 22 people working on computational projects in transformative fandom, a community centered on media remix and critique. Our participants–primarily women, people of color, and/or LGBTQ+ people–described a set of stereotypes about computing that prevented them from seeing their own highly technical work as computational. However, participants also described projects that not only taught them computing skills but also opened up alternative pathways for involvement in computer science. We draw on these findings to provide recommendations for how educators and professionals might break down stereotypes and incorrect expectations to increase underrepresented groups’ involvement and confidence in computer science.
Abstract: Within online communities, social norms that both set expectations for and regulate behavior can be vital to the overall welfare of the community–particularly in the context of the privacy and safety of its members. For communities where the cost of regulatory failure can be high, it is important to understand both the conditions under which norms might be effective, and when they might fail. As a case study, we consider transformative fandom, a creative community dedicated to reimagining existing media in often subversive ways. In part due to the marginalized status of many members, there are strong, longstanding norms to protect the community. Through an interview study with 25 fandom participants, we investigate social norms that have been largely effective over time at maintaining member privacy and safety, but also break down under certain circumstances. Catalysts for these breakdowns include tensions between sub-communities and an increasing presence of outsiders, though most prominently, we identify a disconnect between the norms the community needs to support and the design of the platforms they occupy.
CSCW Best Paper Honorable Mention
Abstract: When online platforms rise and fall, sometimes communities fade away, and sometimes they pack their bags and relocate to a new home. To explore the causes and effects of online community migration, we examine transformative fandom, a longstanding, technology-agnostic community surrounding the creation, sharing, and discussion of creative works based on existing media. For over three decades, community members have left and joined many different online spaces, from Usenet to Tumblr to platforms of their own design. Through analysis of 28 in-depth interviews and 1,886 survey responses from fandom participants, we traced these migrations, the reasons behind them, and their impact on the community. Our findings highlight catalysts for migration that provide insights into factors that contribute to success and failure of platforms, including issues surrounding policy, design, and community. Further insights into the disruptive consequences of migrations (such as social fragmentation and lost content) suggest ways that platforms might both support commitment and better support migration when it occurs.
Abstract: As online fandom continues to grow, so do the public data created by fan creations and interactions. With researchers and journalists regularly engaging with those data (and not always asking permission), many fans are concerned that their content might end up in front of the wrong audience, which could lead to privacy violations or even harassment from within or outside of fandom. To better understand fan perspectives on the collection and analysis of public data as a methodology, we conducted both an interview study and a survey to solicit responses that would help provide a broader understanding of fandom’s privacy norms as they relate to the ethical use of data. We use these findings to revisit and recommend best practices for working with public data within fandom.
Abstract: Video games are a unique narrative and interactive experience that allow players to construct their own fantasies through play. The fantastical possibilities a video game could explore are nearly limitless. However, a game’s design often precludes certain imaginative routes, shutting down one fantasy in favour of another. Games close out possibilities through actions as small as character design (gender, race, ability) and restrict imaginative interpretations to serve a narrow audience. Game developers design play that prioritizes hypermasculine narrative experiences, and players that do not align with this identity must condition themselves to play that excludes fantasies or alternate worlds that align with their experiences. This essay explores attempts by game development studio Bioware to create video games that are inclusive of gay, lesbian, and bisexual players by writing in queer romantic narrative subplots into their games. While Bioware’s attempts are certainly not malicious, they fail time and time again, game after game, to break free of the hypermasculine and heterocentric culture dominant in the gaming industry. Instead, Bioware appropriates queer experiences and construes them as a burden to the player so as not to displace the fantasies of male, heterosexual gamers.
Dym, B., Brubaker, J. R., Fiesler, C., & Semaan, B. (2019). “Coming Out Okay”: Community Narratives for LGBTQ Identity Recovery Work. Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction, 3(CSCW), 1-28.
Abstract: Online communities provide support for those who are vulnerable, such as LGBTQ people while coming out. Research shows that social support and personal narrative construction are important when recovering from personal crises and traumatic events. As an online community focused on writing fanfiction and also consisting of a large number of LGBTQ members, transformative fandom provides an opportunity to examine the relationship between support, crisis, and narrative. Through an interview study with 31 LGBTQ fanfiction authors, our findings mirror Herman’s model of trauma recovery: these spaces self-organize to support recovery work through constructing “community narratives” that help LGBTQ people establish safety when exploring their identity and build LGBTQ support structures without publicly outing themselves before they are ready, challenge stereotypes, and support others through reshaping existing media that perpetuate inaccurate or harmful LGBTQ narratives. These online communities embody “selective visibility”–that is, though not specifically designed as support structures for identity work and recovery, their design allows people to selectively find and create communities of support for stigmatized issues that they might be unable to safely seek out in other spaces. Based on lessons learned, we generate insights that can inform the design of safe support spaces online.
Abstract: Underrepresented fans of media, such as women, members of the LGBTQIA community, and other marginalized people use fan fiction (new narratives constructed from elements of existing media) to critique and recraft their representation in media such as television, movies, books and video games. This article explores fan response to diverse gender identities, or their absence, in video games, through stories found on the popular fan fiction website Archive of Our Own (AO3). The analysis examines metadata from over 2,200 unique fan fiction stories, focusing on freeform, user-generated tags. In addition to categorizing works, tags are also a place for authors to describe their intentions and respond to the source material. This analysis reveals that authors are recrafting video game narratives to include more diverse gender representation in a way unique to the current cultural nuances of video games. This article argues that game developers can expand diversity in games not only by adding queer characters but by leaving narrative choices and details open so that players can interpret character identities in multiple ways. By challenging the hegemonic barriers in games, the diverse communities that take place in authoring and reading fan fiction expand the boundaries of video game culture while also revealing ways that video games themselves can open the doors to greater diversity in their narratives.