My education included a B.S. and M.S. in computer science from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana (adviser: Roy Campbell), an M.A. in liberal studies from Northwestern University (advisers: Josef Barton and Henry Binford) and a joint Ph.D. in history of technologyand human geography from the Johns Hopkins University (advisers: Bill Leslie, Erica Schoenberger, David Harvey). Before coming to Madison, I spent a year as a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Geography and the Humanities Institute at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. And yes, it might sound trite, but the longer I live, the more I regret not taking better advantage of the educational opportunities I was privileged to have when I was young.
My industry experience began during my Illini days wtih civilian work for defense contractor Sundstrand and for the Army Corps of Engineers. Upon graduation I worked for three years at the Leo Burnett advertising agency in Chicago, followed by three years at Roger Schank’s Institute for Learning Sciences at Northwestern University, primarily working on the GuSS project. (Wired magazine wrote of ILS in 1994, “most of the real work is done on the backs of graduate students and other very smart, very young people willing to channel atrocious amounts of energy into offbeat projects for which they will get only modest credit, and even more modest money.”) But the financial and technical rewards of these experiences increasingly came at the expense of my own evolving philosophical and social goals — leading me back into graduate school and a career in academia.
My local service in national and international NGOs like the Sierra Club, Amnesty International, and the ACLU, as well as intermittent volunteer work during this time, was one of the main things which motivated me to move toward an academic career of research, teaching, and service. I have done local volunteer work with the Chicago Coalition for Information Access, the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore, the Cromwell Valley Community-Supported Agriculture project in Baltimore, and the Living Wage Campaign of Baltimore. I also worked as a summer intern for two national organizations: the Center for Neighborhood Technology in Chicago and the former Community Information Exchange in Washington D.C. (whose database is now folded into the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation). And while completing my doctoral work in Baltimore, I recylced about two dozen old bicycles for local thrift shops. Lately I’ve been seen doing volunteer ecological restoration work at the UW arboretum.
Creatively, I have been the author of a comic strip called “Artsy Fratsy” which ran daily in the Illinois student newspaper. My good friend Julian and I self-published a coffeehouse ‘zine called One Penny Sheet in Chicago during the early 1990s. I’ve had a bit of short fiction published both online and in print in my day, but not enough to brag about. And yes, that was me you heard occasionally on the JHU student radio station in the late 1990s, sitting in with my good friend Gabe. I strive to have my academic writing considered not dry and pedantic but “creative” as well.
I currently reside in Madison, WI with my wife and our two kids. My wife works in the area of public health on issues relating to awareness and treatment of HIV/AIDS. My son is 17 and in twelfth grade. He loves games, reading, hiking, and bicycling, and currently wants to be a scientist when he grows up. My daughter is 14 and in ninth grade. She loves volleyball, reading, drawing and animals, and currently wants to be a scientist when she grows up too. We spend a lot of time going for walks in the nearby arboretum, hanging out at our local public library, hiking at Devil’s Lake State Park, playing disc golf at Elver Park, visiting the snapping turtle at Vilas Zoo, and watching movies by Hayao Miyazaki. And our two cats, Rango and Cappuccino, are the actual rulers of the house.
I feel lucky to live in a local community where intellectual exploration, cultural diversity, artistic freedom, political activism and social justice have such a long history, even if today in my state and in my country they often seem to have an uncertain future.