Research

I use mixed methods to study the sociological side of urban design, planning, and technology. These days, I mostly study things.

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Things are always more interesting than we think, especially the boring ones. They  have all kinds of ideas about society embedded in them. I study big things, like vacant suburban homes and lawns in public parks, but I also study small things, like folding chairs and mobile phones.

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I also occasionally publish research on the sociology of culture and the media. Here is some recent and not-so-recent research I’ve been working on, in case you’re interested:

  • In The Midst of Things: The Social Life of Urban Artifacts. This is a book I’ve been working on, which tells the story of five different everyday objects found in the public spaces of New York City and its suburbs. It’s mostly done at this point, and is under contract with Princeton University Press.
  • The Subway as Fourth Place: Anomie, Flanerie, and the ‘Crush of Persons’, with colleagues Peter Tuckel and Bill Milzarski and a talented group of applied social research graduate students. We sent our students into the subway to ride the rails and make systematic observations on subway etiquette. (Are you a “pole hog?”) The fancy academic version came out in Applied Mobilities in 2018, but the research project got some media coverage before that:
    • My colleague Bill Milzarski and I were on the NY1 show In Transit this spring talking about this research. (by the way, being on TV is no fun, and seeing yourself on TV is even worse.)
    • This research was also picked up by CBS Local, and the Daily News.