My research focus examines the relationship between government, technological change, and the production of scientific and technical knowledge in capitalist economies. My work falls into the interdisciplinary field of Science and Technology Studies (STS)
My research uses the automobile as a lens onto the history of risk regulation in the United States. In other words, I use the car to study how people worry and what they have done to lessen that worry. My interests include how communities form around technological problems, how actors find solutions to these problems, and how regulatory practices shape technological design and products. My previous research examined similar issues around the attempt to produce trustworthy energy statistics during the energy crises of the 1970s.
I am also interested in contemporary innovation policy, particularly in the failure of our current political economy to support long-term research and development (R&D) and foster significant technological breakthroughs outside of the Three O's—infO, nanO, and biO. (No. "Big Data" won't solve all of our problems.) I co-authored a piece in Issues in Science and Technology that put forward a new framework for thinking about R&D.
Recently, I pay increasing attention to the state of theory and methodology in STS. This concern has led me to think about the philosophy of social science: what it means to have a thought about "society" and how to do that well. We sometimes banter about these kinds of issues on the team history of science blog I'm on called American Science. Last spring, I finished a LONG and problematic essay exploring possible productive points of overlap between technology studies and field theory, a significant strain of sociology. I may carve the essay up and publish parts of it someday, but for now it will remain a working paper. I am also interested in how the new techniques and revamped old ones collectively called the "Digital Humanities" can be used to study scientific and engineering communities and knowledge economies.