Dr. Plaut brings experience in computer science, journalism, and other creative practices to his scholarship on computational media. Research interests include: Communication Avoidance, Disconnection, & Technology Refusal; Journalism, Propaganda, & Media Ethics; and Configurable Culture.

Selected publications & scholarship:

🔓 = Open Access / Free Download Link

🔓 "Strategic Illiteracies: The Long Game of Technology Refusal and Disconnection"
(Communication Theory, 2022 / advance access)

Disconnection and avoidance have been theorized various ways, e.g., by analyzing communicative and non-communicative affordances of devices and platforms; categorizing tactics and patterns of non-use; and through analogy with historical ways of seeking solitude and resisting technologies. This article, however, treats history not only as a source of analogies for momentary disconnections, but also as a timescale on which to understand slower undercurrents of resistance. I define “strategic illiteracies” as: purposeful, committed refusals to learn expected communication and technology skills, not only as individual people in specific moments, but also in communities over time. This concept connects technology refusal to historical lineages of resistance to linguistic and orthographic imperialism, analyzing examples including the Greek alphabet in antiquity, Chinese characters in Asia, and the Latin alphabet through European colonization. This new framework and genealogy of avoidance and technology refusal elucidates ways forward, slowly, for successive generations to reclaim their communicative futures.

🔓 "Ubiquitous News Experienced Alone: Interviews with Americans and their Devices"
(Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interaction, 2022)

Scholars, journalists, and other commentators argue that we are suffering a social-epistemological crisis, sometimes called "post-truth", and that this crisis is related to the fragmentation of newsmedia. The conventional media effects research explanation for this relationship between news and "post-truth" is framed in terms of messages and information—especially misinformation—as the mechanism by which media effect change. Analysing the results of a large (n = 164) interview study on mobile and other digital news audiencehood, this article presents an alternative, complementary explanation focused on ritual functions of communication...(Co-authored with D. Lottridge, et al.)

"Vandalize a Webpage: Automation and Agency, Destruction and Repair"
(Book chapter in the Routledge Handbook of Remix Studies and Digital Humanities)

In this chapter, I present insights from a case study of undergraduate pedagogy combining critical readings with basic coding skills to develop projects that appropriate, remix, produce, and creatively destroy digital media—or sometimes even repair it...

🔓 "Global and Local Agendas of Computing Ethics Education"
(Proceedings of the 2020 ACM Conference on Innovation and Technology in Computer Science Education / ITiCSE '20)

A recent surge of scholarly interest has produced some rich overviews of computing ethics pedagogy (e.g., Fiesler et al., 2020). This paper seeks to go beyond the Western perspectives typically centered in that work to consider how these problems may be understood in quite different ways through the value systems of diverse professional groups, political systems, and cultures...(Co-authored with Janet Hughes, et al.)

🔓 "Technologies of avoidance: The swear jar and the cell phone"
(First Monday)

Technologies of communication and use receive much scholarly attention while technologies of avoidance and non-use receive comparatively little...

"Enlightenment, the Remix: Transparency as a DJ's Trick of Seeing Everyone From Nowhere"
(Communication, Culture & Critique)

In 2009, scholars and journalists hailed YouTube remix artist Kutiman's 8-video musical opus Thru-YOU as an icon of democratic cultural production. This article builds from a close reading of those videos—and survey of press coverage and relevant scholarly literature—to ask why people attributed agency to the remixed rather than the remixer when fragments were appropriated from essentially private citizens rather than celebrities...

"Bias in the Flesh: Skin Complexion and Stereotype Consistency in Political Campaigns"
(Public Opinion Quarterly)

There is strong evidence linking skin complexion to negative stereotypes and adverse real-world outcomes. We extend these findings to political ad campaigns, in which skin complexion can be easily manipulated in ways that are difficult to detect... (Co-authored with Solomon Messing & Maria Jabon).

"Commitments not to communicate before and after digital media: a study of the will and ways to disconnect under changing conditions"
(doctoral dissertation)

...there has been no systematic treatment of the myriad ways people deliberately structure quiet into their lives. This dissertation is such an analysis. The economic concept of "commitment devices" is applied to communication, generating a new definition of communication avoidance...

Invited Talks (Selected)

"Image, Music, Text, Code—Modularity and Technology in Remix Studies + Digital Humanities" panel hosted by the Penn State Arts & Design Research Incubator (ADRI). (With Eran Hadas, Christine Boone, and Steve F. Anderson). (Oct 2021).

"Breaking With Routine: Truth Beyond Mere 'Correctness' In Computer Science and Journalism." Stanford University Department of Communication 9th Annual Rebele Symposium: The Journalism We Need: An International Symposium. Stanford, CA (May 2018) ...video:

"Designed to Disconnect: Technologies of Non-Use and Communication Avoidance" University of Toronto Knowledge Media Design Institute (KMDI) & Toronto Region ACM SIGCHI (TorCHI)

"Filters Are Not Enough: The Right to Silence as a Design Imperative." San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of ACM SIGCHI (BayCHI). Given at Xerox PARC in Palo Alto, CA (April 2016) ...video:

"Bitten Tongues To Digital Cacophony: Evolving Rights To Silence." UMD Libraries, Special Collections in Mass Media and Culture, in Partnership with Media Studies at Catholic University of America

Download Curriculum Vitae (PDF)