About Me

Picture of me

I am a PhD candidate in English at CUNY specializing in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literature, intellectual history, and digital humanities. Much of my work involves putting new digital technologies into dialogue with the past.

I have an A.B. in English literature with a minor in mathematics from Washington University in St. Louis, and an M.A. in English from NYU. Before starting at CUNY, I worked for five years in database programming and data visualization, first at Nature Publishing Group and then at NYU School of Medicine.

The Distance Machine shows how the words in a passage from Moby-Dick went in and out of common use over a period of two centuries.

If you want to get a sense of what my digital work is like, a good place to start is the Distance Machine. The Distance Machine is a web-based program (which you can try in your browser right now) that identifies words in historical texts that were uncommon at particular points in time. I published an article about the project in American Literature; the source code is on GitHub.

I’ve also made some fun things like a poetry generator that can create rhymed verse and a depoeticizer.

There is a longer list of my digital projects here; you can also view a list of my major publications or my full CV.

I am currently completing a dissertation, “Symbols Purely Mechanical: Language, Modernity, and the Rise of the Algorithm, 1605-1862,” examining attitudes toward algorithms—the mechanical problem-solving procedures that now govern social-media feeds and search engines—in the three centuries preceding the emergence of the modern computer. Through readings of texts by figures such as G. W. Leibniz, Nicolas de Condorcet, Johann Gottfried Herder, William Wordsworth, George Boole, and Edgar Allan Poe, I show that the Romantic turn in the early nineteenth century set the terms in which people continue to view the relation between algorithm and meaning. By revealing this history, I ultimately hope to open the possibility of other ways of engaging with machines.