S.A. Colclough is a PhD candidate at the University of Texas at Austin in the Department of Rhetoric & Writing and Digital Literacy and Literatures concentration. Their research focuses on extrahuman rhetorical relations, responsibility, and technology in contemporary U.S. political discourse, particularly, the rhetoric of algorithms. Specifically, Colclough’s work focuses on tracing how false “human”/”nonhuman” binaries deconstruct themselves through use in both mainstream and esoteric political rhetoric about technology in order to unpack the politicization of that binary.
Colclough’s dissertation focuses on the emergence(s) of “the algorithm” as a politicized cultural object in post-2016 U.S. election discourse. Using both digitally published texts and software objects published in direct response to the “unexpected” outcome of the election as primary source material, the dissertation tracks “the algorithm” and its figurations across this source material as a case study to unpack the role that rhetorically ascribing certain “human-ness” or “non-humanest” to “algorithmic” techno-cultural phenomenon plays in how we assign “responsibility” for the outcome of the election; both in the retrospective sense of “responsibility as guilt” and in the judicial sense of “responsibility as mandate and authority for the future.
This dissertation project builds loosely from their 2017 Master’s Report (issued in 2018 due to a paperwork snafu). Colclough’s MA report took the rhetorical construction of bots as nonhuman political agents in the 2016 U.S. Presidential election as a case study to demonstrate how technologies like bots take on an “uncanny” “agency” in political rhetoric. Drawing from Michelle Ballif, Michael Bernard-Donals and media theorist Jeffrey Sconce, the report then argued how the affective qualities of “the uncanny” software agent intersect with larger cultural narratives around citizenship, community, national identity, and power.
Colclough is a former staff member on UT Austin’s the Digital Writing and Research Lab, working on the Data Visualization Research Team (2016-2017), the Digital Archiving Research Team (spring 2016), and producing other content such as blog posts, video software tutorials, and lesson plans. During the 2017-2018 academic year, Colclough’s DWRL Flash Fellowship was to archive and organize every single article ever published in The New York Times containing the term “bot” in order to have a database that provided quantitative background for later diachronic and synchronic qualitative analysis of the changing and rhetorical suasion of the term. Using Overviewdocs, Colclough manually archived and coding each article, filtered for false-positives, then used Overviewdocs to text-mine terms to find chronological discursive patterns. From their tenure in the DWRL and their time on the UWC Data Team during the 2018-2019 academic school year, Colclough is proficient in NVivo 12, Tableau Professional, specific screencasting software (preferably Screenflick), video editing and some sound editing (in professional grade-studios at the DWRL), and other tools.
From summer 2018 through spring 2019, Colclough worked as a writing consultant for The University Writing Center. They worked a section of their consulting hours at the Longhorn Center for Academic Excellence, a center focused on contributing to the diversity of the university centered towards empowering first generation and lower-income college students.
In Fall 2019, Colclough will be teaching RHET 306 (details to be announced).
As an interdisciplinary scholar and digital activist, Colclough is an advocate for increasing cultural technological literacy, both inside and outside the academe. Their work at the intersection of digital humanities, media studies, and rhetoric aims to show how crossing disciplinary boundaries between humanities, the social science, and STEM better equips academics and non-academics alike to address the effects of the mutually consisting, dynamic relationship between technological innovation and socio-political, economic phenomenon. Colclough is also an advocate for greater accessibility to academic knowledge in multiple senses of “accessibility.” They occasionally write about themselves in the third person to avoid being misgendered.
Colclough earned their bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and English with a minor in women’s studies at the University of Georgia in 2013.
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