My scholarship includes a strong theory/philosophy focus, complemented by expertise in new media, including virtual and immersive media environments. I combine critical theory, postmodern analysis and phenomenological examination with both qualitative and quantitative social science research methods. As an artist/scholar, my research is informed by dance and performance studies; digital arts and digital performance; media philosophy, and Polynesian studies (with a particular focus on pre-contact Tahitian culture).

My current theoretical research interests include the dynamics of power within the context of taboo and transgression (with a study of emergent media such as virtual world Second Life); virtual citizenry, global virtual communities; individual autonomy and human agency within an age of ubiquitous media; and the balance of privacy, security and freedom in the 21st century. These studies are founded upon a primary source analysis and phenomenological exploration of the related Polynesian concepts of Mana (power), Tapu (the tapu system), and Hara (guilt/transgression).

Previous research projects include 3D visualization and immersive worlds; visual pedagogy; visual cognitive neuroscience (for the design of interactivity and multi-sensory works); and visual communication. In addition, I have presented nationally on visual pedagogy, designing collaborative learning, and meaningful learning.

My interest in visual research
began a decade ago while working as a research assistant for George Covington, a legally blind photographer, researcher, and author with less than 5% vision in one eye.

Our work focused on experimentation in digitization and digital imagery/photography for sight enhancement in the visually impaired. We disseminated results in articles for journals such as Technos Quarterly for Education and Technology; Intercommunication Journal (Japan), and WE Magazine, a publication for people with disabilities.

Covington often tells the story of how he had no idea how much of what he thought he was seeing was a constructed by his brain until he spent a day in the field with a photographer. Upon reviewing photographs from the day’s shoot, he realized that what he thought he saw had little or nothing to do with what was actually in the picture – and began his work using photography to “crystallize” moments in time in order to “see” them. Covington and I later developed techniques to digitally modify photographs in order to achieve the maximum range of visibility for persons with minimal vision.

This research with Covington
highly influenced my understanding of perception, apprehension, and cognition. Working with the visually impaired to describe and teach computer mediated communication and digital image manipulation challenged me to move beyond text to understand how to convey meaning, and enhance learning, using design approaches that both engaged the visual brain while maximizing the engagement of other, compensatory, cognitive functions. This led me to experiment with visual learning approaches informed by developments in visual cognitive neuroscience, which I have applied to a large scale course redesign project involving 400+ online courses.