At the Wayne State University Department of Communication, I work with a number of graduate students and colleagues, collaborating on projects that examine the communicative implications of “Resilient Institutions & Sustainable Environments” (RISE).
Broadly speaking, these projects study how communicative practices enable resilience and sustainability in a variety of organizations, ranging from for-profit companies to nonprofits, religious organizations to purpose-driven consultancies, government agencies to institutions of higher education. We research how the social, environmental, economic, and cultural dimensions of sustainability intersect in both old and new ways, shaping policy at the macro-level and interpersonal sense-making at the micro-level.
The RISE Lab is, in essence, a humanities lab. While the term “humanities lab” might seem strange at first — after all, we’re not exactly walking around in white lab coats here — it starts to make sense once you think hard about what happens in a lab, really. (After all, the famous philosopher of science Bruno Latour says that Science is really just composed of all the various things that scientists “do”; so, a Lab is pretty much the composite of the actions undertaken in that space, right?) A lab is fundamentally about rigorous and systematic research to examine particular phenomena, often drawing from multiple disciplines, putting things into various combinations with each other to see what the results are, and learning from these “playful” experiments…
Well, at the RISE Lab, that is precisely what we do, only in the context of social-ecological problems and contexts. We focus with razor-sharp and sytematic precision on what makes social-ecological conditions work in particular and different ways — especially, how communication plays a role in these workings — and we draw from multiple disciplines and frameworks to theorize what’s happening, and design solutions and prototypes to demonstrate or evaluate our findings.
As a humanities lab, we are fundamentally concerned with understanding the human condition, its impact on and how it’s impacted by our broader ecology… how social collectives and human decision-making affects the environment, which in turn impacts humanity