I’ve been lurking for some time now trying to figure out how best to introduce myself to those of you out there who frequent this site or are members of the digital humanities community at-large. So, I’ll begin where all good introductions start: My name is Donnie Johnson Sackey. Outside (and inside) of academia, people know three things about me: (1) I am an “amazing” vegetarian cook who’s willing to experiment in the kitchen, (2) I’m a homebrewer and (3) I am a tennis enthusiast. As a matter of fact, I consistently daydream about playing in professional tennis tournaments. I mean the tennis calendar spans from December 31-November 18. Somewhere around the world somebody’s playing tennis! So, if you see me spacing out, it is probably because I’m thinking about watching tennis, playing tennis, wearing tennis clothes, or planning a bracket scenarios in my mind. But I bet you folks didn’t come for the tennis….

Like Madhu, I’m a doctoral candidate in the Department of Writing, Rhetoric, and American Cultures at Michigan State University. Additionally, I serve as a research assistant in the university’s Writing in Digital Environments (WIDE) Research Center. The WIDE Research Center conducts researches projects around digital communication in school, workplace, and various community contexts for the purposes of fostering learning, knowledge work, and engaged citizenship.

My interest as a scholar addresses the relationship between rhetoric and the environment. I have exclusively focused on the communication practices of institutions (e.g. non-profits, university offices, government agencies) as they deliberate, make and circulate environmental knowledge in the form of written artifacts (e.g. websites, policies, pamphlets or signs etc.). In fact, the focus of my master’s thesis, “Making a Rhetoric of Sustainability: Tracing ‘Local’ Dimensions in Environmental Writing,” was a production/reception study of how the MSU Office of Campus Sustainability practices sustainability through their website and to what extend readers of the site are able to understand the definitions of sustainability, which serve as heuristics for the office’s writing practices, and make these renderings of sustainability a part of their everyday practice. My current research, which is the subject of my dissertation, focuses on the divergent understandings that people have of invasive species, namely Asian carp, and how these definitions create frameworks that drive political deliberation and the writing of public policy both in successful and unsuccessful ways. Here I am concerned with alternative forms of public deliberation that allow stakeholders to engage with each other on more equitable terms.

It is this interest in technical society and cultural policy studies that brings me to CHI as a scholar of rhetoric. I applied to the fellowship program because of my interest in digital technologies that are designed with the intended purposes of civic engagement and promoting change. There’s been a lot of focus on digital placemaking and creative cities initiatives that are geared toward helping community stakeholders envision and create more livable, sustainable communities. I believe that environmental communicators could learn valuable lessons from the deliberative forums birthed from placemaking initiatives. I look forward to exploring with you over the next couple months the ways in which creative applications of information and computing technologies can help map environments and subsequently allow for alternative levels of engagement.