Jennifer Forestal

My research investigates how networked technologies like social media have complicated the traditional relationship between space and politics. In my dissertation, "Bringing the Site Back In: Social Media and the Politics of Space," I trace the relationship between public space and political life in the work of John Dewey and Hannah Arendt in order to think about the politics of physical spaces and the "spaces" of social media.

As a way of further exploring the relationships between space(s) and politics, I turn to architecture. Drawing on the work of Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright, Kenneth Frampton, and George Baird, I show how these architects built upon Dewey and Arendt's conceptual frameworks in order to build and maintain spaces that foster and support democratic communities. Extending their discussions, largely focused on (re)building 20th-century cities, to the digital sites of social media, my dissertation offers a spatial analysis of social media that offers insights into the ways in which we can design, build, and maintain more democratic spaces in the new digital environment.

Research Interests

Democratic politics is grounded in the space(s) of everyday life. Spaces are both the content and precondition for political action; and politics is the process of negotiating, managing, and challenging the consequences of sharing spaces with others. My current research explores the relationship between space, politics, and technology from the perspective of a democratic theorists. I seek to understand the political effects of digital technologies by investigating two complementary themes: (1) the process of software design, and (2) the effects of digital technologies on users' democratic practices.

Taking this approach, my work is better equipped to contribute to ongoing discussions around digital technologies that are occurring in communication, psychology, architecture, and computer science.

The process of software design

Spaces, both physical and digital, are the product of deliberate choices on the part of designers and builders who often fail to consider the political implications of their choices. In this area of my work, I focus on the ways that design choices have specific political effects for users of digital technologies.

Peer-reviewed publications

Jennifer Forestal (2017) "The Architecture of Political Spaces: Trolls, Digital Media, and Deweyan Democracy" American Political Science Review 111(1): 149-161.

CC image courtesy of Chris Lott on Flickr

CC image courtesy of Chris Lott on Flickr

Works-in-progress

"Software Development as Arendtian Work"

In this paper, I use Hannah Arendt's concept of "work" as a lens through which to examine the political implications of software development. 

Political Spaces: Building Democracies in a Digital Age

Political Spaces is a book manuscript project that draws from resources in political theory and traditional architecture in order to provide insights into the problems of software design and development associated with building democratic communities with digital technologies.

Digital technologies and democratic practices

The politics of digital technologies extend beyond the design process; these technologies also have an effect on the daily habits and practices of their users. In this area of my work, I further investigate the political consequences of digital technologies, particularly the ways in which these technologies work to facilitate democratic practices in their users--or fail to do so.

Publications

Jennifer Forestal (2017) "Fake News and Informed Democracy" (with Chris TenoveThe Scholars' Circle. September 9.

Jennifer Forestal and Menaka Philips (2016) "People blame Facebook for fake news and partisan bile. They're wrong." Washington Post: Monkey Cage. December 16.

Works-in-progress

"With a Thousand Lies and a Good Disguise: On Publics, Propaganda, and Digital Technologies"

This paper examines the political implications of viral "fake news" using the work of John Dewey, Walter Lippmann, and Harold Lasswell on the effect of media (and propaganda) in democracies.

Citizen "Anon": Anonymity and Democracy in America  (with Menaka Philips

This book project focuses on the role of anonymity in democratic discourse and draws lessons from the founding of the American republic in order to examine the role of anonymity in creating democratic deliberative spaces. 

Civic learning & assessment

Democracy, as John Dewey reminds us, is more than a set of institutions-- it is a way of life. A robust democracy needs not only health institutions but also the cultivation of democratic practices and mores in each individual. For Dewey, this holistic understanding of democracy necessarily meant an investment not only in political institutions, but also--and more importantly--in the educational ones.

Following Dewey, I take seriously my role as a teacher-scholar and apply the same rigorous standards of research and evaluation to my teaching as I use in my research. In this area of my work, I investigate the effects of different pedagogical approaches to political science and civic learning, more broadly.

Publications

Jennifer Forestal (2016) "'Midwife to Democracy:' Civic Learning in Higher Education." William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy, Stockton University. October.

Works-in-progress

"Civics Across Campus: Stockton's Election 2016 Program and Civic Learning Outside the Classroom" (with Claire Abernathy)

This paper assesses the effectiveness of extracurricular civic engagement activities on students' political knowledge, skills, and values. Using data collected at a series of campus-wide extracurricular civic engagement activities oriented around the 2016 election cycle, we discuss the impact of these different approaches to civic engagement on students' political knowledge, skills, and values as well as their overall levels of political interest.

"Effective Teaching for Civic Learning: Assessing Student Learning Outcomes Across Political Science Courses" (with Claire Abernathy)

This paper investigates how, exactly, the discipline of political science contributes to and enhances undergraduate general education by focusing on students' civic learning outcomes. Using pre- and post-course surveys, as well as rubric assignments, this paper assesses the impact of different teaching strategies in developing students' political knowledge, skills, and values.

Additional projects

Remember the Ladies: Recovering the Women Behind the Canon (with Menaka Philips)

Who are the women in political theory’s private sphere - the women effectively married to, and yet set apart from, the canon of political thought? As examinations of gender have transformed the field of political theory, efforts have increased to bring the historical contributions of female intellectuals into greater focus. Despite these transformations, the lives and experiences of the wives and mistresses who were intimately tied to leaders of Western philosophy remain occluded. Unlike Mary Wollstonecraft or Lady Masham, philosophers recognized in their own right despite being long-minimized, these ‘wives of the canon’ remain on the periphery of scholarly focus in large part because they did play the role of wife and partner - roles regarded as personal rather political in the history of political thought. Moving them from the periphery to the center of inquiry, essay authors highlight the experiences of these women, draw new insights into the men who shaped and were shaped by them, and investigate the intimate, though fraught relation between the field of political theory and the politics of gender.