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 effects of software design for building democratic spaces, 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.

(Software) architecture, design, & democratic space

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.

Publications

Jennifer Forestal (2017) “Trolling Democracy: anonymity doesn’t cause conflicts, bad site design does” Democratic Audit UK. May 4.

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. 

The Shape of Democracy: Building Political Spaces in a Digital Age

The Shape of Democracy 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 & 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.

Peer-reviewed publications

Jennifer Forestal (forthcoming) “Beyond Gatekeeping: Propaganda, Democracy, and the Organization of Digital Publics” Journal of Politics

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

“Citizen ‘Anon’: Anonymity and Democracy in America”  (with Menaka Philips

This project focuses on the role of anonymity in democratic discourse, by comparing the Federalist Papers with contemporary platforms like YikYak in order to examine the role of anonymity in creating democratic deliberative spaces. 

“Democracy Dies in Darkness? Anonymity, Accountability, and Information as a Public Good” (with Menaka Philips

Through a comparative analysis of the Pentagon Papers and WikiLeaks, we begin building a revised understanding of information as a democratic good. Information is democratically valuable, we argue, when and where two processes of curation are triggered. The first is a process of selection (to determine what information should be shared), while the second is one of contextualization (to determine how best to share it). Taken together, these processes suggest that, beyond access alone, information must also be at least ‘minimally curated’ to be democratically useful.

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 healthy 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.

Peer-reviewed publications

Claire Abernathy & Jennifer Forestal (forthcoming) “The Use of Debates in Political Science Courses” Journal of Political Science Education

Claire Abernathy & Jennifer Forestal (2019) “Civics Across Campus: Designing Effective Extracurricular Programming,” Journal of Political Science Education

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

"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.

"Teaching the Town Hall: Incorporating Experiential Learning in a Large Introductory Lecture Course" (with Jessie K. Finch)

In this paper, we show the positive effects of a group project designed to introduce students in a 70-person lecture course to the basic political processes of local government. By comparing pre- and post-tests for each semester, as well as comparing post-tests across semesters, we demonstrate that students who were enrolled in the course reported that they felt more civically engaged because the class gave them "real-world" applicability of course materials, as well as developed their skills for teamwork and collaboration.

Gender & the history of political thought

Jennifer Forestal & Menaka Philips. (2018) “Gender and the ‘Great Man’: Recovering Philosophy's ‘Wives of the Canon’” Hypatia: A Journal of Feminist Philosophy 33(4): 587-592.