I am Zach McDowell. I am an Assistant Professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago in the Department of Communication.
My research focuses on who participates and what gets excluded in the creation of knowledge and culture. Centrally, my focus remains on how technology and policy shape these areas of inquiry. I employ a mix of cultural studies approaches in a conjunctural analysis, combining policy analysis, political economy, media theory, history, and semiotics. Through this, I try to understand the contexts that affect diversity, equity, and inclusion barriers. My areas of interest include popular culture, academic publishing, and knowledge production on the Internet (particularly Wikipedia). Understanding what gets left out and why in these areas helps to promote ways to bridge these access and knowledge gaps, helping to foster more equity and social justice.
My research goes hand in hand with my pedagogical approach as I pursue questions about how technological mediation structures cultural production, particularly around areas of access and equity. I believe strongly in the importance of embodied practice, and my scholarly interests bridge the theoretical and the practical in all areas of my work. My students live through technologies and witness inequity constantly, so shifting their focus towards metacognitive moments where they can reflect on technology and equity helps ground readings and teachings. My goal is to help others better critically engage the technological world through and with media technology with both my research and pedagogy.
I am committed to a dual mission where the University should serve as a space for excellence in research and the support of a diverse community. I co-founded and edit the journal communication+1, which strives to push the boundaries of the field and offer a platform for publishing diverse voices and opinions. Also, I volunteer and serve on a Chicago based nonprofit board seeking to improve a south side community. In all the areas I work in, I strive in these areas to increase equity, representation, and combat systemic biases by enabling, engaging, and making space for communities to contribute to knowledge systems and promote access and equity (in education, and beyond).