Featured PhD Student: Chris Lindgren
Where are you from?
I’m originally from a small family farm about 45 minutes north of Fargo, ND.
Where did you previously attend school? What was your degree in?
I attended North Dakota State University for my B.A. in English and M.A. in English: Composition Studies.
Why did you choose Writing Studies at the University of Minnesota?
Out of all of my Ph.D. program options, I gathered that the faculty at UMN genuinely wanted my research project ideas to develop and grow into a tangible project. My discussions with faculty and students, before and after visit day, left me with a clearer picture about how I might accomplish my goals better than any other program.
What is your research area and who is your advisor?
My advisor is Dr. Christina Haas. Broadly, I’m interested in learning more about writing by studying coding as a writing practice. My research agenda examines how the coding conducted by programmers organize, represent, and contextualize social and material inscriptions in particular digital formats and structures of data.
Specifically, my dissertation examines a case of a web developer, Ray, who works with news reporters and editors to conduct data journalism work. I observed how digital formats and data structures mediated Ray’s coding work as a form of rhetorical and written communication. This study garnered evidence that helps me explain how he writes and reads code and data sets to create what I call aggregate narratives—that is, distilled sets of data that he contextualized into the broader narrative and reporting objectives of the project.
What do you find most interesting about your research area?
I love shifting definitions of writing and texts. I really enjoy the challenge of bending my understanding about such a technical practice like coding, showing how much rhetorical work goes into it. I hope I can show others how I see it as another human endeavor with written language riddled with rhetorical complexities.
Would you tell us about a project or course that was particularly meaningful to your professional development?
I’ve met a wide array of amazing people here at UMN. Particularly, I’m thankful for meeting and working with Justin Schell, who started the cross-disciplinary Digital Arts, Sciences, and Humanities (DASH) program. While he’s now at University of Michigan, we and 2 other people received a grant from the Institute for Advanced Study, so we could explore what kinds of coding work and studies faculty and students were doing across the disciplines. This “UMN Code Work Collaborative” helped me network, gain insight into multiple disciplinary approaches to code, as well as plan and organize multiple events and interviews with scholars from around the nation.
What class are you teaching and what is your favorite thing about teaching it?
Right now, I’m teaching the Technical and Professional Writing course. I love teaching non-techcomm majors, because I see it as an opportunity to help them see how much more can be learned about writing professional prose. Specifically, I enjoy sharing with them how it is quite the creative and complex task once one sees how audience shapes their writing decisions.
What are your interests or hobbies outside of academia?
I’ve picked up cycling since living in the Minneapolis area. I’m a long time hobby coder. And I love hanging out with my 2 kids: Ava (10) and Gavin (6). Just this weekend, we built a mini snowboarding park in our driveway after a brilliant snowfall.
What advice would you give to someone considering pursuing their PhD with Writing Studies?
Find a group of people that helps you and your ideas develop and grow. Be intentional about meeting regularly with those people at each stage in the PhD process: courses, exams, prospectus, data collection, etc. I’m very thankful for my UMN ‘think tank’. They’ve pushed my ideas forward in so many ways.