My research explores the dynamic relationship between abstract ideals (such as good governance) and local political cultures in communities, institutions, and organizations.  Where are those ideals communicated and by whom?  How does their meaning change over time and in different places?  How do people use those ideals in everyday contexts? I pursue these questions by combining multiple methods, including qualitative strategies such as intensive interviews, participant observation, and archival research, and quantitative techniques such as surveys and content analysis.

The list below or the Research submenus will take you to more information on each of my research projects:

Making Civic Life Real in Higher Ed: Community Engagement and Democratic Transparency in U.S. Colleges and Universities

Book: Do-it-Yourself Democracy: The Rise of the Public Engagement Industry

As part of the public engagement industry project, I conducted the 2009 Dialogue and Deliberation Practitioners Survey with Francesca Polletta of the University of California, Irvine.

Edited volume: Democratizing Inequalities: Dilemmas of the New Public Participation (with Michael McQuarrie, London School of Economics, and Edward Walker, University of California, Los Angeles); authors’ conference supported by the Fund for the Advancement of the Discipline, sponsored by the American Sociological Association and National Science Foundation, and the Institute for Public Knowledge, New York University)

Questioning the Value of Art and Cultural Change in Collective Action (with Elizabeth Long Lingo of Vanderbilt University; funded by the Curb Center, Vanderbilt University)

The Roots of Astroturfing: Public Health Mobilization Sponsored by Hugh Moore of the Dixie Cup Company, 1909-1910

Past research:

Democracy’s Disappointments: Accounting for the Erosion of Participatory Reforms