photographing infrastructure on the PCT

Some stories from my life…

I grew up on a lake in Flowery Branch, a small town in northeast Georgia. I was educated in the local public school system, where I played the clarinet in the symphonic band and the bass drum in the marching band. I was a member of the national art honor society, played soccer (left midfield), and was voted by my senior class as the ‘Most Academic,’ much to my chagrin.

In 2000, I moved to Atlanta to go to college at Georgia Tech. Although I entered as an Earth and Atmospheric Sciences major, I ended up with a degree in computer science, after finding myself both enjoying and excelling in the math-based, project-oriented coursework in the required Computer Science I & II classes that all Georgia Tech freshman take. Determined not to graduate as ‘just’ an engineer, I took an extra semester to finish out minors in both sociology and a philosophy-focused cognitive science program, graduating in December of 2004.

In 2005, I took five months off to embark on a road trip around much of the US, camping, hiking, and visiting national and state parks in over 20 states, before returning to Georgia Tech for graduate school in the fall.

final map.jpg

I finished an M.S. in human-computer interaction (HCI) in 2007. My graduate studies at Georgia Tech centered on research conducted as part of a collaborative ethnographic project led by philosopher Nancy Nersessian and cultural linguist Wendy Newstetter. Broadly, our research group studied processes of learning and creativity in interdisciplinary biomedical engineering laboratories. My work, specifically, focused on the role of computing technologies in the scientific and engineering practices of the labs we studied. Nancy and I wrote about some of this research for the 2008 Designing Interactive Systems conference, in a paper titled “Cognitive partnerships on the bench top: designing to support scientific researchers” [PDF].

In 2007, ready for a break from academia, I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico where I worked as a designer for Seret & Sons, a small family business specializing in custom textiles and unique architectural elements. I helped clients and sales people imagine and design everything from hand-carved bed frames to custom woven carpets to unique inlayed mosaic tables; and to communicate these ideas to the myriad international craftspeople with whom the store worked. I also managed the store website, the WiFi Network, a NAS device, a store inventory system (in FileMaker Pro!), and whatever else the small 10-or-so employee business happened to need at different times.

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I quit, on something of a whim, to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail in mid-2008. There are quite a number of pictures from my AT hike online, many of which were taken on an LG flip phone. In preparation for the journey, I had purchased this phone specifically for its photo-taking abilities! With the passage of time, its camera no longer seems particularly impressive ;)

After my thru hike, I moved to San Francisco where I worked as a contracted user support engineer for Microsoft’s then recent acquisition, Tellme (via staffing agency Aditi Technologies) and as a help desk clerk at the US Census Bureau where I was thoroughly entertained by the deployment of new “hand held computing (HHC)” devices within the strictures of an impressive government bureaucracy.

In 2009, I reluctantly left SF for the post-’burbs of Orange County to return to graduate school, this time to pursue a PhD at UC Irvine in the department of Informatics. My dissertation examined some of the textures of lived experience in an historical moment marked both by the arrival of ubiquitous computing and the emergence of a broad cultural conversation about disconnection and unplugging.

As part of my dissertation fieldwork, I thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 2013. You can browse the pictures from my PCT hike on Flickr as I get them posted. My blog is stuck indefinitely in the SoCal desert.

@jplisten <3

Day 112: charging stations at shelter cove

Day 31: highway 14 crossing

After returning from the thru-hike, I designed a syllabus for intro to HCI which I taught to over 100 undergraduates in Winter of 2014, and then successfully defended my dissertation in October of 2015.

Which brings us mostly up to date. Along with my partner, Luke, I currently live in Portland, Oregon, where the dream of the 90s is not, actually, still alive. I am working remotely as a research associate studying everyday philanthropy with Amy Voida in the awesome new Department of Information Science at CU Boulder.