“A multiple personality is in a certain sense normal.” George Herbert Mead (1935). Mind, self and society.
I’m a social theorist/social researcher specializing in the intersection of language, mind, culture, intimacy, the self concept, and mental health. My work draws on historical sources, sociological and psychological data, and the philosophy of language and mind.
I’m an empirical scientist who has studied the development of shared consciousness between members of ongoing intimate relationships. This was the defining passion of my early career. I recruited a large sample of marital and premarital couples, and, for comparison, a similarly large group of ‘fake couples’ (randomly matched singles who never met). I tracked them all for two years taking repeated measurements of the extent to which they shared beliefs, attitudes, and values. For the real couples I also measured changing levels of relationship quality (feelings of happiness with each other and levels of commitment), and their estimates of how often they spoke with each other. The months passed, the real couples who remained happy and committed developed common perspective, the fake couples didn’t, and neither did those real couples whose happiness and commitment waned. That the growth of shared mind was due to the extent of their talk together was indicated by data from a subset of the couples who were in long distance relationships. Their estimates of daily talk were much more precise than the others because, for them, their time talking together occurred mostly through landline phone contact and it was an age (pre-Internet and pre-cell phone) in which long distance phone calling was so expense that people where quite vigilant how much of that they did and what it cost. Results of various aspects of this project were published in the Journal of Marriage and the Family, Human Communication Research, Communication Yearbook, Family Process, Sex Roles, Journal of Social and Personal Relationships, Human Relations, Communication Theory, and Journal of Divorce.
After this project I began to explore the question of whether the development of shared mind between relationship partners is a universal and pan-historical process. Clearly it is neither. It is a phenomenon of particular historical/cultural circumstances (collectively referred to as ‘modernity’), which I present and discuss in my 2022 book Self and Other in an Age of Uncertain Meaning: Communication and the Marriage of Minds (click the Book tab above).
I’m a senior professor of interpersonal communication in the Department of Communication at University at Albany (SUNY). I had previous positions in departments of communication at Bowling Green State University (Ohio), West Virginia University, U Mass at Amherst, and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. While at West Virginia University, in addition to my regular position in the Department of Communication, I was an affiliated professor in the Department of Behavioral Medicine and Psychiatry at the med school.
I head the Communication Institute for Online Scholarship, an academic not-for-profit Professor Teresa Harrison and I co-created during the birth of the Internet in the 1980s. The CIOS has a history of innovation in communication technology put to use in the service of teaching and research in mass media, communication, and journalism. Since the CIOS tracks all research ever published in the communication field’s international literature I’ve often been involved in investigations of trends in thought and analysis, and patterns of scholarly communication in the academic communication discipline. Studies representative of this work have been published in a range of books and journals including Journal of Communication, Human Communication Research, Communication Education, Journal of Family Communication, The Electronic Journal of Communication, Communication Monographs, Behavioral and Social Science Librarian, Journalism and Mass Communication Educator, and Journal of the Association for Communication Administration..
I acquired foundational programming skills in my graduate training and have applied that knowledge to many projects. I wrote or designed all of the software systems used by the CIOS for the databases, journals, and other services it provides to academic libraries throughout the world. I also authored QMAP (Q-Sort Matrix Analysis Package), which is an assortment of statistical analysis programs centering around cluster analysis that are helpful in analysis of data collected using a measurement procedure named Q-methodology (which has nothing to do with QAnon). Q-methodology is particularly useful for assessing the extent to which people share perspective; hence, it was the basis for the measures of shared mind that I gathered during my studies of developing intimacy, described above. As well, several years prior to the introduction of the world wide web and Adobe’s PDF file format, with support from the MIT Press, my colleague Pete Sylvestre and I created DISPLAY and MARKUP, which comprised one of the first software systems for producing and distributing academic journals in electronic format.
More me’s …
There are more versions of me. There probably are for most of us. That’s the way it is in complicated modern societies.