Assistant Professor of Film, Television, and Media
Sarah Murray studies histories and theories of emerging media, self-improvement in the digital context, the interaction between new media and the body, and mobile media cultures.
Her current research is on technologies of self-betterment and the production of “smart” subjectivities (e.g., activity trackers, MOOCs, TED Talks, brain training games, and productivity apps). Online platforms offer tools and knowledge that assist users in the project of the always-improving self and these “wearables, carriables, and shareables” define an increasingly common social practice of digital lifestyle management and self-actualization.
This project anchors two additional strands of research in development – a book on the history of “smart” as it is discursively and aesthetically applied to media and technologies; and, development of a broad theory of digital proximity as a language of new media that describes the features and functionalities of the digital in terms of their imperative to be kept close.
She is further interested in the discourse of newness that surrounds industry practices (e.g., “startup culture”) and how cycles of innovation transition to popular consumer practices. She considers how, for example, dating apps or activity trackers become mainstreamed and what cultural norms and directives are “baked in” to platforms and user interfaces in the process. A current project focuses on the aesthetics of productivity in to-do, list-making, and time management apps.
Sarah also researches queer media and the affective and everyday engagement of TV audiences. She is currently interviewing people about account sharing and their streaming media practices on sites like Netflix and Hulu. You can find some of her work in Critical Studies in Media Communication, Feminist Media Histories, and International Journal of Cultural Studies and in a forthcoming co-edited volume on apps culture with Jeremy Wade Morris.