Student Spotlight: Lewis Levenberg Defends his Dissertation

Lewis Levenberg defended his dissertation entitled "Weak States, Strong Backbones: Telecommunications Policy and Internet Infrastructure Development in Ghana, Nigeria, and Liberia" and worked with Dr. JP Singh, Dr. Denise Albanese, and Dr. Sharon Leon. Esma H. Celebioglu conducted an interview with Lewis in which he reflects on his time at Mason.



How have your research interests changed from the time you began the PhD program to now, and in which direction do you envision your work moving upon graduating?

When I entered the program, I was more heavily invested in critical theory and cultural critique. Over time, especially during the empirical and computational research that I undertook for the dissertation, I found myself more focused on the analysis of technological systems, particularly in what we can learn about historical conditions, social structures, and political-economic issues through that analysis. I'm not sure of any specific direction that I will take these interests; I am just looking forward to identifying more interesting phenomena to investigate.

What kinds of professional development did you pursue while a student and which do you think will best position you to get the job you want: publishing, presenting, teaching, service in the department, engagement in non-university service projects, acquiring particular research skills?

Early on in my time here, I was able to assist with some of the faculty's project. For example, I did some of the late-stage editorial work for Paul Smith's anthology The Renewal of Cultural Studies, and some of the early stage literature review and proposal editing for a research project that Roger Lancaster conducted. I also helped transition the program's website from its earlier incarnation to a content management system hosted by the university, a project which included several intermediary websites' life cycles. I have been working full-time as an independent consultant for cloud computing, research, and IT development for the past few years, and will continue to do that work for a while. I'm also co-editing (with Tai Neilson and David Rheams) an anthology due out later this year, Research Methods for Digital Humanities. I don't yet know what specific professional direction I will take, but I'm sure that these eclectic experiences will all help along the way!
What is one of your best memories from your time in the PhD program in Cultural Studies?

Working with and alongside my cohort (Kim Klinger, Lisa Daily, David Rheams, and Dareen Abdulmohsen) has been one of the great privileges of my life. Even when we were just sharing a quiet dinner, it was a great pleasure to decompress, vent, compare perspectives, and process things at the end of a semester with them. I cannot understate the immense, unique support that each of them has provided. 

Also the snacks at CSA two years back were quite good.