ROBERT W. GEHL portrait
  • Affiliated Faculty, Writing and Rhetoric Studies
  • Associate Professor, Communication

Research Statement

In a nutshell, I study social media software. Specifically, I look at how the software that underpins social media shapes and is shaped by culture. To do this, I draw on interdisciplinary fields such as science and technology studies, political economy, software studies, and critical/cultural studies. I've published research that critiques the architecture, code, culture, and design of social media sites such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, and blogs in Social Text, Lateral, The International Journal of Cultural Studies, New Media and Society, Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, Television and New Media, and First Monday.My book, Reverse Engineering Social Media (Temple U P), explores the architecture and political economy of social media. I teach courses in communication technology, composition in new media, and political economy of communication. I've talked to journalists about friendship in social media, anonymity on the Internet and political discourse, and privacy and surveillance.

Research Keywords

  • digital media
  • Web 2.0
  • Technology and culture
  • Software Studies
  • Social Media
  • Political Economy
  • Intellectual Property
  • History of computers
  • History of Science and Technology
  • Cyberwar
  • Cultural Studies
  • Computer Applications


  • "From Agorism to OPSEC: The New Informational Politics of Dark Web Markets." University of Texas iSchool Colloquium. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 04/12/2017.
  • "From Agorism to OPSEC: Dark Web Markets' Shifting Relationship to the State." Policing the City, Stanford University. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 03/30/2017.
  • "Onions Rot, Freesites Get Forgotten, and Eepsites Disappear: The Challenges of Dark Web Historical Research." 404 History Not Found: Challenges in Internet History and Memory Studies, Humboldt University, Berlin, 5 October. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 10/05/2016.
  • "(Critical) Reverse Engineering and Genealogy." Genealogies Workshop, Denver University. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 06/17/2016.
  • "Is The Dark Web Legit?" Cultural Studies Program Alumnus Event Keynote. George Mason University. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 03/17/2016.
  • "Is the Dark Web Legit?" Western States Communication Association. Conference Paper, Refereed, Presented, 03/01/2016.
  • "Alternative Social Media on the Dark Web." National Communication Association. Conference Paper, Refereed, Presented, 11/21/2015.
  • "From Industrial Roboprocesses to Emotional Roboprocesses." Roboprocesses Workhop, George Washington University. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 09/25/2015.
  • "Sharing, knowledge management, and big data: a partial genealogy of the data scientist." Cultural Studies Association. Conference Paper, Presented, 05/23/2015.
  • "Power/freedom on the Dark Web: A Digital Ethnography of the Dark Web Social Network." University of Oregon. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 02/27/2015.
  • Friz-Siska, Amanda and Robert W. Gehl. "Pinning the Feminine User: Gender Scripts in Pinterest's Sign-Up Interface." Western States Communication Association. Top Paper, Media Studies Interest Group. Conference Paper, Refereed, Presented, 02/25/2015.
  • "Power/Freedom on the Dark Web: A Digital Ethnography of the Dark Web Social Network." Cultural Studies Colloquium, Columbia College Chicago. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 11/20/2014.
  • "Power from the C-Suite: The Chief Knowledge Officer and Chief Learning Officer as Agents of Noopower." National Communication Association. Chicago, IL. Emerging Scholars in Critical and Cultural Studies Award. Conference Paper, Refereed, Presented, 11/2014.
  • "Reverse Engineering as a Method for Communication's Engagement with Software." National Communication Association. Chicago, IL. Conference Paper, Refereed, Accepted, 11/2014.
  • "Reverse Engineering Social Media: The Case of TalkOpen." Cultural Studies Association. Salt Lake City, Utah. Conference Paper, Refereed, Presented, 05/30/2014.
  • Chair and organizor, "Ecologies of Global War." Host Plenary Panel, Cultural Studies Association. Salt Lake City, Utah. Other, Presented, 05/29/2014.
  • "Design Specifications for Forbidden Digital Humanities Tools." Western States Rhetoric And Literacy Conference. University of Utah, 25-26 October. Conference Paper, Accepted, 08/2013.
  • "Reverse Engineering Twitter." Compromised Data Symposium. Toronto, ON. 28-29 October. Conference Paper, Accepted, 08/2013.
  • “Why is it and not The Case of the Spanish Fork Labor Strike.” National Communication Association. Washington, DC, 21-24 November. Conference Paper, Refereed, Accepted, 06/2013.
  • "The Computerized Socialbot Turing Test: The Encoding and Appropriation of Our Social Media States of Mind." International Communication Association. London, UK. Conference Paper, Refereed, Accepted, 05/30/2013.
  • With Brian Cozen. "Let's Ride the {computer} Bus Through the Digital City." Cultural Studies Association. Chicago, IL. Conference Paper, Presented, 05/25/2013.
  • "Cultural Studies Should Be Unsettled." Presidential Plenary. Cultural Studies Association. Chicago, IL. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 05/25/2013.
  • "The Computerized Socialbot Turing Test: New Technologies of Noopower." Cultural Studies Association. Chicago, IL. Conference Paper, Presented, 05/24/2013.
  • "Monstrous Big Data." Monster Workshop 2. The University of Utah. Presentation, Presented, 04/12/2013.
  • "Reverse Engineering Social Media." Tanner Humanities Center Work-In-Progress Talks. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 03/05/2013.
  • "Counter-mapping Facebook." Visualization and Digital Humanities Symposium. University of Utah. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 10/25/2012.
  • "Publishing the Open Access Way." Open Access Week at the Marriott Library, University of Utah. Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 10/24/2012.
  • "Standardizing the Interactive Consumer: The Role of the Interactive Advertising Bureau in the Engineering of Social Media." Cultural Studies Association. San Diego, CA . Conference Paper, Presented, 03/30/2012.
  • "Real (software) abstractions. On the rise of Facebook and the fall of Myspace." Unlike Us, Cyprus University of Technology (Limassol, Cyprus). Invited Talk/Keynote, Presented, 11/23/2011.
  • Mass Producing Social Media: Technical Standards, The Interactive Advertising Bureau, and the Rise of Template-Driven Social Media. Conference Paper, Presented, 09/17/2011.
  • With Sean Lawson. "Convergence Security: Cyber-Surveillance and the Biopolitical Production of Security". Conference Paper, Accepted, 05/2011.
  • The archive and the processor: mobile labor and Web 2.0. Conference Paper, Presented, 03/24/2011.
  • "Wikipedia as a space for public debate.” Eastern Communication Association. Baltimore, MD. Conference Paper, Presented, 04/23/2010.
  • "The persistence of abstractions in Web 2.0" Eastern Communication Association (101st Convention), Baltimore, MD. Conference Paper, Presented, 04/23/2010.

Grants, Contracts & Research Gifts

  • Cyberwar Discourse Project. PI: Sean Lawson. Co-PI(s): Robert W. Gehl. College of Humanities, 08/01/2010 - 05/30/2011. Total project budget to date: $19,800.00

Research Equipment and Testing Expertise

  • Ubuntu Linux Server.


  • All of my work. Robert W. Gehl, 01/2015. Unless otherwise noted, all my work is licensed Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International.


  • Spanish, basic.