Overview

My research investigates the relationships between thinking and doing in performance, training and everyday life. I draw on detailed case studies from real-world situations like riding bikes down rock gardens in the jungle, performing at height on the trapeze, and learning to navigate the daily challenges of living with chronic pain.

I am particularly interested in the remarkable ways people flexibly and intelligently adjust their actions in response to challenge, pressure or unpredictability; the impact of the broader context surrounding a given moment or event, and; what these studies reveal about human capacities for coping and excelling in high-risk, high-pressure situations.

My academic work is unusually transdisciplinary, drawing on ethnographic methods to expand on research in performance studies, cognitive science, anthropology, philosophy, psychology, cultural studies and sports science. By placing these different perspectives in conversation with one another, my work consistently reveals new insights into the theoretical debates explored and the activities investigated.

Considering how people learn from, and make sense of, experiences in sport and physical performance reveals new ways of thinking about other situations where attention, focus and memory are important for guiding movement and collaboration. These range from aesthetic practices such as theatre and dance, to job-specific expertise like performing surgery or flying a plane, to supporting memory and communication processes as we age, and to day-to-day activities where we don’t think about every step of an action in order to carry it out. My research expertise also translates to equipment consultation, user research, media and advocacy work.

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A close look at some of the research and development processes underway at the Trek Bikes global headquarters at their inaugural Women’s Summit in 2016. Photo: Jeff Kennel

Current projects investigate:

  • Decision-making processes while mountain biking down steep, rocky trails;
  • The important roles of failure and staying attuned to bodily and affective variability in scaffolding skilled performance;
  • How an app designed by an Australian tech start-up, Brain Changer, is used by people with persistent pain to learn to live well with, or overcome, the impact of pain on their daily lives;
  • Embodied, emplaced, collaborative remembering processes in older Australian couples (and how an ethnographic method can augment, and be augmented by, a psychological one).

Please contact me if you’re interested in hearing about upcoming talks or workshops related to this work.