I am Meryl Alper, a Ph.D. Candidate in Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. I research and write about families’ evolving relationships with technology from a historical and sociological perspective, with a particular focus on digital media and learning among youth with disabilities and young children.
For my dissertation, I am currently conducting qualitative research with parents of children ages 3-13 who have difficulty producing embodied oral speech and use iPads as augmentative and alternative communication devices in order to “talk.” My interest is in how these technologies figure into families’ lives, the functions they serve as mobile communication devices, and the workarounds that caregivers develop to navigate complex and interconnected technical, sociocultural, and institutional systems. I am complementing this work with historical research on children’s use of speech generating software and devices, ranging from the early 1980s (when personal computers first entered US homes; see imagery below) to the present (as this software increasingly takes the forms of tablet apps).
My scholarship is located at the intersection of media and communication studies, science and technology studies, education, and disability studies. I also draw on my professional experience in educational children’s media with Sesame Workshop, Nickelodeon, and Disney.