Josh Braun’s Homepage

Assistant Professor of Journalism Studies at UMass Amherst

Biographical Information

picture of josh I’m currently an Assistant Professor of Journalism Studies in the Journalism Department at UMass Amherst. I teach courses on media, technology, and culture and science communication, and my research centers around online media distribution. I received my Ph.D. in Communication from Cornell University, where I studied online distribution of television news. Prior to my time at Cornell, I received a masters in medical ethics from the University of Pennsylvania, where I focused on portrayals of health care in the media. I also hold a bachelor of science from the University of California Santa Barbara, where I designed my own major, titled “Sciences in the Media.” My undergraduate degree combined courses in the natural sciences with coursework in science-and-technology studies, film-and-media studies, and hands-on media production.

My academic career has been interspersed with work in media production, and I’ve held a series of internships and paid positions scattered across newspapers, magazines, websites, broadcast news, cable television, film, radio, and a museum. Among the highlights are time spent as a production intern at ABC News Nightline in early 2005, a year as a junior editor at Seed Magazine, a bit of work as a field producer for WNYC’s NPR program, Radio Lab, and time as a blogger for Scientific American. I’ve also produced a documentary, and spent time working for a production company that contributed programs to the Discovery Channel. After starting at Cornell, I spent a semester as a graduate fellow of the National Academy of Sciences, where I organized public programs for the Marian Koshland Science Museum.

My time examining science, technology, and communication in tandem, along with my experience in media production, have contributed to my fascination with the technology and cultural practices surrounding media, and a great deal of my graduate education has been in science and technology studies. My research is an attempt to understand how people in different positions weave together heterogeneous resources—social and legal, technical and commercial—into working “socio-technical systems” for the production and distribution of media products. In other words, I look at the nuts and bolts of online television distribution and web development as a sociological phenomenon akin to the development of power grids, freeway systems, or public transit lines. This often means not only talking with engineers and media producers about their work, but learning the actual skills involved—what C.W. Anderson has called a “sociology of algorithms.”

All of this—the research, the coursework, my love of science journalism and media production—has been inspired by a passion for figuring out how things work and conveying useful information. Perhaps it’s not surprising that my twin obsessions of tinkering and teaching, discovering new things and passing them on, have landed me in academia. Teaching is the most fulfilling thing I have ever done. I love delivering concepts and skills into new hands and watching the wonderful things students do with them. In the end, I hope my students learn as much from me as I do from them.