Catherine McGowan

My research interests include: social identity construction and expression within digital worlds; understanding the relationship between digital information and the construction of social identity and cultural knowledge; the parallels of social and computational algorithms and how they shape the development of artificial intelligence and express posthuman ideals; information policy; and digital humanities.


Rutgers University

Library and Information Science

GPA: 4.0

September 2016–December 2018

William Paterson University

Bachelor of Science

GPA: 3.63

September 2001–December 2005

Academic Portfolio


The Internet is a modern tool for humans to share bad information quickly. Humans presently interact within digital social worlds on a daily basis, arguably on an hourly basis. Within these digital social worlds, individuals can create information, consume information, and share information. All types of information are easily recorded in momentary flashes, often constrained by the limitations of character count, recorded video time-length, the frame size for a photograph, or the visibility of the total content in one glance, without the need to scroll to see more. When an individual interacts within any one of the various digital social worlds available, there is an implication that humans have evolved (or, perhaps, devolved) to a space where we attempt to iterate the biggest messages on the smallest scales. The vastness, or power, of a message is quantifiable, predicated by common digital measures, viz.: Likes, Shares, Comments, and Retweets. In other words, information is now available, most commonly, in bite-sized packages, widely referred to as memes. While many researchers dedicate time to identifying information behavior, the types of information that are sought, and what that means for the development of knowledge, I am proposing that knowledge is not sought after or acquired consciously when interacting in a digital social world. Rather, the intent is to interact socially. In this paper, I will explore why the modern, information-seeking human will consume bad information, digest it, and then regurgitate it for others to consume. Before I can begin to unravel why an individual would share bad information, I will define and present an example of what bad information is. I will meditate on observations of modern human information behavior relative to individual epistemological processing, trust, and how information has the option of validity through the exploration of bad information.


How can the gap between a social digital world and a digital library be bridged? In this paper, I will propose a digital library that offers Targeted Information to users to bridge the gap between the digital social worlds of users and the information stored within the databases of a digital library. The proposed methods will employ data mining of a user’s browsing history to identify subjects and key terms that are current and relevant to the active and present interests of the user. Once the key terms are collected from the user’s browsing history, the website of a digital library will auto-generate recommended titles for the user to explore. This proposal is an attempt to connect a user’s Internet social activity with the content available within a digital library.


Cyber-bullying is frequently noted as a contributing factor for teen suicide. My question was: why? Why does cyber-bullying have such an incredibly profound psychological effect on teens? What is happening on a social media application such as Facebook that leads to deep psychological scarring and depression and cause a teen to choose suicide as the solution? I had to believe that there must be something more to a status update than merely self-expression. There must be deeper meaning to the status update than the surface level meanings of a selfie, a photo of a delicious meal, and the activity of performing for an audience that the term self-expression implies. It is through my questions and research that I discovered the concept of self-writing and how it relates to the Facebook status update.


What happens when we become accustomed to an algorithm? Social networking sites curate content for their users through the use of algorithms. Users feed the algorithm data that will determine how it will filter and return content for consumption. This is achieved through a combination of the user creating a user profile and the system logging the habits of the user. However, the algorithm is designed to search, filter, and retrieve for the user without providing any visibility to the process of the options available and the choices that were made—the process is opaque. So, what happens when the algorithm makes a choice that is different from what the user would have made? The purpose of this paper is to explore how the algorithms that are designed to curate content for users of social networking websites create regimes of ignorance. The opaqueness of (the human designed) algorithms creates a system that strips users (humans) of the ability to rationalize and make informed choices, and, arguably, denies the user agency in their own reality. I will expand on how algorithms demonstrate the existence of systemic ignorance by presenting cases where a user would have made a different choice than the algorithm. The phenomenon of systematized ignorance strips individuals of their autonomy to make choices that are informed, to rationalize and construct knowledge in conjunction with experience. Thus, ignorance is established and the irrational man is created.


Research Assistant

Rutgers University
December 2018–Present

Lab Assistant & Ambassador of Buzz

Rutgers University InfoSeeking Lab
September 2018–Present

Proctor: Information Technology and Informatics (04:189:103)

Rutgers University
September 2018–Present

Senior Manager, Store Communications and Procurement

Party City Corporate

Design and archive store communication directives for all Visual Merchandising, Graphics, and Fixture installations for a chain of 900+ stores in the US, Canada, and Mexico. Create and manage Graphics and Fixture Budget; annual fund is $7.5mil. Manage Creative Production and Store Communications teams to design and execute four quarterly seasonal packages and monthly packages for store rollouts. Develop merchandising fixtures for new products and departments. Revamped the New Store ordering process to customize kits by store, with a savings of $5-7k for each of the (100) New Store projects executed annually—a savings of at least $500k. Designed and developed installation directive format and vehicle, significantly increasing successful execution chain-wide by consistently capturing clear methods of communication and accurate detail. Designed a database for running queries to identify SKU discrepancies in a merchandising Plan-o-gram.

April 2009–Present

Computer Applications Instructor

IOU-Local 68
January 2009–December 2009

Category Space Planner

April 2008–December 2008

Executive Assistant

Tri-State Coalition for Responsible Investment
February 2008–April 2008

Sales / HR / Operations Manager

Borders Books & Music
August 2004–February 2008


Programming Languages and Tools
  • Mac and PC
  • Written and verbal communication
  • CSS3, HTML5, JavaScript, PHP, AJAX, jQuery, MySQL, and XML
  • Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Adobe InDesign, iMovie, Pro Tools, and GarageBand

Awards and Certifications

  • Mobile and Desktop Web Developer, Rutgers University Center for Continuing Professional Development, 2016
  • Microsoft Office Master Certification, 2008
  • Full scholarship from the John Victor Machuga Foundation, 2001