Joel Beatty


PhD Student


Research Areas: Visual Studies; Rhetoric; Scientific and Technical Communication; Philosophies of Science and Technology; Writing Across Disciplines.

Currently, my research focus has been on the topic of color theory. One of the gaps in current literature that informs communication and writing in digital environments is the lack of approaches to the topic of color. Social semiotic accounts often attempt to explain the “language” of color with linguistic terminology and culturally relative meanings that either ignore the nonlinguistic functions of color, or portray color as “manipulating” the subconscious that “speaks” to our emotions in some mode hidden from awareness. In technological contexts, color is often reduced to a quantifiable system of coordinates on a digital color wheel, and then sorted into schemes, palettes or templates. As a result, technological systems privilege the categorization of the color spectrum, while deemphasizing color’s valuable attribute to resist naming. Together, these approaches treat color as a matter of decorum, style or rhetorical delivery, and tend to define it as ‘expressive’ content that is ‘added-on’ to design and written language to produce emotion, or to simply denote a shape. Of course, the whole of color theory (if there is such a unified thing) draws from a much wider range of multidisciplinary knowledge, including studies in perception and vision science, which I argue can better inform our understanding of the cultural, the natural and the technical possibilities and constraints of digital color; and, through this framework we can realize a more unified approach to color.

My dissertation is on the historical and theoretical underpinnings of color technologies; in particular, I focus on case studies of visual technology important to the history of science. The research areas covered in his project are Science and Technology Studies, Philosophy of Technology, the History of Science, and Visual Studies.

Teaching: As a PhD student at Michigan Tech, I have the opportunity to teach a variety of courses, including Composition, Intro to Film, and Intro to Speech Communication. These experiences have also been supported by teaching practicum-based classes, as well as ample support from faculty to help grow as an instructor.

Department Activities: This year I have worked as a graduate administrator in the multiliteracies center (MTMC), and I have also served as the HU-Grad coordinator that serves RTC grad students by working with others to plan social events and graduate colloquiums.

Grad Life: I live just across Portage Lake in a little town called Dollar Bay. I enjoy living close to the water and all the bike trails in the area. The Keweenaw Peninsula is a special place with plenty of outdoor recreation and beauty keep my free time occupied all year around.

Research Interests

  • Visual Studies; Rhetoric; Scientific and Technical Communication; Philosophies of Science and Technology; Writing Across Disciplines.