Heidi Rae Cooley

Heidi Rae Cooley

Program Head, ATEC BA, MA, PhD + concentration in Critical Media Studies
Associate Professor
Co-director, Public Interactives Research Lab (PIRL)

Cooley is a media theorist who considers mobile technologies and related practices, such as GPS, haptic technologies, etc. She is interested in how such technologies and practices provide means for habit change in the 21st century.

Tags: Critical Media Studies Media Theory Mobile Technologies Urban Screens, and Sentient (“Smart”) Environments Surveillance/Tracking ATCM Charles Sanders Peirce Semiosis Place-based histories Documentary--Essay Film

Professional Preparation

PhD - Critical Studies
University of Southern California - 2007
MA - Visual Studies
University of California, Irvine - 2003
MA - English/Comparative Literature
California State University, Fullerton - 1995
BA - English; minor: Spanish
California State University, Fullerton - 1992

Research Areas

Media Theory and Practice
Including: mobility/mobilities, tracking/surveillance, sentience/touch/haptics, GPS/location awareness, screens/disposif

Philosophy--Charles Sanders Peirce
Including: semiosis, habit & habit-change, abduction

Documentary Theory and Practice
Including: indexicality, expressivity, self-documentation (i.e., autobiometry), the essay film

Visual Studies
Including:  tactile visuality, framing, dissemination of images (e.g., sharing)


How to Play Nice: Semiosis and the Logics of Collaboration - Book
“How to Play Nice: Semiosis and the Logics of Collaboration.” (manuscript in progress)

Informed by more than a decade’s experience in collaborative project development, the book explains how to cultivate a “community of inquirers” that includes media developers as well as so-called “end users.” American pragmatist philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce provides the framework for thinking about how productive conversations unfold into cooperative situations, how moments of delight and discovery become shared sites of investigation, and how individuals from across different fields of expertise—both in and out of the traditional university context—might work together to design and build meaningful interactive projects that engage a broader public in considering socially relevant questions about what it means to evolve shared values and mobilize an ethos of community involvement. 

- publications
 Finding Augusta: Habits of Mobility and Governance in the Digital Era - Book
The book draws on media theory, critical mobilities research, industrial design, and philosophy to challenge conventional notions about bodies, technologies, and communities of practice. It takes as its point of departure a 16-minute home movie, The Augustas, by amature filmmaker and travelling insurance agent Scott Nixon to engage questions of expressivity, findability, and population management in the mobile, connected present. In doing so, the book offers a commentary on how our mobile technologies, like our highways and plumbing, are an infrastructure for regulating habits. The book’s digital supplement, a mobile app for iPhone, Augusta App, provides readers an opportunity to take up the questions the book poses and test the limits of the book’s arguments. (The mobile app is currently being rebuilt for all platforms.)

  •  Work on this project ensured that The Augustas home movie was named to the Library of Congress’ National Film Registry in 2012. 
  • The book and its mobile app are the recipients of the Society for Cinema and Media Studies’ 2015 Anne Friedberg Innovative Scholarship Award. 
2014 - publications


Anne Friedberg Innovative Scholarship Award - Society for Cinema and Media Studies [2015]
Breakthrough Star - University of South Carolina [2014]


Program Head
The Bass School of Arts, Humanities and Technology, UT Dallas [2023–Present]
BA, MA, PhD in Arts, Technology and Emerging Communication [ATEC] + the concentration in Critical Media Studies [CMS]
Project Scholar
South Carolina Educational Television [2018–2019]
NEH-funded website and mobile application prototypes, Reconstruction 360
Project Scholar
South Carolina Educational Television [2013–2016]
NEH-funded interactive website, Between the Waters • 2017 Award of Merit from the American Association of State and Local History


CampusKoi [under development]
CampusKoi is a research platform exploring the possibilities of delight for the purposes of cultivating community. The primary research questions involve how geo-locative, screen-based and other technologies invite publics to participate in community welfare and action. Technology questions address: gesture recognition, projections, submersible screens, wearable and other technologies; real time fish animations, including fish schooling, using machine learning; aesthetics for UI/UX/HCI; fish asset migrations across discrete interfaces (e.g., wearable device to wall-mounted screen to community pool-like platform)--and more recently, AR technology. Additional questions address: semiosis/cognition, health and aging; techniques/models for assessing engagement outcomes; interaction for virtual beings. [2008 - present]

Augusta App
A mobile application for iPhone, and supplement to Finding Augusta: Habits of Mobility and Governance in the Digital Era (2014), that invites questions regarding the keyword “Augusta.” Based on a home movie, The Augustas (Scott Nixon, 1930s-1950s), the app provokes thinking about the meaning of place, our investments in finding places and each other, as well as our commitments to documenting ourselves thereby placing ourselves on the various maps that track us. The app invites interactors to test claims that Finding Augusta makes. [2012 - 2014]

Ghosts of the Horseshoe
A mobile application for iPad that brings to visibility the history of enslaved labor that made possible the original University of South Carolina Horseshoe campus. The mobile interactive project extends scholarship completed by graduate students in public history under Dr. Bob Weyeneth. [2012 - 2014]

Ward One
A mobile application for iPhone that brings visibility to the unacknowledged politics of urban renewal that made possible the UofSC’s expansion westward at the expense of a predominately African American community. The interactive mobile application was developed in collaboration with the Ward One Organization (former residents of Ward One) and Dr. Bobby Donaldson. [2015 - 2018]

Additional Information

Erdös Number = 4
The Erdős number describes the "collaborative distance" between mathematician Paul Erdős and another person, as measured by authorship of mathematical papers. [co-author with Duncan Buell, Erdös number 3; Chair Emeritus, NCR Chair in Computer Science and Engineering at University of South Carolina, and Fellow, American Association for the Advancement of Science.] 

Interactive Film and Media Journal & Network --Co-founder --Editor --Conference organizer
Interactive Film and Media Journal (ISSN 2564 - 4173) is an open-access, peer-reviewed, biannual (twice a year) publication that originated from the IFM conferences launched in 2013. It is published by the Interactive Film & Media Research Network. The journal focuses on a wide array of works on digital theory, big data, social media, games, virtual reality, and interactivity in film and media through a multidisciplinary approach. It hosts an annual virtual conference. 
[See: https://journals.library.torontomu.ca/index.php/InteractiveFilmMedia/index]

The Edge --Contributor
The Edge is the online publication of the Park Center for Independent Media, a center for the study of journalism and media outside traditional corporate systems. As an alternative to coverage by establishment journalism, The Edge aims to foster conversations on national and global issues with perspectives from journalists, experts, and students outside mainstream news. Independent media is becoming more crucial as conglomeration intensifies and corporate interests hamper mainstream journalism. Based in Ithaca, New York, The Edge engages local and international independent media on subjects including the environment, politics, and justice, as part of building a robust, viable future for U.S. journalism.
[See: https://www.theedgemedia.org/]