am a professor at Western University where I specialize in digital and emerging media, investigative journalism, true crime writing, and forensic linguistics, lexicology, and stylometry. I have also previously served as a professor of criminology at Wilfrid Laurier University, and am now affiliate faculty with the Centre for Research in Forensic Semiotics at Victoria College, University of Toronto. Further, I have over 15 years’ experience as a police officer across myriad areas of specialization: major crimes, robbery, arson, criminal intelligence, and crime prevention, as well as writing search warrants, production orders, and other judicial authorizations for these and other specialized investigative units. Known as the ‘Profficer’ among my students, this unique background has now enabled me to venture into both commercial and academic publishing, as well as professional consulting and network television development and production.
My PhD, also from Western, is in digital media and was focused on the role of what’s known as technological determinism in dictating crime trends, as well as institutional responses to crime, press reportage of crime, and ultimately the public fear of crime. I am especially interested in the nexus between digital spaces and delinquency; specifically, the confluence between social media and psycyhopathy. Much of my current research is in this same area, including a new large-scale and federally-funded project on cyberbullying titled Syntax & Cyberbullying: A Linguistic Etiology of Offending. The principal focus of the early stages of this project includes the assessment of linguistic relativity and victimology in online environments, and how textual content can elicit such dramatically different responses among victims of electronic harassment. Preliminary results also suggest a paraphilic, or devious fantasy element, to cyberbullying which could fundamentally alter our understanding of victim-offender encounters online.
While most people see a digitally interfaced world as harmless and even the height of human social evolution, the reality is that a more critical understanding of how these extended spaces and communicative exercises negatively affect us is needed. For instance, few people are likely aware of the fact that over 92% of serial homicides in recorded history, both solved and unsolved, have occurred since the dawn of Web 1.0 in 1990. There have also been more serial killers in the last 15 years than in the previous 50 years. This is not a coincidence. Aside from those who use the Internet and the anonymity and pathological fantasy offered by digital platforms to directly prey on others and acquire victims, the psycholinguistics of digitization—or how language is understood, processed, and created through technology—is still a murky area of research. Moreover, it directly relates to phenomena like cyberbullying, as well as how offenders not only advertise their crimes but also escalate to more serious crimes through the reinforcement of others, with social media functioning as a tool of what’s known as operant conditioning.