Michelle McSweeney

m.mcsweeney@columbia.edu | Brooklyn, NY | (347) 314-0072

I am a Research Scholar in the Center for Spatial Research at Columbia University, author of The Pragmatics of Texting: Making Meaning in Messages (Routledge 2018), and co-host of the podcast, Subtext. My research focuses on digital writing in romantic relationships, particularly how we establish intimacy and trust through text messaging.

Additionally, I use Natural Language Processing techniques with Python to analyze how politically polarized media outlets cover national interest topics. I have over 5 years of experience with data analysis, NLP, and text analysis.


Research Scholar

Center for Spatial Research, Columbia University

Design and lead socio-spatial research projects. Currently using Natural Language Processing (Topic Modeling and Sentiment Analysis with sci-kit learn, NLTK, and pandas) to understand argument strategies in politically charged issues. Contribute to lab-based projects using data visualization and mapping.

September 2016 - Present

PhD Research

Linguistics, the Graduate Center at CUNY

Collected a corpus of over 45,000 text messages sent and received by bilingual young adults to analyze the relationship between text messaging and literacy. Proposed a taxonomy to understand the communicative effect of emojis, abbreviations, and other textisms.

May 2014 - August 2016

Digital Fellow

Digital Initiatives, CUNY

Advised on digital research projects and data visualization. Designed technical workshop sequence, and taught Python, NLTK, and QGIS. Established a Python Users’ Group with over 50 participants. Led quantitative research project on community impact for President’s address.

September 2014 - August 2016

Linguistics Instructor

City University of New York

Taught more than 25 sections of undergraduate and graduate level courses in Linguistics, Education, and African Studies Departments.

August 2011 - May 2016

Language Consultant and Peace Corps Volunteer

Peace Corps Uganda

Identified languages to make new manuals for. Developed a teacher-training program for language teachers, and worked with native speakers to write educational grammars. Wrote a grammar and phonics program for Lusoga.

Feb 2008 - August 2010

Education Specialist

TRiO at Lansing Community College

Taught developmental mathematics courses, and advised and mentored over 250 students on their transition into college.

June 2004 - January 2008


The Graduate Center at CUNY

PhD, Linguistics
Certificate, Interactive Technology & Pedagogy

Literacies of Bilingual Youth: A Profile of Bilingual Academic, Social, and Txt Literacy Skills

August 2016

Michigan State University

BA, Chemistry & Mathematics
May 2004

Lansing Community College

AA, Mathematics
December 2001


Distant Reading the News: Guns in America

Natural Language Processing, Data Science

Through topic modeling and sentiment analysis of 10 media outlets across the political spectrum, this project found that "Liberal" and "Conservative" outlets have different ways of framing the relationship between gun control, culture, and national identity. For conservative outlets, this topic centers around laws, owners, crime, violence, and “America” whereas for liberal ones, it centers around taking action, supporting issues, policies, signing, and “the nation”.

August 2018

The Pragmatics of Text Messaging: Making Meaning in Messages


This book explores the ways in which texting features such as ‘lol,’ emojis, abbreviations, and acronyms is systematic and essential. Highlighting the role of creativity in relationship building and identity performance, this volume extends the boundaries of emerging research on language and digital communication.

2018, Routledge



Co-hosted with Sarah Ellis, this podcast explores the relationship between text messaging and dating. Each episode dives deep into how digital communication technologies are changing our langugage, and what that means for modern romantic relationships.


Can I get a Comma? The role of punctuation and laughter in texting identity


Winner of the 5 Minute Linguist competition at the Linguistic Society of America's annual conference. Using a network analysis of textism adoption across a community of speakers, I found that texters adopt each others' emojis and acronyms, but are resistant to changing their punctuation and laughter.

2018, Salt Lake City

Chatting with the Natives. Harvard Design Magazine.


This article explores the ways in which language is changing in response to near-universal adoption of digital communication devices.

2017, Issue 44

I Text English to Everyone: On Texting and Academic Proficiency. Languages.


This article reports on the relationship between academic proficiency and text messaging.

2017, Issue 2(3)

Languages Above the NYC Subway

Interactive Infographic

This project tracts language neighborhoods along the New York City Subway System by visualizing the percent of speakers at each stop.


Selected Presentations

Urban Language Topographies: Cities as sites of language maintenance. Michigan State University Global Digital Humanities Conference. East Lansing, MI. March 23,2018.

Pragmatics of Digital Communication. Digital Media and Learning Department at New York University. New York, NY. December 17, 2017.

I’m trying to show you who I am: Identity performance in text messaging. Pop Culture Association National Conference. San Diego, CA, April 12, 2017.

“‘Excuse me, please, wya!’ The Construction of Politeness on Cell Phones”. Northeast Modern Languages Association Annual Conference. Baltimore, MD, March 23, 2017.

Yelling at Robots: The End of Language As We Know It?. Panel at Social Media Week, New York. New York, NY, March 3, 2017.

lol i didn’t mean it! Lol as a Marker of Illocutionary Force . Linguistic Society of America annual conference. Austin, TX, January 6, 2017.

The Birth of a Language: The emergence of Txt as an independent language form. Dressler Linguistics Colloquium, Columbia University, New York, NY. October 14, 2016.

Did You Get My Message: The communicative cost of texting in a second language. Second Language Research Forum, Columbia University. New York, NY, September 24, 2016.

Using twitter to define bilingual literacy in a networked world. Panel at the Digital Media and Learning Conference. Boston, MA, March 6, 2014.

Selected Teaching

Columbia University

Mapping for Architecture, Urbanism, and the Humanities. Fall 2017. Graduate School of Architecture, Urbanism, and PlanningProject-based seminar on using spatial tools for humanities and social science reseach.

Conflict Urbanism: Language Justice. Spring 2017. Graduate School of Architecture, Urbanism, and PlanningProject-based seminar on how languages in contact shape urban spaces.

The City University of New York

Psychology of Language Learning and Teaching. 2014-2015. Hunter College, School of Education. Hybrid (online/face-to-face). Research seminar on the role that first and second language acquisition processes have in a K-12 classroom.

Teaching Linguistics Across CUNY Campuses. 2013-2015. The Graduate Center at CUNY. Seminar on college pedagogy and course development, now required for all first year graduate students in Linguistics.

Internet Linguistics. 2014. Lehman College, Languages and Literatures. Seminar on the role of digital communication technologies changing language practices.

African Languages. 2013-2014. Lehman College, Languages and Literatures. Project-based course investigating linguistic features of and contemporary issues surrounding African languages.

Pragmatics, Syntax, and Semantics. 2011-2013. Lehman College, Languages and Literatures. .

Lansing Community College

Pre-Algebra, Algebra, and Intermediate Algebra. 2005-2007.

Media Coverage

Laugh and the World Laughs With You. Type ‘Ha,’ Not So Much.

New York Times

Interview about digital laughter.

2017, July 8

The Internet Tilde Perfectly Conveys Something We Don’t Have the Words to Explain

New York Magazine

Interview about digital punctuation.

2017, July 5

Things that come out of your mouth

Tell Me Something I Don't Know

Analysis of 'lol', winner of game show style contest about interesting facts.

2016, November 28

Doctor of Lols

Feeling Some Type of Way

Interview about 'lol'.

2016, November 17

Minor Infractions: Languages above the Subway


Interview about "Languages above the NYC Subway".

2014, October 1

Infographic tracks Languages above the Subways

Metro New York

Coverage of "Languages above the NYC Subway".

2014, August 4


Technical Skills
  • Python
  • PostgreSQL
  • Flask
  • Javascript (Leaflet)

Functional Skills