Allen’s teaching and research interests are broad and interdisciplinary. His research focuses on American cultural history and the application of digital technologies to history and the humanities more generally. He has written on the history of U.S. radio and television (Speaking of Soap Operas, 1985), film history and historiography (Film History: Theory and Practice, 1985), and American popular theater of the nineteenth and early twentieth century (Horrible Prettiness: Burlesque and American Culture, 1992). He is also the editor of To Be Continued: Soap Operas Around the World (1995) and two editions of the television criticism anthology, Channels of Discourse and Channels of Discourse, Reassembled (1987, 1994). He is the co-editor of The Television Studies Reader (2004) and Going to the Movies: Hollywood and the Social Experience of Cinema (2007).
His work in digital humanities includes “Going to the Show,” an online digital resource documenting the history of moviegoing in North Carolina, which was awarded the American Historical Association’s Rosenzweig Prize for Innovation in Digital History in 2011, and “Main Street, Carolina,” an ongoing program for engaging with cultural heritage organizations in N.C. in the creation of digital history projects. For this project he received the first C. Felix Harvey Award to Advance Institutional Priorities at UNC-CH in 2009.
He is director of the University’s Digital Innovation Lab, launched in 2011. The lab undertakes and facilitates the production of digital humanities tools, projects, and programs as “public goods.”