Coming Full Circle: A Personal Journey

[intended for folks in conversation with the ideas, scholars and communities mentioned here]

My work is in conversation with you.

“People learn by watching others in their environment.
Culture is learned by imitation.
Imitation is learned by living.”
(Linton, 1945)

In 2009, when I set out to pursue a doctorate there was clear intention on being able to bring the gap between theory and practice in relation to technology. I was seeing the contradictions that were evident in the literature and processes I was exposed to and wanted to reconcile them for myself, kind of like when I worked as a bookkeeper, I needed order, balance and accountability and I was not sure where to find it. So surely, I thought learning to be a PRODUCER OF KNOWLEDGE would help in this process. I could learn my way to understanding and restoring some balance in the world.

I am going to unpack some thoughts ideas as I revisit this personal journey and my own research agenda with the aims of making explicit the VALUES and INTENTIONS that have served as my internal compass.

Indigenous Research Agenda

Dear Linda,

I am an affiliate member of the Indigenous Information Research Group at the University of Washington and I have been your student too. Your book, Decolonizing Research Methodologies has been one of my GO TO books. I read it to center, ground and guide my research PROCESS. A process which has a long history of misrepresenting, erasing, silencing and has and continues to cause much harm, to many people and communities.

Having your words, theories, ideas and strength by my side, allowed me to be in conversation with Decolonizing Methodologies. It allowed me to search within myself and to think of which of the 25 indigenous research projects I would explore.

I want to “spell-out” the INTENTIONS and PROCESS of my research agenda as aligned with ethical research protocols, described in your book.

(Figure 6.1, p117)

The four directions of a research agenda include: healing, mobilization, transformation and decolonization. “The chart uses a metaphor of the ocean tides.” A metaphor that I can see within and you describe the ebb and flow, making EXPLICIT that these are not end goals themselves but like the tides represent movement and PROCESSES. These processes, according to you, can be incorporated into practices and methodologies — and because I am an me and I identify as an Indigenist scholar, PROCESSES and PRACTICES have been one of the focuses that has guided and informed my COMMUNITY ENGAGED SCHOLARSHIP.

Even as I revisit my general exam back in 2014, I find the words that I said then are still in alignment with my transformation and coming full circle of my doctoral studies.

“For my critical indigenist scholarship, I am determined to place emphasis on the los procesos[1] that are guided by my Cuban indigeneity, blended, mixed, white, black and “of color”, Ciboney and Taíno legacies, my personal and pedagogical philosophies, the tenets of engaged scholarship and my gendered and therefore embodied knowledge. It is in the spaces where they converge and where I live, teach, work and breathe, that situate myself with and in these theories.“

Part of my research PROCESS has been to educate myself on Indigenous and Feminist Pedagogies, Teaching and Scholarship and learn from the kinds of thought leaders that I wanted to be like, ones paving the way for next generation of critical information scholars. The list is long and not all of them are actually in the field of Information Science, but what they share in common is that they take into account race, gender, identity , abilities, diversity, inclusion, critical pedagogy, feminist perspectives, technology, digital literacy, inclusion, politics, etc. Basically, they investigate the social, cultural, economic political and technological systems in some way shape form or another.

I have served as a sort of apprentice, paying close attention not only to the WHAT, but the HOW and by WHOM. Being an ally, means understanding one’s relative position and responsibility and also being a good guest. In order to be a good guest, I had to learn all the ways I had not been one.

However, not all houses we enter are the same, nor do they have the same rules. So I have learned that offering RESPECT is part and parcel with RESPECTING the PROCESSES and the PEOPLE centered on my VALUES. Even if I did not understand them, their context or if they did not align with my own. Just like what was expected of me in my teaching.

I remember Dr. Marisa Duarte teaching me, not all stories are meant for you. Even in my seven years in BECOMING a doctor, I know that there is so much I do not know. So many blind spots I have, but what I possess that gives me hope for the future generations is the willingness to look within and the willingness to share my own KNOWLEDGE PRODUCTION PROCESS with others.

I have often wondered, WHAT IF we begin to share some things not commonly known and spell out the CONTEXT for WHY we are here at this intersection of decisions. What IF we begin to NAME the history of colonization, genocide and erasure of Indigenous Peoples of this land, the original inhabitants of Turtle Island. WHAT IF we could trust others with some VULNERABLE and messy parts of us. Would it help people to understand the INVISIBLE, SILENCED and ERASED processes that result in overt or covert misalignment with our VALUES.

In my teaching and in my praxis, I center those with the most vulnerable socially defined identities[2] and strive to recognize and bring into conversation other socially defined identities that are often forgotten, ignored, unseen and rendered as irrelevant.

You have taught me, in accessible language, that generally ethical distinctions happen either on legal requirements or in ethical codes of conduct. However, more often than not, community and indigenous rights are not respected. I did not want my PROCESS of research to be about seeing, taking and then destroying — but rather about healing, mobilizing, transforming and decolonizing.

For healing, I believe the PROCESS that I have done throughout my doctoral studies has been bearing witness to testimonios. Learning HOW to hold space for people and allow them the physical, spiritual, psychological, social and collective honor of restoring their HUMANITY by LISTENING WITH POWER, one interaction at a time. I started this when I began to attend the Mujeres Sin Fronteras group at Casa Latina in 2012. I began to learn what it was like to be in community with the women and to be willing to see them. At first it was hard. Not because being there with them was hard, but seeing their realities in contrast with mine, was hard. Just listening was hard. Seeing disparities and the privilege that I had lived out in their stories hurt. Learning to take the time to sit with how real the inequities were, was hard. I am Cuban and white. I can pass in some contexts. But inside I know the truth. I learned the language and played the game, therefore in relation to United States context, I am the model minority and not treated the same as those with other socially defined identities that are undervalued.

We witnessed together and saw each other, in ways that speak of mutual RESPECT & TRUST. There was a sense and willingness to be VULNERABLE for the sake of being WHOLE and to have our lived experiences and HUMANITY restored.

For mobilizing, on the local, nation, region and global you just have to look at my CV. I have prioritized getting people together to have conversations and dialogue. And I have done it in a variety of areas. I’ve learned that it is common for scholars, in my school and beyond, to be limited in where they publish and present their work. Because of the vast implications of social and the technological systems, I chose to prioritize creating opportunities to build community. Currently, I am planning (along with many others) a Critical Pedagogy Summit[3] in Seattle Dec 2, 2017 and we are using Envisioning & Writing to guide one day, Connecting, Networking & Sharing for the next day and Celebrating Survival for the final afternoon. It sounds so official and IT IS, but it a lot of unseen labor and work to mobilize within the academic structure. I was talking with someone who was willing help me and after listening to all the moving parts they said, ‘What you are trying to do is so FLUID. We were on the phone, I paused, smiled and said “Yes, and the system was not designed for FLUID.”

For transforming — A year ago I began to think of how I would share my research broadly and I mustered up all the courage I could find to put myself out there. I saw the call for Sno-Isle TedX speakers, and I decided to nominate myself to give a TedX[4]. I should share with you it was definitely stretching the creative and courageous muscles because of so many factors I could talk to you about later. But together with my coach, mentors, my partner and my son and many fabulous students- I was able to get feedback on my PROCESS. When the day came, I was able to tell stories of my RESEARCH PROCESS and share the lessons, that in my mind, could not wait for the academic process. The beautiful part is that the theme for that TedX was transformations. [5]

Decolonizing — Political, social, spiritual and psychological

That lesson has remained true

Territorial Acknowledgement

The WHY and the HOW. -à come back to this and work ON SPELLING IT OUT. (note to self)

I am surrounded and surround myself with Indigenous Scholars who, like you help lead the way I have within but did not have words for. And who hold me accountable by asking questions that make me think and struggle and push me to ALIGN my ACTIONS, in every sense, with my VALUES. And then there is you, the person I speak to the most, one that gives me the gift of TIME by allowing me to read, re-read, do, come back to, and begin the healing by recognizing that I am both colonized and colonizer — both active and present inside of me. I have the most intimate relationship with you because you are in my home and I know you. I can fully be me and question with all the possibilities and histories and herstories the VIOLENCE that is inside of me.

I set out to REFRAME the conversation about who and what bodies count as being (or being recognized) as included digitally. Much of the literature on digital divide and inclusion tends to further marginalize and put a spin that doesn’t quiet feel completely HUMANIZING nor does it feel RESPECTFUL

From the initial design of Latina Tech and then subsequently my dissertation proposal, my intention was to REFFRAME and build community that disrupts and interrupts the disciplinary silos that can exist. I realize, now, that I have accomplished that and a bit more in my journey therefore, I want to share with you a few pieces that I believe can add to the conversation and serve as a testament to the labor that is seen, unseen and unforeseen.

In Spring 2012, I took a course from Professor Geneva Gay. She was teaching a course in the College of Education titled Research in Minority Communities. It was the first elective I was able to take outside of my department (The Information School) and I was happy to be back in the College of Education, my former home. That course was amazing and just what I needed. I met my friend and future doctor Raedell Cannie there too. Anyways, it was in THAT course, that I first learned of Dr. Richard Milner. I didn’t know it at the time, but he’s an endowed professor, the Helen Faison Endowed Chair of Urban Education at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. Milner introduced me to some important concepts in his paper titled, “Race, Culture, and Researcher Positionality: Working Through Dangers Seen, Unseen, and Unforeseen”. I have worked iteratively to continue to use his paper, and share with others the power of his paper to serve as a HOW TO guide for thinking through possible intended, unintended and unforeseen consequences of working in marginalized communities.

Have I told you about the time I met him? My friend Klarissa and I went to see him at a conference down south at the University of Puget Sound for the Race and Pedagogy Conference back in 2014. The auditorium was jammed packed, but we sat in the hall and got to listen along with quite a few other folks. After his session, I got to share with him my work on the Latina Tech project and ever since then we have stayed in touch occasionally via email. It is a pleasure to see what he’s up to and continue to work with his ideas in Urban Education as they relate to Information Equity.

I remember the days I didn’t even understand what and endowed professor ACTUALLY meant. When I first started working with Dr. Eliza Dresang, I surely did not know what or whom could be an endowed professor. And I would not have known by the way she treated me, our interactions and watching her thoughtful, explicit and generous nature with those around her regardless of age, gender or degree. She was extremely attentive and despite the loss I feel since her passing, I hold on to what she taught me, and the memories of doing research[6] that was intentional in its research endeavors as well as with its practical application to the practitioners and the field of librarianship as a whole. Despite not using your methodologies per se, I saw first hand how the process of research on Project VIEWS was listening first to the field and the librarians to identify the research need and gap. To this day, Eliza is still very highly regarded in the field. She served as the Beverly Cleary Professor of Children and Youth Services at the University of Washington Information School from 2009 until her death on April 21, 2014. I still go back to many of the things she modeled and taught me, and I valued how she unpacked the process for those she mentored. However, I believe the one that will continue to multiple and provide gifts was the understanding she gave me, that libraries are a place for children, imagination, language and youth development and that ALL are welcome. Some friends write about her and her influence in the article titled: Putting Youth First: The Radical Eliza T. Dresang.[7]

Speaking of memories, this takes me back to Dr. Charlotte Coté and her book the Spirits of our Whaling Ancestors. Cote introduces her audience to Cree scholar Winona Wheeler, who says “knowledge Native peoples acquire comes through listening, because we are an oral culture.” I too come from an oral culture, I grew up hearing stories. However, it wasn’t until really, well, over a week ago that began to understand the negative impact INSIDE OF ME because of some of the stories I grew up hearing. Now, let me be clear. I have read Thomas King’s the truth about Stories, a few years back, so I thought I knew. But this is what I have come to know now.

Values are processes ≠ destinations

More effort ≠ better results

Respect is something we give to others and ourselves.

When we give it away freely, we make more. That = reciprocity.

Respect = having high expectations, valuing all people and processes.

If we cannot trust the process, we have lost our ability to choose.

We need transparency and accountability our guiding values.

It has taken me a lifetime to unlearn what had been socially and culturally constructed. I have come to know that the process of identifying shared values, in community, can serve as a guide to show respect and to connect across differences.

Let’s take a journey back in time, to my General Exam. It wasn’t a question that was asked during my exams, but one I felt necessary to spell out and make EXPLICIT in my journey. (Excerpt below)

I. My Guiding Light / Ethics / Standpoint

First and foremost I am human and must be accountable to my humanity, the profession I chose not withstanding. (Deloria Jr., 1999a)

As I reflect on a conversation I had with Martin, not long ago, being aware means making sure that I am not being subsumed, in my research or in my teaching by particular ideologies, but rather opening access for people. Freire and others, remind us pedagogy is always ideological and political (Denzin, Lincoln, & Smith, 2008, p. 8; 1996). With respect and understanding the multiple ways of knowing, we can overcome limitations when we collaborate. Like Eubanks, I have labored to keep myself grounded in the day-to-day experiences of the women at Casa Latina, women whose priority is the struggle to maintain community and meet their basic needs (2011, p. xvii). Indigenous Scholars, such as Smith and others, refer to the need for decolonizing methodologies (Denzin et al., 2008). Wilson argues that this alone is not enough. He declares we “must leave behind dominant paradigms and follow an Indigenous research paradigm” (2009, p. 38).

Your letter is one of many letters. Some hand written letters, not for public consumption, many conversations in classrooms, in community, around the kitchen table, at in and around all sorts of libraries, in community spaces like Casa Latina, and in the hall ways of the prestigious University of Washington campus as I ran from one event to another. And conversations in local, regional, national and international conferences. Over the course of the years I have created intimate webs of knowledge that attempted to span [artificial] boundaries, translate knowledge and push my own thinking (and I may have too planted some seeds along the way). But it was not until I could openly be VULNERABLE to myself, and to engage in candid conversations as I looked in the mirror, that I realized where the ultimate power lies.

Inside of me.

Here is how I see these revelations in relation to SOCIAL AND TECHNOLOGICAL SYSTEMS.

If we cannot see or understand the PROCESSES happening in side of us, then we cannot align it with our VALUES.

Technology is not independent of the social system.

And while there are many folks researching the social system and many researching the technological system and even quite a bit of folks working at the intersections of both, in a field called socio-technical systems.

But what about the rest of us? Regardless of our disciplines, departments, research areas and research agendas. We make decisions about how we adopt, use and implement technologies in our day-to-day interactions, communities and organizations.

We too need to be in direct conversation with the systems and not to take for granted the designs and constraints of those systems. Therefore, I believe we need to be in conversation with those PROCESSES too. And do how we, as individuals, treat others and their PROCESSES and how do we MODEL and SHARE and TEACH the next generation.

With technology, the same thing happens. We need to develop PROTOCOLS in COMMUNITY that spell out our SHARED VALUES so that then we can create PROCESSES that will help to guide us for our decisions in relation to Information and Communication Technologies. The purchasing of, development of training, and the framing of the WHAT, WHY and HOW. And I would add to engage in a sort of VULNERABILITY about our own well being in relation to technologies and SHARE those with others. For instance, when I am about to teach, I am very focused on creating a space for dialogue. Even when I’m presenting content I have already spelled out, I know that for my well-being, and for the way that I process, I want to PRIORITIZE people, therefore I have learned that I do not have patience to tinker with digital technology experimentation at that moment. I defer to more comfortable or familiar technologies, such as paper, index cards, bodies, and movement, things I can more readily respond to and touch while placing my energies and efforts with the conversations at hand. Yet, Dr. Martin Wolske, my mentor and friend, talks about us being a THING-oriented society. He has thought deeply and extensively on that orientation and been in dialogue with others about it. He had taught me to IMAGINE, what if we shift to a more PEOPLE-oriented society. I would add that we should strive to be a more PEOPLE and PROCESS-oriented society.

If we take technological tools such as google search, for one specific, mostly global example, and we do not know, understand or are able to SEE what they do with our data, then here is where things get tricky. I can live my life aligned with my values on the one hand, and on the other hand, the technological hand, I might be REPRODUCING the something else. But I do not know, for real if I am not able to SEE it or UNPACK it.

In the course I developed, Critical Conversations in Feminism and Technology, I was surprised that students who understood the social systems of inequity on one hand, said things like, I don’t need to value privacy, because I have nothing to hide. I don’t know why I was surprised, I too am a living contradiction and I was unable to see it. But what I have learned is that the PROCESS of SPANNING BOUNDARIES and SHARING TOOLS and having conversations at the local level to really learn to have dialogue about the HOW and WHY we do what we do, is but one part.

The other part is ETHICAL. Let me be clear, I am not talking about the moral philosophy per se, but rather, how you taught me to thing of ethical distinctions that happen either on legal requirements or in ethical codes of conduct. And we are not designed to be FLUID and treat people as WHOLE and COMPLEX beings that have interconnected parts, not all valued the same in the eyes of our society. With the legal part, we are in general, avoiding litigation. In the Codes of Conduct, some could say the same, but sometimes we say we are going to do something in a code of conduct, but what is seen in PRACTICE does not always align to protect those most vulnerable and marginalized in our communities.

HOW can we begin to tackle injustice that we help reproduce? Let me introduce you to another scholar, Dr. Susan Opotow. I have not met her personally, but I have benefited from her work immensely. In the course on Women and Violence that I took with Dr. Angela Ginorio, in Spring 2014, we read Susan’s article on Moral Exclusion and Injustice: An Introduction. She says MORAL EXCLUSION happens when individuals or groups are perceived as “outside the boundary which moral values, rules and considerations of fairness apply. Those who are morally excluded are perceived as nonentities, expendable, or underserving. Consequently, harming or exploiting them appears to be appropriate, acceptable, or just.”

Let me also bring into our conversation scholar Dr. Albert Bandura and his article on Selective Activation and Disengagement of Moral Control. He tells the story of our socialization, and how moral standards serve as our internal guides for our conduct and behavior. Similar to the concept of a schema, we could say. The mechanisms of moral disengagement, he says, “operate not only in the perpetration of inhumanities under extraordinary circumstances, but in EVERYDAY SITUATIONS where people routinely perform activities that bring personal benefits at injurious costs to others.” [emphasis added by me]

Given these two concepts — What IF we began to question that very premise in our community practices and see who is INCLUDED in our DESIGNS, WHOM do we on regular basis not invite to the table, what identities do we silence or erase? HOW do we in our EVERYDAY actions in our communities and organization REPRODUCING the kinds of VIOLENCE that say you are not deserving of my moral values, rules or consideration of fairness.

“No one is free, until we are all free.”

-Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Which of course leads me to economic injustice and other intersections of technology and the work of people like Virginia Eubanks, Barbara Smith, Andrea Smith, Cricket Keating, and Maria Lugones and other folks associated with Women, Information, Technology & Scholarship (WITS)[8] and FemTechNet[9].

I have lots more connections to make. The work is never done.

But now, I am going to step away from the computer (this is the product of writing over 2-day period).

Time to be present, continue to enjoy the company of my dad who is visiting. We are headed to Oregon to see Ricky wrestle. It is such a treat. Also having dad here, is an opportunity which is allowing me chance to share my research and MY PROCESSES of unlearning by talking and being in dialogue with my dad and to be VULERABLE while also HOLDING my BOUDARIES and taking care of self so that I can share HEALTHY STORIES with my daughter about her and the world around her.

With love,

Ivette Bayo Urban

References

Linton, R. (1945). The cultural background of personality (Century psychology series (Appleton-Century-Crofts, inc.)). New York; London: D. Appleton-Century.

Mihesuah, D., & Waziyatawin. (2004). Indigenizing the academy: Transforming scholarship and empowering communities (Contemporary indigenous issues). Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

Milner, H. Richard, IV. (2007). Race, Culture, and Researcher Positionality: Working through Dangers Seen, Unseen, and Unforeseen. Educational Researcher, 36(7), 388–400.

Smith, L. (1999). Decolonizing methodologies: Research and indigenous peoples. London: Dunedin, N.Z.: Zed Books ; University of Otago Press.

Taylor, H., Kramarae, Cheris, Ebben, Maureen, & Center for Advanced Study. (1993). Women, information technology scholarship : Women, Information Technology, and Scholarship Colloquium. Urbana, Illinois: Center for Advanced Study.

We Are Our Stories: Is Technology Rewriting Our Values? | Ivette Bayo Urban | TEDxSnoIsleLibraries

My General Exam (will be in dissertation)

[1] the processes

[2] For my go to on socially defined identities I introduce you to Dr. Angela Ginorio.

Ginorio, A. B. (1998), CONTEXTUALIZING VIOLENCE IN A PARTICIPATORY CLASSROOM. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 22: 77–94. doi:10.1111/j.1471–6402.1998.tb00143.x

[3] iSchool.uw.edu/criticalpedagogy à as of today, November 11, 2017 the website it not built yet. I need to do that too, but wanted to write to you first. Balancing and juggling is hard work.

[4] https://youtu.be/G7oN1zdS8HE

[5] It has been a year since that talk and I just finished the transformation process and had clear internal direction on where to go next, hence your letter is one piece of that.

[6] Valuable Initiatives in Early Literacy that Work Successfully 2

http://views2.ischool.uw.edu

[7] http://www.yalsa.ala.org/jrlya/2015/01/putting-youth-first-the-radical-eliza-t-dresang/

[8] Taylor, H., Kramarae, Cheris, Ebben, Maureen, & Center for Advanced Study. (1993). Women, information technology scholarship : Women, Information Technology, and Scholarship Colloquium. Urbana, Illinois: Center for Advanced Study.

[9] Here is the website, http://femtechnet.org. For me the first connection, was with the FemTechNet manifesto. I think it captures the heart of their PROCESS and allows me to see the beauty, even in its imperfect manifestations because of the STRUCTURES in place in the our stories and in the academy.