Blog 6 Digital Humanity

One thing professor Adeline Koh hinted at was the importance of timing. Timing isn’t everything; but with good timing, internet-savvy feminist scholar activists are making waves. The collaboration of disparate scholar activist organizations is brought to fruition with the world wide web. All undergrads, grad students, adjunct professors, boards, presidents, CEOs, and all other university affiliates have different interests at different stages of life. A grad student in the 60s had much different priorities here. At the same time, some are basically the same movements but with different words describing them. Anyhow, imagine if the scholar activists were communicating via mobile phones and laptops in the 60s. The 1260s at Oxford (Jk lol). One way to look at this is that change might happen faster if critical masses could be built around issues that are ripe for change. On the other hand, it was less effective, historically, to spread the news of some timely events online because it could get lost with the flood of other news. Now there could be an app for that. Pre-internet, people could call on land lines if there was a real emergency; this rarer communication contained more power per conversation. In theory, the internet should speed up the processes of change, but it might be diluting the messages. The massive waves of information shared everyday is bewildering. Time-limited opportunities for social movements are missed because urgent issues are drowned in the sea of online info. For example, what would happen if more than 300 of the 2,200 UW faculty took direct action to protect tenure and shared governance at the meeting Monday, November 2? Everyone is busy. But if more thought was put into coordinating the divergent efforts, then everyone’s goals, one by one, could be more strategically reached. There are so many social problems in the material world and online that the power is diluted through all the problems. If everyone (or a significant number) pushed for one idea at a time, the wheels would turn.

But how would this collaboration be organized? Who decides what is prioritized? The women, the men, the children? Technology should empower women. And children. Technology could empower all disempowered groups. Because interactions are not person-to-person, but instead idea-to-idea, there is less room for traditional discrimination. Koh advised grad students to use their positions of power (and non-power) strategically. Grad students are granted more leeway. In the cutting edge field of digital humanities, there are grants available, probably specifically for feminist digital humanists.

In the third reading for this week, “Making Spaces for Public Conversations,” P.H. Collins noted “Anyone who has spent time with small children knows that they routinely ask big questions, propose outrageous hypotheses and are not shy in testing out their hypotheses.” The children feel free to question authority. She goes on, “How students feel in class shapes so much of how they receive content as well as their ability to develop critical thinking…When we set up our classes such that some people dominate classroom discussion and others never say anything, we are actually teaching inequality and the emotions it engenders. Social heirarchy is quite crucial to how students feels about learning regardless of content and critical thinking…” Learning with a playful affect is one example. In the Hybrid Pedagogy article, “The Political Power of Play,” Koh says, “Play is not only not frivolous, but capable of producing serious intellectual work and an activity that possesses deep political power. Contrary to our common understandings of play…” In a video about a MOOC she taught, Koh says the students were more empowered online than anywhere. Sharing advice she received, she says, “the most important thing for you to do is ‘leave the room.’ And the point is that you really have to give them the autonomy so that they believe this is their space and they develop a sense of autonomy for themselves.” In this “experimental graduate level course…collaboration was the most important aspect…Learning together, giving and receiving feedback is the core concept of our class.” Technology is not culturally neutral and contains global structural inequalities, she says in these slides. We need to decolonize digital products and cultures. See her site.

I am trying to tie feminism, technology, and scholar activism into a nice, neat blog. It’s not working. Better luck next time.