A provocation: Are DT the cure-all in order to bring forward sub-altern identities in education and politics?

I found Bailey’s “All the Digital Humanists Are White, All the Nerds Are Men, but Some of Us Are Brave”, Tufekci’s Twitter and Tear Gas, and Jackson’s Hashtag Activism: Networks of Race and Gender Justice very intimately related since the three bring forward the power of Digital Technologies to unsettle the until now centered hegemonies of education’s male white identity politics according to Bailey, abusive governments as described by Tufekci, and mainstream media following the work of Jackson, Bailey and Welles.
Q1: Are DT the cure-all in order to bring forward sub-altern identities to the cultural debate? (Ricardo) how does it work with the rise connectivism in the teaching experience? (Lidia)
I strongly agree with Tufekci and Bailey and the fact that one must be cautious since DT is just a tool and us as educators or actvists are ultimately “the square pegs that expose the unacknowledged round holes”, namely, us as political agents within the realm of education or activism are ultimately in charge of using the methods and making the room for this until now obscured identities to come forward and develop their own center of the conversation.
Likewise, I found interesting Tufekci’s argument regarding the threats of DT when used by perpetrators. Ultimately, proponents of those hegemonic white centers of power are not going to keep using camels as in the case of Tahir square but will engage in more savvy ways of using DT to fight back any decentering of this hegemonic identities such as demonizing online mediums, and mobilizing armies of supporters or paid employees who muddy the online waters with misinformation, information glut, doubt, confusion, harrasment, and distraction and making it hard for ordinary people to navigate the networked public sphere.
Q2: What specific new methods should we follow as educators in our own fields under this new set of rules to generate equity in education?
Moreover, Tofekci also mentions the fact that these DT’s are always mediated by Ad-supported searching engines that will re-center once again power to anyone who is still in possesion of capital. In this sense I beliebe this is not the end of mono-centric or nation-state sanctioned identities but an opportunity to distabilize these that one must handle with caution under a different set of rules applied to a relatively similar context.
Q3: Are there other paths beyond the use of free software that we as educator should be embracing in order to keep hegemonic subjects from acquiring full control in this Digital Technology based era?
Regarding this matter I found Bailey’s mention of reaching girls of color in elementary and middle school with opportunities to engage STEM before they are tracked away from it, or the work of #transformDH or the promise of THATCamp Theory very inspiring. Follwing the work of these scholars I strongly believe the use of free software that is not mediated by corporations (Adobe, Google, TurnItIn, Microsoft) is one of the keys in order to “make room at the table” and provide the necessary frameworks and skills for our students to develop their own spaces. In sum, and following Tofekci’s work, Digital Technologies or open participation afforded by social media does not always mean equal participation, and it certainly does not mean a smooth process.
Q4: Is the digital realm the only perspective that should be interrogated within Digital Humanities regarding the rise of Digital Technologies?
I wanted to quickly mention Bailey’s statement on the fact that the study of DT as a field does not neccesarily mean exclusively interrogating digital realities. Since DT’s are producing a myriad of inequities in real life such as  the exploitation of indigenous women’s labor in the construction of digital devices, the alienated labor of people of color in the production of technology or structures that impede women from connecting to digital humanities. I wonder if as scholars this perspective can teach us a useful lesson ir order to look at some until now blindspots regarding problems in real life that our students must be suffering following the rise of DT.
Q5: Are there other inequities in real life generated by the rise of Digital Technologies that we as educators should be paying attention?

2 thoughts on “A provocation: Are DT the cure-all in order to bring forward sub-altern identities in education and politics?”

  1. I really appreciate this post, Ricardo, especially the way you underline these readings’ engagement with technology and its intersections with politics (and literacy) in the figurative and literal public square. Certainly, these readings (and Tufekci in particular) reject the many breathless, pat hot takes on the revolutionary potential of these corporate platforms, which littered the internet during the Arab Spring and late 2010 and 2011 (and which echoed, if I recall correctly, the Orange Revolution in Ukraine in 2004-05). As you point out, these technologies are very busy “producing a myriad of inequities in real life.” Nothing about them is inherently designed for a public discourse that does anything other than reinforce the status quo. As Tufekci puts it, “Writing is not important only as a convenience; rather, it affects power in all its forms throughout society” (7). Writing—to me anyway—means any digital composition that serves the rhetorical function that Tufekci applies to writing here. The idea that existing power dynamics would be “reproduced” (11) in digital media isn’t surprising; the question for us as citizens and pedagogues might be how does corporate design of algorithms and epistemologies reproduce in the long-term inequities that many of us are trying to challenge in our praxis?

    In terms of the impact of technologies on that work, I have two thoughts that maybe you can shed light on. One is Siemens’ notion of learning as a “continual process” taking place in “communities of practice,” among other locations (Siemens). This focus on the how of learning makes that as central as the what. I wonder what impact that has on these ‘hegemonic’ technologies. Further, in what ways do the *implicit* affordances of those technologies shape (or, maybe better, get harnessed by) the social networks using them? How do natural networks of people who just happen to be using these platforms use them to continually make meaning, so that a user in that community of whatever practice we’re talking about could say, honestly, “I store my knowledge in my friends”?

    The other thought is a question I’ll elaborate on in the provocation I’m writing for March 15’s class. It builds on the Chronicle article about surveillance and students in the pandemic, and the early version of it is: What’s the relationship between commercial networks/institutional technologies and the quality of the trust between those entities and the users of those networks? The Chronicle piece looks at biological data, which brings up so many questions about privacy and ownership. But if we think about pedagogy, and about writing through thinking, I’ll point to the genre of the blog (which we’re all writing in right now.) It moved from the open internet in the early 2000s to a corporate LMS by the 2010s to the Commons in the pandemic (obviously it was there before, but it’s ubiquitous there now). For students, what about that familiar writing genre creates trust? What about the ‘brand’–Blackboard, *CUNY* Commons, WordPress–borrows its trust from the network and the brand’s ubiquity? And what do teachers do with their digital literacy practices to build real, accountable, even care-based relationships between students so that they can construct meaning from their existing knowledge of the genre (digital writing, albeit for academic purposes) and the situation (a classroom, albeit a virtual one)?

  2. Hi Ricardo,

    I appreciate you bringing up the points about the way the perpetrators. Certainly technology could/ has been used to misinform etc or otherwise subjugate people, whether or not its intended to harm in an obvious way. You mention “blindspots regarding problems in real life that our students must be suffering following the rise of DT.” and I think that its very tricky because everything is happening so quickly. A new software is developed to solve a new problem, i.e. the pandemic making schools go fully online, but it always brings new problems along with it. I often feel that the advancement of technology really outpaces our ability to dissect which digital tools are good or bad since most are immediately useful/usable whether or not they pose moral or ethical problems.
    The technology changes happen so quickly and it seems they do not get the level of attention warranted either by school administration or the classroom teacher (often only because its efficient to do it that way). If we consider the surveillance issues that have come as a result of the pandemic- as a teacher we do not get training/ time to focus on this aspect of digital technologies-we are just either required or encouraged to use certain systems. It follows from the reality that I have always had to teach students how to use tools for a specific purpose but was not encouraged to have students speculate about possible unscripted uses of different technologies. I often think about new tech solutions as a trojan horse, it comes with a great goal of making something better/efficient but then a hidden algorithm may be underlying it which can cause great problems for the users whether that is intentional or not. Because of the pandemic, students have to deal with new forms of surveillance which can compromise their safety and the use of their information. For example, the Proctor U software slogan is “Deter Detect Prevent” and aimed at stopping students from cheating but all of this comes with a major privacy concerns that are glossed over since the software/the people managing it cannot do anything without your permission; however, I have had students lament to me that they were required to use this software in order to take their exam- now that is not a choice to give permission but a forced requirement of the teacher. I think educators may unknowingly expose the students to threats of security by using software like this https://www.proctoru.com/.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *