Editorial for Volume 4 Number 1.
hat happens when we think of data “not only as accumulation of cultural material” but also as something that “lives and operates within a culture by its actions” (Borggreen and Gade 2013)? This is a question that motivates my work in both the history of data and quantification and cultural analysis of contemporary data cultures. Over the last 300 years we’ve seen the institutionalization of forms, metrics, and, most recently, digital work across much of the dominant American culture. As more of our everyday activities, decisions, and interpersonal interactions are being conducted digitally, our media technologies are also engaging users in highly personal and affective experiences. At the same time, the interfaces and media of quantified and digital techno-cultures promote minimalistic, one-size-fits-all experiences that seek to erase the interface and create the illusion of non-mediated engagement. Rather than reflect the emotional and political resonances of our quantified and digital engagements back to us, most of our media try to design away difference.
In order to think through my own organization of both an engaged and critical approach to questions of quantification, data production and use, and their histories, I’ve been drawing on the figure of the matrix—a supporting or enclosing structure first associated with the womb and now also linked with a tabular mathematics. It is a powerful, generative, embodied, and resistant spirit to invoke.
Data has become a currency of power. This is evidenced by the fact that the most successful businesses in the world - Google, Facebook, and the like - are making their money from aggregating huge stores of the stuff and infinitely segmenting online ad audiences for marketeers. The electricity bill alone for Facebook's newest data center in New Mexico is estimated to cost 21 million dollars per year....
This essay describes an ongoing collaborative effort by my students and me, during the 2014-2015 school year, to meet with the Latin@ community at OSU, surrounding colleges, businesses and participants’ homes to conduct interviews that document Latin@ life. The video-narratives collected in this venture are expected to generate a narrative glimpse of Latin@ Life in Ohio, as well as a historical record of their presence. The collected stories, narratives, and photographs of cultural artifacts give voice to the different heritages of Latin@s in Ohio.
This project describes the co-creation of an HIV anti-stigma health campaign developed for the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation. Together with youth from South Africa, American graduate students conducted workshops that resulted in poetry and public service announcements that could be used on websites and social media. This article includes a series of ethical considerations when developing a health campaign as well as interviews and the finished public service announcements. Additionally, the author provides a series of “lessons learned” that might provide additional insights for other researchers and artists who are interested in engaging communities in social justice issues.
This article discusses a collaboration with a researcher, young people, and community organizations to design and create The Resisters, an alternate reality game about social movement history in Providence, Rhode Island. While the digital medium discussed in this article is a transmedia game, human connection is at the core of this digital project. The article explores participatory game design as digital humanities scholarship and discusses the challenges and opportunities for engaged digital scholarship in the twenty-first century. This article delves into the relationships between universities and their surrounding communities to examine the color of contemporary civic engagement within the context a digital project. It analyzes the invisible whiteness of civic engagement within universities and offers pathways for faculty and students of color to shift this model. The article concludes with a discussion of researcher/participant relationships and offers a mini-toolbox for scholars of color who engage in community-based work.
How can digital engagement deepen the relationships celebrated by Community Engaged Learning pedagogy––––between students and residents, scholars and community members? And how can we prepare our undergraduates––both practically and ethically––to conduct field research that they will later make accessible to a larger public? This article will explore these questions in the context of a Creative Writing and Environmental Studies seminar taught last spring in a small liberal arts college located in rural Maine. First, this essay will examine how Community Engaged Learning and digital pedagogy practices, when applied together, have the potential to broaden the climate change dialog by recording and disseminating the voices of those living in rural communities. Second, this essay will outline the principles and procedures that shaped the creation and implementation of the “Climate Change and the Stories We Tell” course, highlighting student experience and take-always. Finally, the essay will conclude with a reflection on both the opportunities and limitations that arise when applying CEL and digital pedagogy practices alongside one another.
“Celebrating Simms: The Story of the Lucy F. Simms School” represents a yearlong partnership between a predominantly white academic institution (James Madison University) and a predominantly black neighborhood in Harrisonburg, Virginia. The project’s goal was to preserve local African American memories linked to the site of Harrisonburg’s former all-black school, and to transform them into a permanent exhibit that could be mounted on the former school’s walls and online. The authors chart the journey of this project, exploring how predominantly white institutions in rural locations face significant barriers in undertaking projects such as this because of the deeply entrenched distrust with which they are often viewed by surrounding marginalized communities. The authors respond to this issue by discussing a second phase of the project, “Simms 2.0,” which focuses on the development of digitally-enabled archives to open up possibilities for preserving rural African American and other minority archives.
Art of Transformation (AoT) is a public media project that links cultural organizing practices with new media research. At its core is the development of an open source software application, MapTu, which establishes a persistent, crowd-sourced platform for gathering, deliberating, visualizing and sharing diverse knowledges within a 3D digital space. Use of the tool, however, is enmeshed with an urgency of collaborative inquiry and connection. The goal is to expand communities’ capacities for storytelling and cultural development, to co-create shared visions of our world. AoT emerged from the 2015 Imagining America conference, but the work continues to evolve through collaborations with communities and organizers. In its early phase, AoT collaborators asked: Would AoT illuminate unseen issues, or strengthen connections for social change? Now, AoT raises as many questions as it answers now recognizing that cultural organizers must play an integral role in shaping urgently needed new virtual public squares.
Research universities are increasingly advancing community-engaged research (CEnR) to enhance the relevance and translation of research findings. This paper presents the design and implementation of a connected learning course on CEnR entitled “Collaborative Curiosity.” Connected learning parallels CEnR in that both seek to promote powerful engagement in through openness and collaborative curiosity. Through digital engagement, participants in this open, online course included credit-seeking participants from within and outside the university and open participants (non-credit-seeking). Following a discussion on connected learning and the course, this paper will demonstrate how, through digital engagement, Collaborative Curiosity created a framework for engagement with self and others.
Recent years have seen a rise in activism on college campuses in the United States that has not been seen for several years. One particularly interesting wave of movements is those campaigns that arose in the wake of I, Too, Am Harvard in early 2014, in which students used visual media to share stories of marginalization and push for anti-racism on their university campuses. Over the course of two years, the campaign spread rapidly across the nation and world to over 40 campuses, where it took on its own life at each. Here we highlight, based on our observations and well as evidence gathered from our broader research agenda, the important role of visual and social media in the spread and success of these movements. We argue that the use of these new forms of communication and media was instrumental in defining the political influence of these student protests.
Book review of Participatory Culture in a Networked Era: A Conversation on Youth, Learning, Commerce, and Politics.
A gallery of short invited contributions exploring the issue theme.