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Thinking about race and technology in #NetNarr

As we delve deeper into the realm surveillance in the age of big data and algorithms, we also continue to consider implications for the post-pandemic university. Here are the agenda slides from class last time we met. What a pleasure to kick off our #netnarr class time with a special Studio Visit conversation with scholar/researcher Chris Gilliard. He really opened up our understanding of what is at stake regarding surveillance technologies, and we were able to hear a bit more about digital redlining practices, coded bias, and institutional technology policies. We also heard a bit about who is “on this case” at the close of our visit with him, including the ACLU, Future of Privacy Forum, and Chris did indicate that there is some movement on the federal level. There is no doubt that awareness on the ground, and advocacy from citizens who push to expand our right to privacy, have had a growing impact on the development of new ed tech tools under the momentum and sway of innovation capitalism. The educational technology sector is now very big business, and educators and learners must know about this boom (and weigh in at this critical juncture) if there is any hope for a more humane understanding of what it means to be “educated”. In part, this is what this #NetNarr class is all about. Everyday citizens are now calling for an increase of the control individuals have over their personal information, and we must continue to assert that our civil liberties should be enhanced, rather than compromised, by technological innovation. Design ethics matter.

Thanks to Tom for opening up conversation about the Ruha Benjamin article “Catching Our Breath: Critical Race STS and the Carceral Imagination” Engaging Science, Technology, and Society 2 (2016), 145-156. “How might we craft a justice-oriented approach to technoscience?” asks Ruha Benjamin. How do data driven technologies and existing sociotechnical systems encode, naturalize, or amplify hierarchies of power and difference? By alluding to the “carceral imagination”, Benjamin asks a critical question: can we understand the role of technology in the upholding and remaking of contemporary racialization and inequality? How has the carceral ideology of surveillance tech infected higher ed? or health care? or the entire education sector? These are big questions, and she begins to answer them with important case studies in her work. What is clear in her research is that this is not one big conspiracy, but rather, she reveals in detail how technology is enlisted in, and productive of, contemporary dynamics of confinement, classification, and control. What we can see from this work is that the carceral sphere is not limited to the domain of the prison proper, but rather extends to encompass a much broader “carceral continuum” of technologies, economies, policies, and social formations premised on racialized and class-based exclusion and punishment. Benjamin urges us to “denaturalize” the sedimented histories of our present-day sociotechnical systems and cultivate—and design for—a different and more just future.

What can we do?

In thinking further about the future of education (the post-pandemic university), this week we had another impactful #netnarr and #unboundeq Studio Visit with neuroscientist and professor of pathophysiology and biomedical ethics – Mays Imad. The conversation was one that centered on trauma-informed pedagogy and hope. If we are to center our humanity in any effort moving forward, then this conversation is a critical piece of that understanding of what it means to learn. I welcome you all to view this meaningful conversation which definitely helps understand the stakes and impact of our teaching/learning practices in the context of here and now:

What is next? #againstsurveillance

We are now on the “homestretch” of our “pathfinding tour”. Next Thursday we will have two pathfinding conversations, lead by Hugo and Bailey. Hugo will consider the article by Jason Kelley, Students Are Pushing Back Against Proctoring Surveillance Apps, Electronic Frontier Foundation, September 25, 2020. Bailey will open up a conversation based on Brenna Clark Gray’s Digital Detox #6: Build Back Better,TRU Digital Detox, January, 2021. Please read both articles and blog for Thursday your thoughts and reflection on the material.

Thank goodness for the small break this past week, no? For me, it was just what I needed to catch a breath! It is Spring-in-full-gear now, and I hope you have been enjoying the blossoming world outside.

See you all soon for more thoughtful conversation.

Sincerely,

Dr. Zamora

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