Author Archives: Anthony Wheeler

Week 12: Care Work + Emotional Education

The readings we selected for this week are interesting for many reasons, but they all come at a similar topic (care) from quite a few perspectives, which I appreciated. Cong-Huyen and Kush Patel (2021) share their insights on the institutional dynamics and politics of care work, sharing their “radical care” approach to undoing/navigating some of the systemic issues within DH/libraries by promoting solidarity & collective action and prioritizing the well-being of workers. They also offer examples of what this practice might look like, including creating networks of support and mentorship for workers, advocating for fair labor practices and policies, and creating more equitable hiring and promotion practices.

Garcia et al. (2020) then shift us towards the pedagogical integration of care via practices like acknowledging and responding to students’ emotions, creating opportunities for students to share their personal stories and experiences, and cultivating a sense of community and belonging in the classroom.

Finally, Villaronga (2021) breaks down how care is often gendered, racialized, and social class-influenced, and how these power dynamics shape our understandings and practices of care. Villaronga (2021) then talks about how care work involves acknowledging and challenging these power dynamics and actively working to create more equitable and just systems and relationships with students and peers. One common trend I noticed across all three is how they describe care work to be an emotional and political act. I agree, which points us toward something I keep mentioning; the labor-intensiveness of care work. Also, I think the pandemic left many of us who were teaching/working in the early phases realizing that, depending on the context, care can easily fast-track burnout. I think it’s bizarre (but unsurprising) that, as a culture/society, we’ve delegitimized care and emotions in the workplace, resulting in the push to de-politicize caring as a result of things like the pandemic. I don’t know if this is making total sense; mostly still processing. I do have a genuine belief that much of this work will be better enacted/supported as generational shifts occur, but we’ll see.

Week #10: Care-full Teaching

by Anthony W.

Pedagogies of care are a driving concept behind why I pursued an M.A. in DH and persisted onward to the Ph.D. in Urban Education. However, I didn’t come at it from the angle of being mindful of self-care (I mean, I’m pursuing a Ph.D., which is traditionally very anti-self-care lol) but rather from how to enact care through the projects and work we do together. I wrote about care a bit in my master’s thesis, the ways it’s expressed through educational decisions, and how transforming projects to be culturally conscious, exploratory, and positioning students as creators (for example, I allowed my composition students to cite themselves in their final research paper after they had produced digital artifacts) can be seen as a form of care-full learning. I think Jen’s mind map is a good representation of some of the ways I see care in learning spaces as well.

As you all appear to, I also feel strongly about the idea of self-care, considering how demanding working in academia and pursuing a doctoral degree can be. There are a lot of associated expectations/stigmas surrounding pursuing a graduate degree, such as sacrificing your social life, that I simply don’t believe are practical for me (or anyone) to have to accept in the pursuit of knowledge and understanding. In many ways, the training processes we go through in our 5+ years as doctoral students prevent us from enacting proper care toward ourselves for prolonged periods. I recall once reading a tweet from someone who had recently finished a Ph.D., and it regarded their excitement when they realized they enjoyed and were good at cooking, followed by an explanation of how they assumed they weren’t a good cook and were constantly ordering in throughout their graduate studies due to simply not having time to practice their cooking skills and not needing to since food can easily be brought to your door now. This is a random example, but it did cause me to reflect and look at how often I prepared home-cooked meals during my M.A. program versus my Ph.D. program, and I agree with the author of the tweet; it is quite a staggering difference. All of this to say, care is a radical choice that should be considered throughout the entire institution, not just on small-scale teaching moves, or to be [just] practiced alone, or by bringing puppies onto campus to alleviate stressed students during finals and dubbing it care/wellness, but by restructuring systems to consider basic human needs and how to satisfy those first.

Costs of Care

by Anthony W.

Care is something that I do feel is essential to teaching and learning— having care woven into the ways we interact with each other in learning spaces is often palpable in the results. It helps to foster a sense of security and comfort, making students more likely to engage in discussions and activities. I’ve tried to be intentional and integrate care very explicitly into some of my research, putting it into practice when working with faculty or my students (resulting in my DH thesis being based on the same type of games as the one used in Connection Established). That being said, care has its costs, too. There’s a burden that comes with becoming the person who takes on that responsibility when there isn’t always institutional support backing you up or providing spaces to really foster that effort collaboratively. Echoing some of our conversations around OER from some weeks back, it often falls on the backs of a small number of people to really push something forward, and that’s hard when we also need to practice care toward ourselves as we deal with the residual fallout of the pandemic.

“When she introduces the term in her 1990 book Black Feminist Thought, Collins emphasizes race, class, and gender as the three systems that historically have been most important in structuring most Black women’s lives. She notes that additional systems of oppression structure the matrix of domination for other kinds of people. The term, for her, describes a mode of analysis that includes any and all systems of oppression that mutually constitute each other and shape people’s lives.”

Sasha Costanza-Chock, Design Justice, Introduction

The way Costanza-Chock describes Collins’ matrix of domination is a good way of framing my feelings about care. As we know, intersectionality provides us with a set of advantages and disadvantages based on where we fall within the identity matrix, and based on those, people will grow to need different types of scaffolding, support, and care. So, to a degree, it feels necessary to direct that small amount of extra energy towards ourselves or those close to us with an immediate need rather than taking restructuring our teaching to be more intentional about care within pedagogy (especially as teaching has always been seen as a more feminine field, some choose to believe care is innately embedded). If you are considering care from early on in your teaching career like some of us are, then it may be easier to integrate it into your practice, but I do believe that it is an undertaking being that beacon and re-evaluating a number of your approaches.

Anthony’s Final Project Idea

My final project feels much more straightforward than some of the awesome projects previously posted. As mentioned, I’m in my 3rd year of the Urban Education doctoral program and am in my final semester of coursework (if all goes according to plan), so I am in second exam/dissertation proposal mode. My reason for enrolling in the course was to collect more resources for understanding the political ramifications of digital humanities scholarship, and in thinking about the final project, I’d like to use it as a space to begin writing my literature review (or perhaps another section) of my second exam. It does not sound as cool as others’ ideas, but I need to be resourceful with my time, and I think my context is pretty cool.

I am a Professional Learning Research and Development Assistant with the Computing-Integrated Teacher Education (CITE) initiative at CUNY Central (in collaboration with Michigan State University). We work with 15 CUNY campus’s teacher education programs as their faculty integrate computational thinking/digital literacy education across their teacher-ed programs/courses. For my dissertation, I’m interested in investigating how integrating digital approaches in humanities teacher ed spaces transform future teachers’ dispositions towards technology using the framework my team developed, teaching about, with, through, and against technology. Subquestions include how it impacts equity in learning and computing more broadly and how it can be designed to be culturally sustaining as well. However, given DH is a relatively fresh field of study, our researchers have not been naming the awesome artifacts being developed by humanities ed faculty as Digital Humanities work. As a result, in order to frame my question and the context, I need to begin by exploring the precarious relationship between DH and K-12 computing, how computing has been rolled out into schools, the vague definition of digital humanities, and the way it presents itself in these spaces.

That was a lot, but that’s the gist.

TL;DR: I’m hoping that using the final project as a research paper/literature review can help me to write out and organize my thoughts for my second exam.

Week 6: History and Diffused Surveillance

This week’s readings focused on how surveillance is embedded in our culture and day-to-day practices, relying on critical scholarship to draw connections between automation and multiple dimensions of inequity. I really enjoyed both pieces from JITP, especially the one by folks at CUNY. Given the many identities co-existing in CUNY, it was interesting to see how these concerns surfaced in different ways for different people. I’ve been thinking about tech’s role in surveillance pedagogy since prior to the pandemic; since the onset, I’ve been seeing very questionable partnerships and collaborations between media entities and higher education institutions crop up all over. Using the introduction from the Caines & Silverman (2021) piece as an example, one of the university campuses I work at invested in Perusal, a proctoring tool of sorts, which enacts detailed surveillance of students as they engage with *any* course content, providing the instructor with metadata on their interactions (such as time spent on a reading). Another more widespread example of surveillance would be looking at how entities like Google partnered with schools across the country to distribute Chromebooks (often with access to Google Classroom and other educational tools) to students needing help attending virtually while schools were still in crisis mode. While, sure, noble, I guess, now all of those students are being subjected to tracking without knowing their data is part of the bargain for the school’s access to the tech. Media companies are now huge players informing educational policy, which is not a positive thing.

Also, these articles brushed shoulders with the action that Jay Dolmage (2018) defines as “diffused surveillance.” Dolmage (2018) writes about eugenics and how deeply embedded it is in our history, using the immigration process at Ellis Island around the year 1900 as a focal point. There is far too much to write to explain the entire process, but in short, workers at Ellis Island were provided with a guide to identifying the forty-something “criminal types,” which were just based on physical characteristics, of course. This handbook went on to have a more public release because of the off chance that someone who was not uber white (and I say “uber” only because many skin tones regarded as white today were still rejected at this time) was admitted, with the idea being their surveillance was now diffused into their community, their neighbors, their schools. It became the responsibility of those around them to keep order in check. Later on in the 20th century, teachers were provided with a guidebook to identify racial markers in students in the case that their families chose not to disclose their racial identity. On top of that, we know that grading is based on the standards associated with the standards for straight white men (Gallagher, 1999), so the students being surveyed were already beginning from a deficit.

A quick final comment to touch on the AI conversation…I tried ChatGPT back in December before it blew up in the media— I was building an app for a class and input a request for it to “code me an application using Python that did XYZ and used this dataset: *link*.” What it spit back out was profoundly close to perfect code, and with minor tweaks from human intervention, it worked. The art discourse is interesting, given the art community and recent debates around NFTs, but I think folks who are concerned with it in the visual space need to understand it in the same way those who fear it in the writing space do. Understanding the technology and how to identify the discrepancies between human and computer output is a form of digital literacy and should be a teaching tool. For example, AI art struggles with consistency and minor distortions, in addition to not being able to draw hands for some reason. As far as whether or not it’s fair to develop an AI to create art and then enter an art competition, I’ll just stay out of that conversation, haha.

Week 5: Precarity and Labor

This week’s readings centered around the complex dynamic between Digital Humanities scholarship and the institutions in which it is produced. Boyles et al. (2018) describe how the collaborative nature of DH work is often exploitative in terms of how labor is distributed in favor of investing more funding into tangible digital resources (independent from humans). The argument is that the approach to digital humanities scholarship by many institutions within American higher education is ultimately not a sustainable one— which is very accurate. I cannot begin to express how many digital projects I have been involved with in the past five years and how many are currently collecting dust on the internet. I think CUNY tends to have a strong “starter place” mentality when it comes to these projects and initiatives that they get students and adjuncts involved with because the reality is that they’re just exposing people to this type of work with the expectation that they will then independently peddle it forward. Even long-standing DH projects I’ve been part of, such as the CUNY Academic Commons, which serves well over 30,000 members of CUNY, have to constantly argue for and justify their budget/expenses every single year. Additionally, the Commons has the potential to replace CUNY’s LMS entirely in favor of open pedagogies (if we’re willing to forfeit grading as a pedagogical tool), but we will never reach that scale due to the current size of our team and lack of support. At the same time, to speak to Oyo (2019), a large number of faculty members teaching on the Commons and integrating culturally sustaining and open pedagogies are our adjunct faculty. Their commitment to transformation is often taken advantage of and not supported in the same way our doctoral students are— and even our doctoral students are not properly trained to teach.

Week 4: Digitally-Driven Power Imbalances

This week’s readings touched on a couple of conversations I’ve been wrestling with for some time. With the overarching idea being how technology/digital culture influences institutions and workplace dynamics, I found a couple of points of minor contention with both the Tunstall and Walsh pieces. Starting with Walsh, who wrote about Kellogg’s research regarding introducing new technologies/processes and how that impacts the workplace; I was immediately disengaged from the idea when he opened by describing junior employees to be digital natives. The reason it was an immediate red flag for me, aside from my hard belief in the digital native not existing, is that the concept already clashes with some of the notions raised in the Tunstall piece. Tunstall thoroughly addressed how tech is, has been, and will likely always be imbalanced due to the knowledge and truths imbued into the technology. This leads to the question of who has access to these tools or proper training on how to maximize their efficiency with them. Then, the successful method presented, in order to avoid hurting higher executives’ feelings, was simply to take turns shouldering responsibility. When reduced to what it is, it feels almost silly that the explanation for reducing workplace conflict and power imbalances is to…work together. This feels more like a cultural issue being presented by introducing technology, not introducing technology producing new forms of conflict itself.

As for the Tunstall piece, I think it was overall well-presented. I agree with a majority of the piece but have one concern. I feel as though the discourse diverted at some point in the writing from being about technological biases’ impact more broadly to quickly narrowing in on artificial intelligence, drawing on examples like Bina48. I think all the information is relevant and important to consider, but I found it interesting that their presented solution was geared towards equal collaboration with other, less-biased AI. While I understand the idea, and I’ve even begun to use AI in my own position at Lehman— I think as a digital humanist, I’m naturally skeptical and slightly alarmed that the conversation where we’ve re-painted historical human-human dynamics as human-computer, Tunstall framing the dominant technologies created primarily by white men versus Bina48, an AI for an indigenous community, which appears rather almost to be presented as an indigenous AI/computer itself (separate from the community which it represents). While I love abolitionist design approaches, I’m hesitant about the level of sentience these machines might have, and how new conflicts could arise the more we invest in growing AI resources (especially ones with advanced machine learning models encoded). On top of this indigenous metaphor, the article itself is framed using master-slave power dynamics as the underscoring theme representing the relationship we have with technology. This is a recurring metaphor in tech articles; I saw it a few years ago when someone wrote about Amazon’s Alexa and the way we speak to it. I try to navigate away from using slavery as a metaphor, as it is simply not the same.

Week #3: The Double-Edged Sword of Transparency

This week’s materials were interesting, seeing the breakdown of prioritization across CUNY’s budgeting. Working in CUNY, I feel like I am involved in conversations about budgeting a lot, such as with the CUNY Commons and its struggles with funding or more typical cases like how money for roles/projects is distributed throughout office units via my position at Lehman. It is, however, always jarring to see the discrepancies in certain investments by the administration. For example, as someone working with teacher education programs currently, I was immediately drawn to the budget for Smart Classroom and Digital Technology upgrades. They stated they would be putting 8 million dollars towards the senior colleges and only 2 million dollars towards the community colleges. Not only does that number (while large, don’t get me wrong) seem small for a technology investment at the world’s largest urban university system to begin with, but to then provide the most accessible of our institutions with the least resources, feels not so good. This seems to be a trend across the budget, however. Having worked at LaGuardia and City Tech, where entire floors are unavailable, or 3/8 elevators are working at any given time, it’s unsurprising to see the numbers laid out as they are, but it’s still disappointing.

SeeThroughNY is a tool I’ve encountered before and hadn’t visited in a while, mostly because when I first found it, I was a very early graduate student doing the CUNY Juggle (working and adjunct’ing at about 2-3+ schools at any given semester), and it made me sad. I do think it is a very positive thing in that transparency can foster a healthier relationship between institutions and the public. I appreciate it for a lot of reasons, but I can also see the argument for privacy, too. We’ve made it a cultural norm not to ask people how much money they make, for example, and so to have it publicly available due to it being publicly funded, while fair, almost grants more privacy and, by extension, more social power to private institutions. Ultimately, I think it’s a good thing, but you have to wonder what kind of [drastic] shift would occur if suddenly everybody had to be transparent about their finances.

Week 2: Syllabus Feedback – Content Suggestion

Before reflecting on the content for this week, I’d like to echo and add onto a suggestion for the syllabus. I saw that Sean had a similar thought to myself when reviewing the course readings. When we begin reading about Power and Institutions, and given the tools we are using to complete coursework, I’d be interested in spending more time exploring the almost adversarial relationship between institutions, power, and open educational resource initiatives and projects. Perhaps this also could fall under precarity, depending on the angle. As a member of the CUNY Commons Team, I have these conversations a lot and would be curious to learn more about this struggle between openness and administration.

I also think it might be interesting to explore these themes in other digital spaces or topics. For example, I quickly saw the mention of AI below, and I would also be interested in engaging in a conversation about it and the way institutions respond to it.