Author Archives: Tuka Al-Sahlani

Final(ish) thoughts and project iteration

Tuka Al-Sahlani

There is a certain sense of infiniteness when it comes to digital space. We measure data and storage, yet we are offered and sign up for plans that provide unlimited data or unlimited storage. There is power to having something that is infinite, or at least the illusion of power with the ability to claim an expansive unseen vastness. Of course, this vast unseen is precarious. So, in this powerful precarious digital space, how do we care?Practice care? Perform care? As I continued to work on my project the digital space became a second thought. Community of practice became the priority. Communities of practice can help us care for ourselves, our loved ones, our colleagues, our students, our world. In the final iteration of my project I do ask about “where”, but will change the questions to “with whom”. With the infiniteness of space, I believe, community building is the priority. We need care to manage precarity and power. 

Below you will find my project presentation. I would appreciate any comments or suggestions. You all are a community I cherish. Thank you.

DHUM 78000 : PPC in DH: Writing Pedagogy from Compassion

MoMA and Care

Tuka Al-Sahlani

Purple and orange background with yellow letters that read: " You have the permission to be unproductive."

This inscription is above the shelf lined with artist Sosa’s books. It emphasizes the premise for the immersive exhibit–rest is an affordance and/or a luxury (given to you by others)– but so is reading. The official title of the exhibit is Black Power Naps: La Biblioteca is Open .Although it is in the title and Sosa explains why she chose to add her books to the exhibit, the books and reading/literacy are a secondary focus of the exhibit.. My mind is mapping five  words/images here: “permission” , “unproductive”, “biblioteca”, “open”, and the books. Affordances are things given to certain people. The use of the word permission intrigued me because who is giving us permission? The artists? A utopian society that prioritizes care? Ourselves?  Second,how/why is reading/literacy unproductive? Are the artists using this capitalist vernacular ironically? Third, permission and open both suggest there is an owner to the space. Who owns this space (symbolically)? I am asking these questions because although the artists want to create a safe space for Black people and other marginalized peoples, they are not inviting us into this space whether we are their intended users or not. Even “open” is not an invitation, it is a permission to enter a space.  I am surely reading too much into this, but trying to define the terms power, precarity, and care this semester has been an exercise in mindfully thinking about the power of our words, especially abstract and vague terms that have been co-opted to ground and grow the neoliberal agenda. For example, in my project Writing Pedagogy from Compassion: A (Community) Digital Garden, I was advised to define compassion first before inviting instructors. ( But, I have other plans…will share in class).  

Speaking of words: below are musings that were a part of a private conversation that I would like to share here.

My favorite piece from this semester was the Empathy is an Ideology zine. As I think about attunement/connection building and the awareness that spaces will not accommodate all, I become more convinced of the claim in the zine. If I am reading or hearing the word empathy , I am beginning to question is empathy just another word we have co-opted like freedom and diversity in the neoliberal space that will give us the illusion of care while we cause harm? It is difficult to define these abstract concepts, but we need the space to discuss and come to some understanding/grappling of these concepts. 

Also, the idea or the expectation to not feel discomfort and/or to receive accommodation all the time is a form of entitlement that can be harmful to the individual. I wonder how much of this entitlement is embedded in our culture as New Yorkers? as Americans? I am thinking about the way immigrants assimilate and adapt to uncomfortable situations because they see their displacement as present and chosen, so they accept the consequences. This is not to say that immigrants should be harmed or that they should not be protected, but to say many immigrants accept the discomfort of being the Other as a reality. I am going off on a tangent, but the concept of entitlement—who, under what circumstances, and how much does it affect what and of whom we demand change…

In conclusion ( because I have to stop somewhere), I found the experience of going to the MoMA and the exhibit valuable in a few ways. 1) It was memorable to see many of you in person and to experience the exhibition and the AI art piece “Refik Anadol: Unsupervised” with you. 2) It was great to go to the museum after many years. 3) My daughter was able to meet and interact with a few of you, and you made her time worthwhile. Thank you! 4) The exhibit, overall , was enlightening and did its job of opening up and encouraging the conversations necessary to be had about care and rest for ourselves and our communities.  

Thank you Katina for expanding the space of our classroom and inviting us to think of care in more ways and spaces.

Distant Reading for Care Key Words.

Tuka Al-Sahlani

So, I decided to “play” with other ways to read and write my post this week. I was very interested in the Praxis Program Charter. I decided to see if the language change pre, within, and post pandemic. Below are links of the word clouds:

18-19 Cohort

20-21 ( COVID is explicitly stated in the preamble)

20-23 ( Post? Covid)

Time is highlighted in the 20-21 charter. It is the charter that has time repeated 11 times. In the 18-19 time is repeated twice and in 20-23 time is repeated 20-23. Dutring the pandemic time was finite and a commodity. Many of us practiced care for ourselves and for others by considering time a space of care. I am intrigued and concerened: are we going to forget to care and value our time as we return to “normal”?

You need to care enough to learn…right?

Tuka Al-Sahlani

I don’t know where to begin, because there is so much to think about. I envy people who create mind maps…I feel these readings require some idea/map mapping. And this notion of mind-mapping is lingering because when I read Empathy is an Ideology I was excited to read about this difficult concept that we have been taught we must practice from classic literary characters like Atticus to social media reels and all i could think about as an alternative was Standpoint Theory. Then I read Connection Established  and I thought, yes, here is standpoint theory in practice, but I was a little taken aback because even with the gender neutral pronouns, I knew the character who brought their son to the office was a woman.( I couldn’t read beyond that because it was much.) Then I read Design Justice, and appreciated the detailed expression of their standpoint. I knew exactly what they had gone through, not through empathy, but by being in a similar standpoint. From there I  went down a rabbit hole and  searched some of the artists mentioned and found this remarkable artist Zahra Agjee at She used design justice network principles in her project (mus)interpreted.  You can read about it here:, i read chapter one of Caring to Know and happy to find the thread of standpoint theory was challenged again with the concept of “relational humility”. My mind wandered back to Connection Established and the introduction to Design Justice. Are empathy, standpoint, and relational humility similar to operating at the “speed of trust”? If we need the speed of trust to produce knowledge as mentioned last week, wouldn’t care be a form of doing things with trust? 

I have a lot more on my mind. I look forward to our discussion soon. But, if I didn’t care enough about knowing about care, I wouldn’t have gone on these tangents. Also, how is caring to know different/similar to bell hook’s pedagogy of hope?

“Move at the speed of trust,”

Tuka Al-Sahlani

First and foremost, thank you Adrianna, Brie, and Nelson for these readings! I resisted highlighting everything, especially in Bailey’s article. Also, Adrianna, I very much appreciated the annotated pdf! I need to do this for my students! Thank you for setting this example. 

Now on to Bailey…

I want to agree with everything Bailey says because  it resonates with me as a PhD student, a DH researcher, a former K-12 teacher, a parent, and just living in New York City, but I kept thinking of the affordances and privileges that are required to make Bailey’s proposal feasible. I had this conversation with my observer only yesterday: pace and funding. First, this being a post observation conference, I asked her where I could improve and she mentioned I could consider slowing down, although my students were able to match my pace, it would be good to consider pace. I agreed with her because, well, as a trained K-12 teacher, one is trained to meet objectives and complete the curriculum and I need to remind myself I am in an institution (despite our grievances with it) that allows me more room to conduct a course with more flexibility. Second, as a graduate teaching fellow, she asked what I anticipated to do in the future and I told her I am more concerned of doing as much as possible with these five years of guaranteed funding. This brings me back to Bailey: I believe in the proposal and know that DH is exemplary in nurturing movement at “the speed of trust”, but this will require more than a community to create an ideology of process vs product or practicing “ethics of pace”. 

On “ One Way to Think with Precarity in the Classroom”…

I chose to read this article because although I know precarity exists in the classroom, I wanted to read an intentional implementation of it in the course. I decided to copy the quotes I favored and my thoughts. 

“mutual accountability and community” I want to be brave enough to do more. 

“What do they need to learn, then, to inhabit this world well?” Shouldn’t this be the purpose of all higher education, if not the essence of education itself? 

“such as precarity, can liberate the curriculum from canonical restrictions” love it

“inside/grievable – outside/precarious” I find this nothing to signify whose life should we value and I’m reminded of all the injustices ( sanctioned and unsanctioned to stem from this expandable quality of the life on the outside.

“ A course on precarity keeps history and the state of the present live and “in play” in ways that focusing on the -ism alone might not. “ This is an actionable item–something to think about and apply. 

“Precarious Bodies accomplishes this by engaging phenomenology and its tools, connecting to issues of precarity and its differential distribution, and inviting students to consider the interplay between what they’re learning in class, how it meshes with their experience (or challenges them), and how they’ll take that learning into the wider world.” I think I was trying to express this last week when I said we need this course “Power, Precarity, and Care to be a core course offering–this is why?

I look forward to our class discussion!

Project: TLDR

Tuka Al-Sahlani

I am working on a digital project for my ITP course that centers care and compassion as a pedagogical framework for a writing classroom. I am exploring the format of the digital garden (both metaphorically and technically). Presently, the working name of my project is Writing Pedagogy from Compassion: A Community Digital Garden.

 A digital garden simply stated is a blog that encourages knowledge creation and writing as a process by setting the premise that the posts are incomplete and/ or developing. This notion, for me, allows teachers, especially writing pedagogues, a space to think and write about compassionate strategies and practices in their writing classrooms while embodying the vulnerability of writing their students and most ( if not all) writers experience in the act of writing. 

Metaphorically, the garden as a place of nurture, growth, and community is appealing to me. In that sense, my grand idea (hence TLDR) is to have a community digital garden. As of now I have a sketch of a website with three main sections: rows (the digital garden where “gardeners” post ideations/projects/questions), commune ( the forum for members to ask and respond to each other), and the harvest (resources for teaching writing from compassion). 

This is the landing page of the sketch. I learned about better ways to design my page last week at a GC Digital Fellows workshop that I will implement. 

In my meeting with Nelson, he suggested using Miro, a collaborative platform for the Rows aspect of my website. I explored some of the templates on Miro for education and reflection and found them helpful, but I have yet to figure out if or how to embed Miro into my website, but I also believe I can replicate one or two of the reflection templates in the Rows section. ( Thank you Nelson!)

My concerns now are, what section should I tackle first? I think the resource section might be the easiest (if such a thing exists) since I will be curating resources and not creating them. This will allow me to think of the digital garden aspect and how to curate the seasonal gardeners ( writing pedagogues) who will think and write in the space. I am not too sure I want to include the commune section. I would like some feedback or questions to help me through the choice to keep or eliminate or revise the commune ( forum) section. 

Yes, this is a large project, but presently I want to work on the minimum viable product. 

If you would like to learn more about a digital garden, here are a few resources:

The Garden and the Stream:

Maggie Appleton’s garden 

Amanda Pinkser’s reading list 

Tom Critchlow’s personal digital garden 

Sindhu Shivaprasad’s garden Garden Terms of Service:

Grading as policing…just wow

Tuka Al-Sahlani

Madoré et al, “Resisting Surveillance” (JITP)

“The growing critical literature on grading tells us that grades reflect graders’ biases, too often replicating normative definitions of “good” writing, participation, or comportment contingent on white, cis, straight, middle/upper class, non-disabled, English monolingual ideals (Kynard 2008).”

This made me pause and reflect. I know grading is subjective, especially in writing courses, especially in writing courses with mostly multilingual and diverse students, but what I have seemed to miss is that I was/am participating in exclusionary practices. I have read about upgrading and contractual grading ( which this piece critiques) from a pedagogical perspective of serving the whole student and creating space for differentiation and universal design. However,  I have not encountered the perspective of grading as a means of policing and surveillance– at least nothing that has made me pause in awe. I have been thinking about revising my grading system in my undergraduate class, but have been delaying implementing it because of the labor required to make such changes. After reading this article,  I cannot delay the changes. There is a sense of urgency that I felt from this article, and justifiably so, seeing that austerity is becoming the means of managing CUNY currently. Thinking of precarity though, I know that teaching small or in this case upgrading small will be a better way to sustain change in the long run. Now, I am thinking: What small grading changes can I make in the remainder of the semester to avoid some policing in my course?

Digital humanities needs human resources

Tuka Al-Sahlani

My response to Adashima Oyo’s “Innovation and Burnout” article  wass, “ yes”, “yes”, “I hear you”, “yes”, “exactly”. This is my second semester teaching undergraduates in CUNY colleges. I was an Open Knowledge Fellow and went in my first semester of teaching with the aim to have a course site, OERs, upgrading policy, and all the ideals I want in my course. Suffice to say I did none, or I did slivers of some. I quickly realized, although I had the information and tools, I did not have the time to prepare for this better course. So, yes, Oyo, I agree, “ many of these [critical digital pedagogy]  methods require extensive preparation and planning for the adjunct.” These methods are successful  because of the time, labor, connectedness and transparency of these adjuncts in their pedagogy.  ( Shout out to the part-time  faculty–and fellows– at CUNY!) 

As for the Digital Precarity Manifesto.–WOW! I am not sure which quote to specifically reflect on because I might have annotated every other sentence, but there are two things that struck me. One, the historicization of digital precarity or even “the chain” of digital labor that I have not read about nor been introduced to in the general area of digital humanities.  I have always read/ seen digital humanities from the product and not from the production. Two, the breadth of the feminist perspective, but also the “miracle worker”( Boyles, et al.) tone of the feminist perspective. The Digital Precarity Manifesto does not support the “miracle worker” status, but ( and this could be me in awe of the manifesto) it reads like a superhero manifesto. I want to be in that league, but how do we go about eliminating that tone? Or, should I accept that tone as powerful and reframe it?

Another question I had pertained to Boyles et al’s “Precarious Labor and DH”. Summer institutions are something I have looked into precisely as the authors mention to supplement my skills and possibly increase my hireability, but these institutions do offer courses that do read as valuable to scholars in their respective fields. So, how do we provide for continuing learners (because if it is not for a job prospect then these individuals are continuing learners) to attend and benefit from institutions?
Another note on Boyle et al. When I read this quote “few DH projects will ever achieve the level of support or traffic that requires having full-time support staff dedicated to the maintenance of that project” (697) it reminded me of the ITP projects that remain accessible are mostly sponsored such as  Journalism and COVID-19: The Toll of a Pandemic sponsored by PEN America and Teaching Bilinguals (Even if You’re Not One!) that is a part of the CUNY-New York State Initiative for Emergent Bilinguals.

Rethinking, redesigning, re…

Tuka Al-Sahlani

I was not expecting the idea that technology is the slave and we are the master in Dori Tunstall’s essay. It is intriguing to read about the Indigenous Protocol and Artificial Intelligence Working Group and only when the idea of Indigenous practices of “all my relations” did I understand why we need to reconsider this master/slave relationship. Initially, I was resistant to the idea of technology as equal– I am not sure I would agree with using the term equal–but I do see the value in enhancing interconnectedness instead of engagement. Interconnectedness would benefit the humans and the Earth. I think of technology and humanoid robots as inanimate objects, so the interconnectedness for me would be, as Tunstall suggests, to rethink and redesign technology with BIPOC consciousness to eliminate the biases and the notion that technology is inconsequential.

I believe the flawed notion that technology is inconsequential is why the Tech Learning Collective and the FemTechNet exist. It is the humanists who are interrogating technology that have allowed us to rethink power and technology. But, as one of the many who use technology without mindfulness, how am I using it with the FemTehNet manifesto in mind? I think, what I am asking is, in what small ways can we modify our technological usage and sponsor or promote these smaller conscious changes in our families, within our friend circles, and communities? I connect these questions to Walsh’s reading because I have seen the damage in employee moral and work environment when an administrator decides ”let’s add new software to [insert field/task/skill here] and everyone must use it” with the promise of technological software as a utopian fixer upper to all educational and work issues.

Thank you Jen and Sean for these readings!

Week 3: Financial literacy and power

–Tuka Al-Sahlani is aptly named. I first came across this site when faculty and students signed the GC Statement of No Confidence back in November. The site was circulated among smaller student messaging groups or individually to encourage more signatures. The site came with an implicit message of, “Hey, look at how much admin is making and look at what they give us.” But, although the site is a non-for profit entity that allows transparency of wages, I think using it to compare pay is using it at its minimal function. Exploring the site for this class, and thinking of what is legible, I was drawn to the different categories such as benchmarks, waivers, and NYS budget. I think what is legible is that financial literacy is not a common literacy afforded or taught to many of our students nor to us. Browsing, my questions were: 1) Looking at the payroll, what are the demographics of these individuals? What is their education? How many years of service have they had? 2) Looking through the NYS Budget, I wondered, what are the policy changes that impact the budget? Or, have they impacted the budget significantly?. 3) Viewing the benchmarks, I couldn’t find Queens for property taxes and wondered, how much civil knowledge do we really have?  Overall, I think what was legible from browsing this site is that although the site intends and is framed as a public resource to help the public, the public does not necessarily have the literacy required to analyze the information present. ( I say public because they state: Our mission is to make New York a better place to live and work by promoting public policy reforms grounded in free-market principles, personal responsibility, and the ideals of effective and accountable government. The use of the phrase “personal responsibility” makes me think this is for the public.)

Deep sigh when looking through the budgeting documents because as a Site Director for a NYC Early Education Center, I have had to create and implement a budget as a New York City vendor. Reviewing these documents and knowing the process, I am well aware that these numbers are devoid of the nuances of employee needs and of the unwritten subcategories. For example, “ Gifts and grants increased by $82.5 million. The increase primarily was the result of three significant one time gifts to the University from a single donor.” ( CUNY financial statement 14). What does this even mean? Who is this donor? Why are they donating? What negotiations/compromises do we as an institution need to make with this donor?

Maybe it’s my feeble financial literacy speaking or my writing instructor persona speaking, but although these are public documents made accessible, the intended audience are financial and policy making professionals. However, if we want to be a part of securing justice for us as students and employees of a public institution, we need to learn to “write” a new genre: budgets! A simple walk through of the Mellon Foundations Grantee Portal instructions proves that a for credit course at the graduate level is in order. Of course, not everyone will want to work as an administrator or write a grant proposal, but the reality is this is a literacy required for us, graduate students, to support our work in the systems of power we negotiate; and the system of monetary power is one worth learning to negotiate.