Digital Identity and Technophobia/Technophilia Unite!

Greetings, all!

Welcome to our shared session of these two cohorts at Digital Pedagogy Lab 2020. We, Sherri Spelic and Becky Weaver, agreed that plenty of overlap exists between our two courses so we’re excited to pool our groups’ brilliant minds for a common reading and discussion.

Before we get into the logistics of our cooperation, it probably helps to have a short intro into the areas of focus in our respective tracks.

In Digital Identity we are confronted with a ‘laundry basket of a topic’ because it contains so many potentially related but not necessarily matching parts - social media profiles, yes, but also e-mail, LMS presence, self-selected activities vs. mandated/required involvement, institutional vs. personal identities. While we consider possible definitions, much more of our time is spent examining and analyzing our varied digital entanglements and looking for clues about how best to manage these in ways that serve our needs and those of our students with care and justice.

In T/T we also have a ‘laundry basket of a topic’ because we have the central (and in some ways centrist) charge to moderate between the two poles of technophobia and technophilia in education, yet the actual and multiple spaces in which we encounter various forms of tech impacts the amount of fear of or obsession with tech we have. Our task is to navigate between the pitfalls of technophobia & technophillia in education, and collaborate on approaches grounded in compassionate and reflexive pedagogy. In some ways, this means thinking about shaping our overall approach, and in other ways, it means thinking about the ethical & educational implications of specific tech tool use.

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Photo by Ryoji Iwata / Unsplash

We’ve chosen Virginia Eubanks’s “Digital Poorhouse” article as a centerpiece for our conversation. It forms the introduction to her book, Automating Inequality in which she reports on algorithmic decision-making in the provision of social services and how these both reinforce and perpetuate the heightened surveillance and negative labeling of poor people, particularly folks of color.

We look forward to a rich conversation in our specially designated discussion space. Below, you’ll find the details of our venture.

Activities:

Reading: The Digital Poorhouse, by Virginia Eubanks

Writing: Once you’ve read this and had a chance to think about it, do a little freewriting: write as much as you can, as quickly as you can, not pausing, to write down whatever comes first, without judging it, using one (or more--up to you!) of the following prompts. Don’t write longer than 2-3 minutes for each option:


Consider this: Eubanks describes the concept of Gandy’s “rational discrimination” as not requiring “class or racial hatred, or even unconscious bias, to operate. It requires only ignoring bias that already exists. When automated decision-making tools are not built to explicitly dismantle structural inequalities, their increased speed and vast scale intensify them dramatically.


  1. When and where have you encountered evidence of technology that “ignores bias that already exists”?
  2. What biases already exist in LMSs or other #edtech? Which students might be most affected by those biases? Which professors?
  3. Where do you see the consequences of this bias playing out at your school?
  4. Think about the communities of practice you are a member of: what (if any) conversations have you had about implicit or ignored biases in the tech you use? If such conversations are not on the agenda, which topics are prioritized instead?
  5. How has your awareness of bias in tech tools influenced your perception of technology over time?

Discussing: join us in our very own co-discourse site (which will open up Wednesday morning) to talk about these. Just as in your site for your regular cohort, you can create a topic or respond to someone else’s. You are welcome (though not required) to post something inspired by your freewriting and/or your reading.

If you’re interested in more conversation around these themes, here are some additional resources:

We are excited about this collaboration and welcome the exchange as we bring our two groups together.

Sherri Spelic and Becky Weaver

~ Read next post in Digital Identity, ~

Day 4 Pedagogy and Digital Identity

Posted by Sherri Spelic

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