I haven’t known how to introduce myself until Fiona ping’ed me (politely) to post a picture on my profile. I’d been dragging my feet at this for the past few weeks because I liked being a lego-head, aka remaining faceless and blending in. Not very often is my body, like other bodies of color, allowed this luxury. To put up a picture of myself is to confirm the obvious and other-ize myself in the digital sphere. Much of the early work on internet identity glorified online spaces as complete disembodiment, where one can leave their real world body behind. More recent scholars who focus their research on digital racial formation find it to be quite the opposite—bodies of color online are hyper-visible, either by their presence or their lack of presence.
By thinking this situation through, it got at the root of my motivation for research. Why do I do what I do? How do I keep returning to my work day after day? For me, my motivation is liberation and I see digital media as an emancipatory tool. And despite believing Audre Lorde that the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house, I work to transform digital media into something of our own that can be used for liberation. And this is why I refuse to detangle my research and my community work and why I primarily use participatory action research as my methodology. I’m adding to bell hooks when I say that teaching and learning is the practice of freedom. And why I’m so invested in educating and empowering young people of color through digital media.
I’m currently involved in two projects: (1) a place-based alternate reality game from archives of local Black and Latino activism with young people of color as my design collaborators and (2) creating and teaching an afterschool program that combines participatory learning, digital media skills, and sexual health for Black and Latino teen girls at a high school in South Los Angeles. Finally, as a huge proponent of scholars being whole people with personal lives and non-school interests, I host virtual dinner parties (we cook and eat the same recipe in kitchens across the U.S. in Google Hangout) for publicly engaged graduate students as part of Imagining America’s Publicly Active Graduate Education (PAGE) Fellowship.