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Reflections on 2 Years of Experiments

Reflections on 2 Years of Experiments

This is a transcript of the linked audio file from my HASTAC Showcase presentation at the University of Kansas, May 9, 2019. I was quite rubbish at keeping a blog, but here is a record of some of the things I did!

 

Begin Transcript:
Hello! My name is An Sasala and I am an outgoing HASTAC scholar. A big thanks to Dhanashree for her assistance in making my digital presence possible and for her thoughtful advising during my HASTAC tenure. Apologies for my absence, I am, ideally in this moment, being told I can slowly start walking again after breaking my ankle in March. Rest assured, I made sure my doctor has the all important machine which goes BING (sound).
 
I spent the majority of my HASTAC time focusing on feminist digital pedagogy. More specifically, I integrated DH skills and projects into my Women, Gender + Sexuality Studies, or WGSS, courses. I also researched feminist approaches to digital tools, texts, entities, and worlds, much of which informs my Film + Media Studies MA research into Cortana, Microsoft's digital personal assistant.

I will provide an overview of my pedagogical work, but want to briefly highlight some of my HASTAC activities and accomplishments. As chair of the 2019 Film + Media Studies Grad Student Symposium planning committee, I assisted with the facilitation of a three day event including academic presentations, film screenings, art installations, and a direct animation/critical making workshop with keynote speaker Kelly Gallagher. I premiered a short film titled R*ge W*ve as part of my own critical film-making practice. Backtracking a bit, in summer 2018, I collaborated with Brian and Dhanashree on a DH workshop for KU faculty as part of the annual Teaching Summit. I will help plan and present on a similar panel this summer. Additionally, I attended the 2018 Digital Frontiers conference, hosted by KU, and prepared an introduction for keynote speaker Rasheedah Phillips, who sadly could not attend due to the weather. For the conference, I organized and presented on the very successful panel "Feminist Uses of Digital Humanities: Grad Student Approaches + Perspectives." If you would like to know more, please send me an email, I am happy to talk further.

 

Digital Humanities often functions as an umbrella term; in my classes, I define DH three ways:
1. a humanities approach to digital tools and/or technology
2. a digital or computational approach to the humanities
3. AND a merging of the 1st two to create new information and forms of critique.

As I taught 100: Intro to WGSS and will teach 530: Sex, Gender + New Media, I also wove in elements of feminist thought and/or queer, trans*, and decolonial theories. Due to the limited time, I will provide two course snapshots focused on point 3: the creation of new information and critique.

WGSS 100 introduces students to feminist thoughts and activist movements. My week on Indigenous feminisms and activist tactics included a discussion of 3 countermapping projects: the Red Dress Project, Mapping Indigenous LA, and Native-Land.ca. Each intervenes into and subverts colonial map making practices through tactical shifts in aesthetics, language, mode of interaction, and the types of information represented. We spent the most time on Native-Land.ca, a critical re-mapping project started by non-Indigenous individuals. The map includes pop-up info boxes related to treaties and land rights with hyperlinks to and quotes from Indigneous sources, and privileges Indigenous made maps. Aesthetically, Native-Land.ca enables the removal colonial borders and the overlaying of maps for
territories, languages, and treaties. Most importantly for my purposes, Native-Land.ca allows users to type in addresses to see whose land they occupy.

Responses from students ranged broadly. Some noted that their initial disorientation upon viewing a map without colonial borders allowed them to understand United States geography and history in a new way. Searching for home addresses spurred feelings of intimacy, immediacy, and complicity; many students mentioned the experience as the first time they confronted their own status as a colonizer. I expected these reactions, primed students for them, but as often happens, students find things you didn't. Looking at a zoomed out view of North America with all overlays enabled, one student noted that the interplay of pinks, purples, blues, and reds gave the map a bruised look, which they interpreted as a metaphor for the legacies of colonial violence enacted against Indigenous peoples and their land.

Overall, I consider this activity a huge success and one I plan to use in future courses.

 

In summer 2019, I will teach an online 4wk version of WGSS 530: Sex, Gender + New Media. My version of the course examines the construction, circulation, and maintenance of sex, gender, and additional identities within New Media platforms, art, and discourse. 4 week classes are tricky, so I opted for week 1 as an Intro to New Media with weeks 2-4 constituting deep dive case studies. Week 1 pushes students to understand "newness" as historically contingent and to think beyond social media. Weeks 2-4 then cover Video Games, Tech Gentrification, and Robotics.

Wk 2: Video Games, engages students with Queer Theory, Critical Play, and Critical Making. Combining the three provides students with an analytical lens which recognizes and works to subvert unquestioned perpetuation of heteronormative, patriarchal, binary, or expected structures within video games. This can include the general lack of queer and trans* characters, narratives with monogamous or discrete endings, and/or expected modes of interaction, i.e. press X to jump and Y to punch. In addition to reading, students will play a selection of queer and/or indie games including Molleindustria's NSFW "Queer Power" and "Triad," Anna Anthropy's polyamorous take on tetris. While the compressed timeline does not allow students to make their own video games, they will propose a game which "queers," or shifts, established video game modes of interaction, narrative or character-design conventions, or aesthetics.

I'll keep my specific hopes for this course close to my chest, but look forward to reporting back in the fall!

 

I very much enjoyed my time as a HASTAC scholar and am incredibly grateful to Brian and Dhanashree for their mentoring, advice, and the plethora of opportunities. The extra funds helped too, but my HASTAC experience ultimately boils down to the unmissable chance for incredible personal and professional growth as a scholar and educator. With that said, I am happy to share lesson plans or talk feminist and/or DH pedagogy with any and everyone who is interested. Thank you all for your time. Feel free to drop me a line if you'd like to continue the conversation or ask any questions.

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