Hello HASTAC Scholars! My name is Evan Johnson (although almost everyone who knows me even a little bit calls me Poe). I’m a third year PhD candidate at University of Texas at Dallas in Aesthetic Studies. Aesthetic Studies is really too broad of a term to really mean anything, so I’m not going to try and define it. Instead, it’s probably easier to define my area of concentration. I work on epiphylogenetic representations of race in popular and digital media, and how those depictions become vehicles for racial coding in participatory cultural networks. This is to say that I’m pretty sure that I am in the right place.
Still, this can all be very intimidating. Where do you start? How do you start? How do you find people who are interested in the same things that you’re interested in? These are all questions that I have asked myself many different times over the last couple of weeks. That’s what leads me to writing this post that I am writing right now.
I don’t know how it is for other people, but getting a PhD in Dallas, TX and being interested in race are not synonymous with each other. The university is great. And, in terms of studying technology, I’m not sure I could ask for any place better. However, when you add race into the mixture the prospects for finding like-minded individuals dry up quickly. (BTW, believe the hype. Dallas summers are the armpit of Hell. If, you know, Hell had armpits.) So I find myself writing one of these introductory blog posts for two reasons:
1. I don’t know what to write about.
2. That, in the hopes that somewhere out there are people who ask similar questions that I ask, who are concerned about the same issues that I am concerned, who, perhaps, have answers that I do not yet have, we can find each other.
I love technology. I’m one of those people that think technology is hardwired into our biological makeup. That language, one of our chief structuring technologies, informs nearly every aspect of how we see the world. I think that it is impossible to understand the human experience without technology. However, as technology increasingly shifts to a representational model that is not found in materiality, I am concerned about how the use of digital interfaces within the classroom, such as MOOCs, potentially leave some students behind. Furthermore, how do classrooms that function on collectivist models handle identity issues? How do we account for those people who aren’t obviously included in the discussions administrators, and educators, have when integrating digital platforms?
Perhaps it’s just me, but I constantly feel as if I have to explain my humanity to people. Thus identity politics are still very much an issue. I suspect I’m not alone. My primary interests in joining HASTAC are to learn and to build a community. I don’t know if I need to explicitly say this or not, but I’m not interested in exclusion. I’m willing to learn from anyone who has knowledge to offer. I hope to hear from all of those interested in similar pursuits.