Archive for September, 2008

CRT and Tech Comm

By js, 8 September, 2008, 1 Comment

Critical Race Theory and Technical Communication

this seems like a possible presentation for ATTW

The Rhetoric of Deficiency in STEM

By js, 8 September, 2008, No Comment

Reading the article Increasing the Representation of Women and People of Color
in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM):
Scan and Synopsis of Approaches and Opportunities. at

Shifting the burden
In the existing framework, it is women and people of color—and their lack of skill—that become the problem, and the solution is to fix them by equipping them with the necessary STEM skills. Researchers using the pipeline model to understand and address underrepresentation have asked: “What do women and people of color need to be successful scientists?” But what if we asked: “What does science need to be successfully inclusive?” Suddenly, it is science itself that needs to change. The burden of responsibility is no longer placed on individual women and people of color, but on the field itself. While barriers to the full participation of women and people of color exist in many areas, they are especially extreme in STEM, suggesting that we must look closely at issues within these fields to understand the underrepresentation within them.

I am seeing this more and more. This is the rhetoric of deficiency which others such as Yosso discuss. This is definitely something worth pursuing further.

In order to fully incorporate the perspectives of women and people of color, in STEM fields, women and people of color can not be simply “fit into” science as it is; science itself must change. For this to happen, in turn, we need to bridge the gap between our understanding of the culture of science – either as developed by those who study it, or as understood by scientists and practitioners themselves – and the practices of implementing the reform necessary to increase diversity in STEM fields. Some of the most interesting answers may be revealed through the stories and reflections of those scientists – women and people of color – that have “made it” through the system.


The Problem of Representation

By js, 7 September, 2008, No Comment

In the blog of Tomas Summers Sandoval ( he says:

Both the cases of Obama and Palin are illuminated by the study of the past.  In particular, my thoughts turn to the legendary Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives.  She ran for the Democratic nomination for president in 1972–a woman and an African American and a true progressive–and, yet, has received far too little mention this past year.  In her 1970 autobiography, Unbought and Unbossed, she wrote:

“That I am a national figure because I was the first person in 192 years to be at once a congressman, black, and a woman proves, I would think, that our society is not yet either just or free.”

Chisholm, never one to let her status as a Black woman be used for the purposes of absolution for a national record of historic oppression, carefully avoided the very common place and common sense analysis of her achievements at the time.  Most saw her “historic” career as proof of her individual success, as well as evidence that the system of the past was changing, however slowly.  But Chisholm doesn’t make her election about herself, she makes it about the system at large.  She diffuses the significance of representation, saying instead that the odd interest in it only serves to highlight the continuing inequalities and inequities in society at large.

Shirley Chisholm knew the historic record of racial and gender oppression was not about representation, about whether or not women and people of color were “allowed” to attain visibility.  In other words, the lack of women or persons of color in nationally-elected offices was not the problem.  It was a symptom of the problem.  The problem was always a larger collection of institutionalized beliefs which held that both women and nonwhites were inferior.  These beliefs–once situated as the rationale of a political system–become the “common sense” of how it operates.  Of course there are no women or Black presidents.  Of course all presidents are white males.

In a way, if racism and sexism were just about representation, neither would be a real problem today.  The solution to each would be clear, achievable, and easy to measure.  If both were just about peoples’ belief systems, we’d be fine, too. But sexism and racism are not that simple.  Both have much more to do with power and how it is allocated.  For example, the widespread belief in Black inferiority would have done nothing than strain interpersonal relations if it had not become institutionalized into our systems of power.  Once it had, it served as the rationale for distributing economic and political advantage.  In the 20th century, then, you have government bodies like the FHA giving out low cost loans to whites only, creating them into a legally protected, property-owning class, while Blacks and other nonwhites had to coninue to find alternate means of achieving that part of the “American Dream.”

Representation is but a symptom of those systems of power.  To make another analogy, you can cure a symptom without curing the cold.

These are seemingly simple differences of analysis but they carry heavy implications.  The election of Barack Obama or Sarah Palin into the executive branch of this nation’s government will be something that has never happened before.  It will carry with it an important set of consequences, helping to slowly dismantle and rebuild people’s expectations of leadership.  But, that is not change in and of itself.  Real change is rarely so easy and free of struggle.

Meaningful change in a society historically obsessed with disempowering people of color and women will be the (re)formation of egalitarian and equitable systems of power.  When we can produce equal measures of opportunity and success in this nation, then something really historic has occurred.

Of course, you don’t have to be a woman or a person of color to do that.

This is the phrase which really caught my attention

Representation is but a symptom of those systems of power.  To make another analogy, you can cure a symptom without curing the cold.

So is my focus on representation and what people who DO have access to technology do with that technology misguided. Should I be focusing on the issue of access to technology feeds into the inequality in this country. BUT it seems to me that this discussion has already happened. It has already been broached by Cindy Selfe and others who discuss the digital divide.

So if I want to focus on how that discussion of the digital divide focuses us too much on the materiality of the problem which as Sandoval argues is easy to solve and not on the unequal nature of the frameworks involving technology. For example,

  • the fact that technology is a money making enterprise really restricts who can have access; it costs money to own a computer, it costs money to get internet access, it costs money to get a phone and to get phone service
  • the skills of being computer literate and computer savvy cannot be gained without the use of the tool
  • it is like teaching literacy to students without letting them have books
  • therefore, the tool has to be provided to everyone and not only those who have the money to purchase it

So I can focus my discussion on how digital literacy is like all other literacies which are tied to economics and tied to a “white” and priviledged identity

More Focus

By js, 7 September, 2008, No Comment

How are people of color using technology to take control of their representation in online spaces?

are they taking control of their representation?

do they know that they are creating a self-representation

what are their goals in online spaces?

how do they feel/what do they think about representations of themselves which they encounter in online spaces?

why am I interested in all this?

I think that individuals need to be conscious of the fact that they do create a representation of themselves. what happens when there is no representation? what happens when all they do is participate in the representations of others? how does a critical self-aware life in off-line spaces, being politically active or aware, help in creating awareness of the representation? do these bloggers know they are creating a representation of themselves, a representation of themselves as women, a representation of themselves as Chicana/Latinas; do they just want to “express” themselves or is their a conscious construction and manipulation of the image that they create; if so, who is that image for? if they only want to “express” themselves, do they have a clear sense of audience? if they are conscious of their representation, do they have a clear sense of audience?

this is what my question points to but I feel like I still need to think about it.

Thinking about Focus

By js, 6 September, 2008, 1 Comment

Being there when Lennie’s pre-proposal got approved has given me some renewed energy. I’m going to have to consciously ignore everything else that is vying for my attention. Here goes…

So I know that I want to concentrate on

  • People of color and technology

Of course, that is too broad. I know, I know. So I have to focus even further. This was my path…

I started researching people of color and technology and this lead me to the discussion of the digital divide. This discussion, of course, is very big and very important. This is a discussion about

  • access to the technology which means
  • access to those skills which means
  • access to future jobs
  • access to self-representation
  • which ultimately means access to a better life via economic opportunities gained by those jobs and control over how one sees oneself

Now access to technology does NOT mean that the rest will follow but only that they CANNOT follow without it. Why is this important? Because alot of the research that I have seen has centered on access to the equipment and that research has been funded by industry which means that those providing the funds for the studies want to know how to reach those people who have alot of money to spend. It is all about market share. That is what I have seen about Hispanics. Hispanics are a big part of the population. Hispanics have a lot of money to spend. Hispanics are not accessing the web as much as others. That has alot of implications for advertising on the web (who the audience on the web is) and for designing advertising geared for that particular population which is NOT online. So one recent study looked at the fact that Hispanics are using the phone alot more than the web especially older Hispanics are adopting that technology alot more readily than they are online/internet technologies.

So one result of this is that advertisers will continue to assume that the web means a “white” audience, which means that if others go online and find that they are not being wooed then they may not feel welcomed. They will turn to other places (as consumers). If they don’t see themselves represented, then….then what? what will they do?

This particular question…I’m not really interested in answering especially because that only gives those in power more information about how to exploit this population. If they don’t see themselves represented, they will go someplace else. There is plenty of market data to prove that already. i don’t think the web is any different.

The question of NOT seeing themselves REPRESENTED is what interests me. What “excuses” the majority from representing everyone POC (my interest is primarily CHicanos), what representation ARE they creating and who do those representations benefit (according to Nakamura those representations only benefit the majority, they construct reprsentations that they can use as entertainment, voyuerism).

Partly, what helps the majority to “excuse” themselves is the discourse of the digital divide. The digital divide discourse basically looks at POC as deficient. The discourse uses an assumption of cultural capital as defined by the majority. That is, cultural capital as meaning education, economics, connections.

That boils down to

  1. having the money to get the goods (technology)
  2. having the education to make use of the goods (tech skills)
  3. having the connections to get the technology and the tech skills

So we know from digital divide research that not everyone has access to the equipment, software, physical connections to the internet. There are alot of different reasons for this. Partly, though, this discourse accomplishes one thing and sets one goal for policy

  • get people the equipment, put them near a computer and it will help
    • the problem with this is that getting someone near the computer does not mean he will learn how to use it or how to use it well (what well means, of course, is being defined)
  • from the research follows the logic that not many POC are using the technology so our effort should be in getting the technology to them
    • the danger here (and we see it now) is that this focus creates a dearth of research about POC who are using this technology;
      • who are they?;
      • how are they using it?;
      • why are they using it?;
      • how did they come to use it?;
      • how are they representing themselves through the use?
      • all of these are questions which are unanswered.

Now the research about digital literacy tells us that people need to have particular skills regarding the technology. They need to know

  • how to use specific tools (they need to have the instrumental skills)
    • instrumental skills, though, do not mean that they can use the technology critically
  • specific ways of  using the tools to produce specific results (they need critical thinking and problem solving skills)
    • using the tools to produce growth in critical thinking and problem solving skills requires different access to technology; having blocks, having one computer per classroom, having teachers who only use technology as presentation tools, having assignments which require uncritical use of the tool, do not lead to this type of growth
    • this, though, seems to be leading me to policy and pedagogy and NOT towards representation
    • but I think that students need to be able to use the tools critically and for problem solving so that they can get to the level of thinking about self-representation
    • if they only learn instrumental skills (like Word to make a specific product rather than BASIC which is to produce a specific process) then they will not get to the level of self-awareness; they know how to use the tool to produce a specific product but can they retool the tool to solve a specific problem
      • the focus on the tool, then, does NOT help us to ask questions about how the tool is used with the focus on a problem rather than producing a specific product

Looking at POC and Technology Through CRT Lens

By js, 6 September, 2008, No Comment

Tenets of critical race theory

  • Racism is endemic and ordinary (Matsuda et. al., 1993 cited in Dixson &
    Rousseau, 2005; Delgado, 1995; Delgado & Stefancic, 2001). Not only do
    people of color experience acts of racism, committed consciously and
    unconsciously, they also live within a system in which white is privileged
    over color. Therefore, formal equal opportunity in the form of laws and
    rules can only help to remedy the most extreme racial injustices which
    cannot be denied but do not help the everyday “microagressions” (Yosso,
    2000; Villalpando, 2003) which people of color face daily nor help to
    dismantle the frameworks which create inequality (Massey, 2008).

    • demonstrated via research of digital divide
  • Dominant claims of neutrality, objectivity, colorblindness and meritocracy
    are an example of “interest convergence” which generally seek to advance
    white privilege (Delgado, 1995; Delgado & Stefancic, 2001). The most
    cited example is Derrick Bell’s argument that the Brown vs. Board of
    Education ruling which desegregated the public school system was
    established because of international critique that the United States’ claim
    of fighting for equality abroad was hypocritical considering domestic racial
    problems (Delgado &. Stefancic, 2001).

    • an effect of the digital divide discourse is that how POC use technology is understudied
  • Because racism has “contributed to all contemporary manifestations of
    group advantage and disadvantage,” all analysis should be contextual and
    historical (Matsuda et al., 1993 cited in Dixson, & Rousseau, 2005) and
    should align with the perspectives and experiences of people of color
    (Delgado & Stefancic, 2001).

    • Because we are operating from an assumption of deficiency, then POC are not being studied. We are operating from the majority view of cultural wealth which includes economics, education, and use of networks to get ahead. This is what is leading our studies of technology and POC, which helps to maintain the rhetoric of deficiency.
  • People of color have a unique perspective which arises from their
    experiences, and storytelling provides a specific methodology which can
    be used to give voice to and communicate this unique experience
    (Matsuda et. al., 1993 cited in Dixson & Rousseau, 2005; Delgado, 1995;
    Delgado & Stefancic, 2001).

    • Instead we should turn to a different definition of cultural wealth and use that to design our studies. Other paradigms such as Yosso’s alternative paradigm of cultural wealth.
  • The goal of the theoretical work is to understand the social situation in
    order to eliminate racial oppression. Scholars have worked to accomplish
    this goal in two ways: by analyzing the discourse in order to change the
    way in which people and races are constructed and by working to change
    the material circumstances of racial minorities (Delgado & Stefancic,

    • by doing the above we will fulfill the CRT goal of changing the way people and races are constructed; we will help to give voice to the representations which are already being created
    • by doing so we may be able to discern different strategies which will help us with pedagogies which will help those POC who are not yet using digital technologies, help to create policy to help bring these technologies to communities,…and what else?

Rethinking Race and Cyberspace

By js, 6 September, 2008, No Comment

Just reread my seminar paper for Digital Rhetoric Race and Cyberspace

and I am seeing what my concerns were. I’m going to try to detail them below:

  • what research is there on people of color and technology?
    • most research has to do with the digital divide
  • what is the problem with research on digital divide
    • it helps to create a rhetoric of deficiency
    • though it does point to inequality, it gives us a sense of what people DONT have which then closes off those avenues to research
    • this is supported by the dearth of research on POC and their use of technologies
    • they also construct the POC as passive; they are not constructing their own representation but are being represented
  • the only people studying how POC use technology are
    • some POC scholars
    • industry backed studies which seek to know how to reach consumers
    • again being represented as passive; not constructing their own representation
  • so studies about POC are not about how they are constructing themselves but generally  point to them not constructing their own representations but are being represented/constructed online by majority users and by scholars


By js, 6 September, 2008, No Comment

I am meeting with a group of Phders who have the same chair. We are meeting weekly and then sharing notes on a wiki from wetpaing.

I created the blog and then invited everyone. I really liked that wetpaint is willing to take off the ads if the wiki will be used for educational purposes.

These were some of the most important comments from the meeting…

Reflecting On Sept. 5

Lennie [to Rich]: I’m not entirely happy with the research question, but all the grounded theory I’ve been reading talks about the research question being discovered in the process of the research. Is this one good enough to begin the study with?

I wonder how much research actually follows this process. We discover what we are truly asking in the process.

Lennie [to Rich]: Fred wanted me to define grounded theory more and put in a rationale about why I wanted to use it
Rich agrees with Janie. “Fred always likes EVERYTHING defined copiously.

Defining our terms, defining our constructs, defining our assumptions….alot of defining; if not in the proposal, at least in our own head. This, though, requires alot of thinking and alot of reading. Seems like the reading list is getting constructed as one works on the pre-proposal.

Rich says, “What’s important in a preproposal…”
Rich says, “is not that it solves the diss question”
Rich says, “but that it narrows it, defines every term clearly, points out the relevant literature review, and provides a basic outline.”

This is helpful in that it gives you criteria in which you can come back, review and revise. Although getting to that stage first requires getting it down on paper.

Lennie says, “As far as questions I think it all has to fit within the larger rationale of what you want to study and why you want to study it and how you want to study it”
Rich [to Time]: so, from these 5, choose 3
Rich says, “one will be on TCR, one on your diss area, one specifically on methods/methodology”
Lennie says, “I imagine the questions are ones that you could write and write about, so the challenge is to give quality rather than quantity”

The challenge will be to give quality. I think that once one has written the preproposal one is about to talk about the topics related to the questions. In fact, it seems to me that the preproposal can provide much fodder for the responses. The responses, then, will provide fodder for the first chapter(s).

Rich [to Lennie]: would it be useful for people here for you to tell us how you got to this point?
Lennie [to Rich]: Thanks. I have revised this probably twelve times…
Lennie says, “I think the main thing that has helped me is asking for feedback and trying to be responsive to that feedback”
Lennie says, “Once I found problems or gaps then working on filling them”
Lennie says, “Like I decided to rework the entire lit review between v1 and v2″
Janie [to lennie:]: how so?
Lennie [to Janie]: OK. I was too general in my original version. It was more “what is reflection?” and I needed “what is reflection in composition and what is the problem?
Lennie says, “between v3 and v4 I redid the problem statement ”
Lennie says, “So the revision process was piece meal working and tweaking parts”
Alec [to Lennie]: So how long ago did you start writing it before it got to this point?
Lennie [to Alec]: I finished v1 by the end of the May workshop
Alec [to Lennie]: That’s helpful to know actually

This is an arduous process. It took Lennie, who works diligently, over three months to get the preproposal ready. I have also seen Pete and Kendall as they have gone through the process and they took much longer, about a year to get their preproposals approved.

Although I have read that the preproposal is the hardest to write because that is the place/time in which you do alot of the thinking and the “getting it straight.” The most difficult thing to overcome for me is that this is a “sustained” effort. Almost all other work that I have done has not been sustained. It is done in moments, taking spurts of energy to get it completed. I can see why so many people go ABD for so long.

It is a scary process to begin.