Constructing websites as constructing ourselves: Thinking out loud

This is just me, thinking out loud, so expect it to be rough, incomplete, unpolished. But I thought it was a train of thought worth stopping, so here we go.

When you’re driving down a city street at a cool 35 mph while “Belle” plays on repeat one for the 1000th+ time in recent months and your toddler is in the back seat sulking because Daddy has to go to work today and separation from Daddy is painful, your mind wanders. It does if you’re me, anyway. Mine wandered to the way in which the only thing I seem interested in besides sleep lately is tweaking my personal website. Then I thought:

As I’m building my website, it kind of feels like I’m building myself.

Identity construction is kind of an obsession of mine, specifically the idea that we create our own identities through narratives we tell about ourselves. Sure, there are identities the world forces upon us, but our narratives interact with those. Most of my work in my doctoral program has touched on identity in one way or another:

  • I wrote about the maker movement in libraries and found Breanne Litts’s Activity-Identity-Community framework, which posits that the development of maker identities is one of the pillars of the maker movement.
  • I wrote about how libraries can leverage tabletop roleplaying games to support teen identity development (in revision for Journal of Research on Libraries and Young Adults).
  • I touched on the process of developing an identity as an improviser as a key part of participating in the improv comedy community.
  • I wrote about how horizontal learning enables young people to leverage their out-of-school identities for academic success.
  • I wrote about how young people imagine their possible future selves.

And my favorite fictional works often have to deal with reconciling different pieces of one’s identity: Spider-Man, Sailor Moon, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer all come to mind. (And the X-Men; I was just reading an old Chris Claremont book – Uncanny X-Men #129, 130 – somewhere in there – where Nightcrawler thinks about how he’s decided not to disguise himself as a normal human; I think there’s something to unpack there.) So, I guess superheroes are what I’m talking about, and I’m sure lots of work has already been done on how superhero identity plays out, including Brownie & Graydon’s book.

So I was thinking about how building my website feels like building myself, and I thought… hasn’t this been true since I first started building websites in 1995? I got my first personal domain in 2001, and building an online space to represent myself has always meant choosing what I want the world to know about me, who I want to seem to be, and by defining who I want to seem to be, am I not defining who I want to actually be?

Then I thought about social media and all the ways we’ve used them to represent ourselves, and all the ways that has gotten away from us. Before we knew how bad Facebook was, when my husband would add a new friend on Facebook, he would immediately peruse their profile to find out what books and movies they liked; what we like contributes to the picture of who we are, but what we want people to know we like does even more so, I think.

My train of thought loses steam here, but I’m definitely interested in digging into the intersection between technology and identity more. Our tools shape not only how we think, but who we are.

To distract me from my current “The world is a garbage fire” emotional spiral, here’s a bunch of labels I’m okay with, woo-woo or otherwise.
* Type A-
* Obliger
* Cancer
* 4
* INFJ
* Projector
& my voice values: enthusiasm, helpfulness, transparency
& my signature strengths: humor, love, creativity, love of learning, curiosity
Bookmarked Situated language and learning: A critique of traditional schooling by James Paul GeeJames Paul Gee

Situated Language and Learning looks at the specialist academic varieties of language that are used in disciplines such as mathematics and the sciences. It argues that the language acquisition process needed to learn these forms of language is not given enough attention by schools, and that this places unfair demands on poor and minority students.

The book compares this with learning as a process outside the classroom, applying this idea to computer and video games, and exploring the particular processes of learning which take place as a child interacts with others and technology to learn and play. In doing so, Gee examines what video games can teach us about how to improve learning in schools and engages with current debates on subjects such as ‘communities of practice’ and ‘digital literacies’.

Gee, J. P. (2004). Situated Language and Learning : A Critique of Traditional Schooling. London, United Kingdom: Routledge.

Gee introduces the concept of affinity spaces in this book, pointing out that popular culture is ahead of schools in the construction of “specially designed spaces (physical and virtual) constructed to resource people tied together, not primarily via shared culture, gender, race, or class, but by a shared interest or endeavor” (2004, p. 4). He argues that “people learn best when their learning is part of a highly motivated engagement with social practices which they value” (Gee, 2004, p. 77) and offers affinity spaces as an example of a space that facilitates this kind of engagement.

Gee contrasts affinity spaces with communities of practice as proposed by Lave and Wenger (1991), arguing that defining a community implies labeling a group of people, including determining “which people are in and which are out of the group, how far they are in or out, and when they are in and out” (Gee, 2004, p. 78). Talking about spaces instead of communities removes this concern of membership; people who are present in a space may or may not be part of a community.

Gee identifies some key components of any space, not just an affinity space: content, generators, content organization, interactional organization, and portals. Content is what the space is “about,” and is provided by content generators. Gee uses the example of a video game, which generates a variety of content (words, images, etc.). The space is then organized in two different ways: content is organized by the designers, whereas interaction is organized by the people interacting with the space, in how they “organize their thoughts, beliefs, values, actions, and social actions” (Gee, 2004, p. 81) in relationship to the content. This interaction creates a set of social practices and typical identities present in the space. The content necessarily influences the interaction, but interaction can also influence content. For example, with a video game, player reactions to the game may influence future updates to the game. Finally, Gee defines portals as “anything that gives access to the content and to ways of interacting with that content, by oneself or with other people” (Gee, 2004, p. 81). In Gee’s video game example, this could be the game itself, but it could also be fan websites related to the game. Portals can become generators, “if they allow people to add to content or change the content other generators have generated” (Gee, 2004, p. 82). A video game website might include additional maps that players can download and use to play the game or offer recordings of gameplay to serve as tutorials or entertainment. A generator can also be a portal; for the video game example, the game disc or files both offer the content and can be used to interact with the content.

Gee builds on this description of a space to describe “affinity spaces,” a particular type of space that young people today experience often. The “affinity” to which Gee refers is not primarily for the other people in the space, but for “the endeavor or interest around which the space is organized” (Gee, 2004, p. 84). He defines an affinity space as a space that has a number of features:

  1. Common endeavor, not race, class, gender, or disability, is primary(Gee, 2004, p. 85). People in the affinity space relate to each other based on common interests, while attributes such as race, class, gender, and disability may be used strategically if people choose.
  2. Newbies and masters and everyone else share common space(Gee, 2004, p. 85). People with varying skill levels and depth of interest share a single space, getting different things out of the space in accordance with their own purposes.
  3. Some portals are strong generators(Gee, 2004, p. 85). People can create new content related to the original content and share it in the space.
  4. Content organization is transformed by interactional organization(Gee, 2004, p. 85). Creators of the original content modify it based on the interactions of the people in the space.
  5. Both intensive and extensive knowledge are encouraged(Gee, 2004, p. 85). Specialized knowledge in a particular area is encouraged (intensive knowledge), but the space also encourages people to develop a broad range of less specialized knowledge (extensive knowledge).
  6. Both individual and distributed knowledge are encouraged”  (Gee, 2004, p. 86). People are encouraged to store knowledge in their own heads, but also to use knowledge stored elsewhere, including in other people, materials, or devices, using a network of people and information to access knowledge.
  7. Dispersed knowledge is encouraged(Gee, 2004, p. 86). One portal in the space encourages people to leverage knowledge gained from other portals or other spaces.
  8. Tacit knowledge is encouraged and honored(Gee, 2004, p. 86). People can use knowledge that they have built up “but may not be able to explicate fully in words” (Gee, 2004, p. 86) in the space.
  9. There are many different forms and routes to participation(Gee, 2004, p. 87). People can participate in different ways and at different levels.
  10. There are lots of different routes to status(Gee, 2004, p. 87). People can gain status by being good at different things or participating in different activities.
  11. Leadership is porous and leaders are resources(Gee, 2004, p. 87). No one is the boss of anyone else; people can lead by being designers, providing resources, or teaching others how to operate in the space. “They don’t and can’t order people around or create rigid, unchanging, and impregnable hierarchies” (Gee, 2004, p. 87).

Gee argues that as young people encounter more and more affinity spaces, they see a “vision of learning, affiliation, and identity” that is more powerful than what they see in school (Gee, 2004, p. 89).

 

Gee, J. P. (2004). Situated Language and Learning : A Critique of Traditional Schooling. London, UNITED KINGDOM: Routledge.

Lave, J., & Wenger, E. (1991). Situated learning: Legitimate peripheral participation. ; New York: Cambridge University Press.

 

Me, to my colleagues: I could really use a tote bag for the flight home. Y’all think I’ll be able to find a tote bag at this librarian conference? #alaac19

Project READY is live!

Still blogging infrequently and mostly absent from social media, but this is a huge piece of work. I hope to write up some reflections on what I learned through this process before too long.

Dear Colleagues-

Today, we are excited to announce that the Project READY (Reimagining Equity and Access for Diverse Youth) online racial equity curriculum is live and accessible at ready.web.unc.edu. Learn more at Booth 2650 at ALA Annual in Washington, DC.

A historic milestone was quietly reached in the American public school system during the 2014-2015 school year: for the first time in history,youth of color made up the majority of students attending U.S. public schools. Creating inclusive and equitable school and public library programs for Black youth, Indigenous youth, and Youth of Color (BIYOC) requires knowledge about topics such as race and racism, implicit bias and microaggressions, cultural competence and culturally sustaining pedagogy, and equity and social justice. Research shows, however, that few library and information science (LIS) master’s programs include these topics in their curriculum.A recent survey focused specifically on early career youth services librarians found that only 26.8% of respondents said that social justice was included in a substantive way in their master’s curriculum; 37.2% said that cultural competency was substantively included, and 41.8% said that equity and inclusion was substantively included. Related to these findings, a majority (54.08%) of respondents said that their master’s programs did not prepare them well for working with youth of color and other marginalized youth.

In 2016, The School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the School of Library and Information Sciences at North Carolina Central University, and the Wake County (NC) Public School System (WCPSS) were awarded a three-year Continuing Education Project grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to develop Project READY to address this existing gap in professional development opportunities for youth services library staff.  The curriculum aims to:

  • introduce youth services library staff to research in areas such as race and racism, critical theory, and culturally responsive or sustaining pedagogy.
  • establish a shared understanding of foundational concepts and issues related to race, racism, and racial equity.
  • encourage self-reflection related to race and racial identity for both BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and white library staff in public and school libraries.
  • amplify the work of practitioners and scholars who are providing inclusive and culturally responsive services for youth of color and Indigenous youth.
  • provide concrete strategies for creating and/or improving library programs and services for Black youth, Indigenous youth, and children and teens of color.

The curriculum consists of 27 modules, designed to be worked through by individuals or small groups. Modules are organized into three sequential sections. The first section (Foundations) focuses on basic concepts and issues that are fundamental to understanding race and racism and their impact on library services. The second section (Transforming Practice) explores how these foundational concepts relate to and can be applied in library environments. Finally, the third section (Continuing the Journey) explores how library professionals can sustain racial equity work and grow personally and professionally in this area after completing the curriculum.

The curriculum represents the work of 40 researchers, practitioners, administrators, and policymakers, and youth from a variety of racial and cultural backgrounds. It is grounded in the work of scholars of color and Indigenous scholars who have thought and written about issues related to institutional and individual racism, equity, inclusion, and social justice.

We hope this curriculum will benefit and inform the work of the many organizations and individuals that are working to improve the quality of life and educational opportunities for BIYOC.

We will be promoting the curriculum on the exhibit hall at ALA’s annual conference in Washington, DC – Booth 2650. We invite you to stop by and preview Project READY!

Sincerely,

Sandra Hughes-Hassell, PhD
Professor
She/Her/Hers

Casey H. Rawson, PhD
Teaching Assistant Professor
She/Her/Hers

Kimberly Hirsh, MAT, MSLS
PhD Student
She/Her/Hers

My work is to take care of myself.

I’m still on hiatus from social media activity and comments on my blog posts are still closing after only 1 day. But there are some things that I want to capture in this space immediately, rather than waiting until I “come back,” and there are some things that I think could benefit other people by being public, so I’m going ahead and posting. This is one of those things.

I went to the doctor yesterday. I needed refills on my prescriptions. And I’d also noticed recently that a number of chronic illness symptoms had crept up on me slowly over the past… year and a half? Six months, at least. So I went in expecting to discuss those symptoms with her.

When she asked how I was, I gave her the list of symptoms:

  • Puffy face
  • Missing outer third of eyebrow
  • Low body temperature
  • Intense fatigue (can’t put away laundry or cook)
  • Brain fog (Only about 2 good hours a day)
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Coarse hair
  • Hair loss
  • Carpal tunnel
  • Worsening vision
  • Headaches
  • Dry skin
  • Brittle nails
  • Acne
  • Hirsutism
  • Tinnitus
  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness
  • Frequent urination
  • Excessive thirst
  • Sore throat
  • Waking with a racing heart

I said, “These symptoms are consistent with when my thyroid hormones have been off in the past.”

“Your thyroid numbers are good,” she told me. I looked at them. She was right. They weren’t just normal; they were in what I know to be the optimal range for me. They were excellent.

I’d noticed that a lot of these symptoms were also consistent with diabetes. “Your blood sugar is at the high end of normal, but it’s lower than it was six months ago. It’s moving in the right direction.” So I’m still prediabetic. But not yet diabetic.

This is where most doctors would tell me I was fine, or I need to eat more protein, or it’s because I’m the mom of a young kid.

“But you’re having these symptoms, so you’re not okay,” she said. I love my doctor. “Have you noticed any pattern?”

I told her no. They have snuck up on me, sort of one at a time over months and months, and so I haven’t been tracking them.

“Well, they could be a food sensitivity. Or another autoimmune disease.” There’s a high level of comorbidity with autoimmune diseases, such that having one makes you a lot more likely to later acquire another. “But I don’t even know what to test without more information. So come back in two to four weeks with some data and we’ll decide what to test.”

I really wanted to be able to just increase the dose of one of my current medications to fix this, but apparently, that’s not an option. Straightforward dietary changes that have helped in the past, like cutting out gluten and corn, which I’d been doing for the past two months, didn’t seem to be helping. So here we are. I’m spending the next month collecting data on everything I can think of, looking for relationships. I’m tracking which symptoms I have on what days, what I eat, how I sleep, and anything else that comes to mind; the app I’m using, Flaredown, lets you add tags freely so I can track things like travel and even whether my kid naps.

Esmé Weijun Wang, who writes a blog for ambitious people dealing with limitations, writes:

My work, although it may not look like work to most, is to take care of myself. I must care for my health with as much attention as I once paid to the documents I was hired to edit, or to the long hours spent at the office on Saturdays. Aggressive pursuit of one’s ambition is a skillset that, I hope, has not left me. In the meantime, I am aggressively pursuing a dream of recovery.

Similarly, I’m going to collect data on my own health with the attention I would use to collect data for a study, to analyze my own journal with the same tools I would use to conduct content analysis.

I don’t have a pat conclusion to this. I’m disappointed it’s not a straightforward fix. I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to work something out to help me. I’m relieved that I don’t need to make any drastic changes to my diet before I’m done traveling at the end of the month.

And I’m tired. I’m very tired.

I thought to myself yesterday, “I can’t believe that I’ve got another fifty or sixty years in this meat cage, dealing with these flare ups.” But I do. I will. And I’ll get through it, with the support of my family and friends and science.

❤️️❤️️❤️️❤️️

Replied to Chris Aldrich by Chris AldrichChris Aldrich (BoffoSocko)

It’s threads/comments like these that make me think that using Micropub clients like Quill that allow quick and easy posting on one’s own website are so powerful.

Austin Kleon talks about daily blogging as being related to the ideas of stock and flow, and I think that really gets at what you’re talking about here. I love thinking about it this way, the way little ideas become big ones and how much easier it is to iterate, flesh out, and track our own thinking when everything is in one place.
A little over a year ago, I told a friend:

Started blogging in my bullet journal, realized this is just journaling…

And that’s where I’ll be blogging for the next little bit.

As mentioned in my earlier post, I’m going on hiatus for a bit. I’m anticipating returning in July, but it might be sooner, might be later. Comments are off on all posts more than 1 day old; webmentions will be received but probably not displayed.

See you later!

I’m taking a digital hiatus of sorts starting Friday, 5/10/2019. I haven’t decided how locked down kimberlyhirsh.com will be. At the very least, comments will be turned off for all pages and posts. It’s possible I’ll design a landing page about my hiatus and then set all other pages and posts to private. It’s also possible I’ll put the whole thing behind password protection.

Anyway, if you need to reach me, you probably already know how, but if not, let’s get that set up in the next couple days.