Love Letter. In Progress, 2019.

We ride the bus.

Lisa Nakamura gave us this analogy referring to Cherríe Moraga’s preface to This Bridge Called My Back, where she describes all the different ways she’s taking public transportation here and there to meet with all the other radical feminists of color putting this anthology we love so much together. She was in process, in transit. We are metaphorically in process, and literally in transit to see each other. 

We ride the bus. 

I write this shuffling along on an airplane, on the way to our annual SCRAM get together. Feeling really lucky that we have made kin, where we prioritize each other and together time and doing all the things. I’m also thinking about my other panel that had to cancel because the people who make up the precarious labor that the academy runs on don’t have the thousands of dollars it takes to do our jobs. Especially in a world where we’re supposed to be out there promoting solo authored academic achievements that bring benefit to our institutions (there’s literally a question on my travel reimbursement form asking how my trip benefitted the university), we carve out a Moten & Harney Undercommons-esque space for ourselves between the lines of professionalism- making the most of our travel funds to be together. Can we call this feminist per diem hacking? 

We ride the bus. 

We pool resources when we get them and stretch gifts from generous play cousins- after all, it’s our 3rd anniversary of SCRAM getting married to The Struggle. And lucky still, because we can meet in the real world, and be in public together. 

We imagine the ways that we publicly perform “work.” In this fast moving grants-based, outcome-oriented capitalist machine, we’re fairly adamant that our process IS the work. So us publicly thinking out loud together IS the product. Which has become our second tenant: we move at the speed of consent. I’m sure someone else is going to talk about our first tenant: hang-based pedagogy. I want to like you before we work together. The timeline of consent is not grants-timeline friendly, yet here we still are. And maybe that’s what we’ve learned because the relationships, and not the projects, come first. We take time, the hour-ish every other week for years adds up. SCRAM is the faculty meeting I want to be at. And that to me are/is the presents/presence we are talking about. Our presence to each other is the present.

We ride the bus.

One of the strengths of us is that we are the progeny of Octavia Butler’s understanding that the the only lasting truth is change. And we don’t operate from a place assuming institutional or geographic stability. We’ve learned to mother ourselves. The question about equitably governing ourselves, and one of the things I feel the most happy about is that we haven’t really ever had to talk about how we govern ourselves. And more than anything, I’d be afraid to betray the relationships- and that’s why we move at the speed of consent. So our network of care stretches beyond geographic locations and jobs. And maybe it’s the size we keep? In a world of innovation meaning scaling, we’re actually not trying to grow. We’re thinking about how to facilitate space for other people to develop their own kin networks (bring on the SCRAM ultra lounge!) rather than expand beyond our own capacity. 

We ride the bus. 

And maybe our mundane is why we are an alternative to capitalist neoliberal academic systems. I don’t think we’ve ever tried to be the best at anything. We operate small, but we care big. Inch wide, mile deep, right? And we think about what it means to have enough. And in every little grant we’ve won, its always been enough. Not enough to counteract settler heteropatriarchy– but enough to show everyone a sense of value. I’m really proud that everyone who worked on Media Map got paid. From our music to our sound engineers to ourselves (!), everyone got something. Again, not enough to counteract settler heteropatriarchy, but if money is an energetic exchange, we’ve been always trying to keep up good vibes all around. 

We ride the bus. 

A Love Letter to SCRAM in 10 Theses

Hang-based pedagogy is:

  1. a navigational mode. It is wayfinding through the outdated wardrobes of institutional otherness into the academic outfits of collective dreams.
  2. an antidote to institutional diversity. It emerges from the belief that equity work is, and should be, colonizer work and is therefore irrelevant to the tasks at hand.
  3. enthusiastic consent to the conditions that create possibility, especially when those conditions require showing up looking thirteen kinds of raggedy brilliant, which is itself a form of accountability.
  4. liberation adjacent. Capitalist neoliberal academic systems can, sometimes, reflect the shine, but can never absorb it.
  5. radically vulnerable. It is kinship, not network. It is not an alternative to settler heteropatriarchy and institutionalized ablism because it is not subject to the harsh white light of pathologized departmental examination. It is fundable, but only when it demands funding.
  6. a redistribution of clock time, because to hang is to suspend time. It is dropping the conversation thread to go find the one who’s not here yet. It is multiple platforms conveying feelings when one time just won’t do.
  7. practice, practice, practice. Also, location, location, location.
  8. transformative listening. It is holding your head at an angle like this ‘/’ when someone tells a story about some foolishness that went down and now everyone has a ‘wait, what?’ to bring to their next administrative meeting of academic tricksery.
  9. super queer.
  10. The brainchild of feminist technological interventions ON ITSELF.

You’re just in time!


This letter was harder to write than I imagined it would be. How do I write a love letter to you? How do I succinctly and affectively communicate what you mean to me and why you mean so much to me? How do I translate into words what is it that we DO? How do I ensure I do what we do justice with this letter? How do I ensure that the love I feel for you manifest materially along these lines? I am spiraling. I am anxious. I am letting external measuring criteria confine us. I am judging instead of loving. I am deviating from us. Let me try again.

This is a love letter to you. You, SCRAM, are a place to me. A place made up by familiar faces, warm bodies, affective energies, chill screens, visiting pets, connected signals, visual cues, shared locations, broken interfaces, generous intellects, cold drinks, vivacious laughter, confused looks, intimidating circumstances, horrifying stories, caring words, and time spent. You are a place in time, where I spent a lot of time, and a place where I want to spend more time. Time, and time again.

Like those times. I am reminded to think and speak primarily to you, and you alone. Like those times, when you showed me that it is each other and the people we hold and carry by extension that makes our work matter. Like those times, when you taught me how to make the disembodied structures work for our survival instead of the other way around. Like those times, when I joined our scheduled meeting late because of other obligations and I was feeling completely annoyed at myself for not meeting the expectations of time keeping I have internalized and held for myself, I was not met with contempt but instead smiles. Like those times, when you told me, “you’re just in time!”

What does it mean to be just in time? What happens when we’re not in time? Time is a commodity. Time is measured to calculate our outputs. Time is managed to maximize production. Time is used to evaluate our worth. Time is a technology that is used to organize us and that we use to organize ourselves. We use this technology to project scripts for how we ought to or should orient ourselves from one moment to the next. It is a narrative we write to bridge past, present, and future. When combined with other technologies that prescribe priorities for capital accumulation and circulation, time is most often an internalized parameter for disciplining our bodies to serve. But the question is, serving what and whom?

I admit, I didn’t and don’t always use time to serve you, me, or us. I have come to realize how much I am bounded by time, or perhaps the lack thereof. I am scared, a lot of the times. I am scared of standing out when I interrupt the room full of people for arriving late. I am scared that my brother will wither away there while I am lost trying to find my way here. I am scared that I am doing this wrong. I am scared that one semester is not enough to convince my students that representation in games does matter. I am scared that I am a traitor for spending time over here instead of over there. I am scared of that tenure clock that keeps ticking while I can’t get words out onto pieces of paper. I am scared that I am not working hard enough and fast enough to stop harm from happening. I am scared that I am working too hard and too fast that harms. Most importantly, I am scared that I am not using enough time to serve those I love and believe in, like yourself.  

What does it mean to be just in time? More importantly, what does it mean to be told that you’re just in time when other markers of time indicate otherwise? It provides validation for one’s presence and that presence alone. It disregards other preconceived notions about time to emphasize the present. It stops time in the sense that it disentangles time from other technologies that we devise to serve an ambiguous end. It recenters time to serve the bodies that are present. It calls our attention to recognize that we made it to share this moment in time and this time is not a given. Instead, it is a present. It is a present we keep on giving each other. It demands us to forgo previous expectations, disciplined responses, and internalized critiques about time to consider what we want to and could do with this found time. We made it! Yes, and?


Note: Written while thinking about you and Wajcman, J. (2015). Pressed for time: The acceleration of life in digital capitalism. University of Chicago Press.

A Love Letter to SCR+M


In case you all didn’t know this. I freaking love you.

It’s been several years now, since we all found each other through FemTechNet … and I’m so glad I did. I think I remember being recruited to the network by Liz Losh in 2013 when I was a postdoc at UCLA. I was in an Asian American studies department and in a transnational studies postdoc program where no one did digital stuff. I was living in the Valley. All of my friends were really far away.

Frankly, I was pretty miserable.

In many ways FemTechNet gave me something to cling to. Maybe it was the same for you? I think we all, as women and non-binary folx of color, found ourselves in what was then the “Ethnic Studies Committee”, which later became the “Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Committee”, and then later transformed into our little haven, “SCR+M”.  Even at its peak, there were never that many of us who regularly met in that group, and in a network of hundreds (over 2,000 if you count the members of our Facebook group), we’re the only ones remaining. We’re the ones who show up.

Every two weeks. We meet in virtual space—a Bluejeans room provided by the University of Michigan that feels like the swankiest virtual conferencing space because it was a virtual conference provided by the University of Michigan—from our respective time zones in California, Arizona, Texas, Minnesota, Michigan, South Africa, Singapore, Taiwan, wherever we are. For almost all of us, we’re the oddball “other” in our units, departments, or institutions. That one BIPOC woman or gender non-conforming person interested in race, gender, sexuality, and technology. This Bluejeans room is where we gather to plan talks, write projects, mastermind grant applications, conference proposals, digital projects; to share the latest drama in our lives, to squeal over the newest puppy, or to complain about the weather.

These meetings are where we’ve engaged in what we’ve come to call, “hang-based pedagogy.” We like each other. We love each other. We trust each other. The collective learning and teaching we engage in together only happens through intentional sharing of time and space. To facilitate this hang-based pedagogy, we conspire to find ways to unite in person and produce teaching resources and scholarship—these are the things we have been able to leverage to bring us together, in person, at conferences and symposia. This is how we survive the academy, a system that would cannibalize us and our work if given the chance. This is the method to our “survival praxis.”

In the end, we’re the ones left to transform the network, break it, reorient it, and reshape it into the organization we need and want it to be. We keep coming back to the network that others grew out of or didn’t have the time or capacity to continue with. It perhaps started out of necessity because we needed the support network, the space to vent, but the work we’ve accomplished, the way we work, and the innovative ways in which we get this done (READ: hacking platforms and resources beyond their original intent) speak volumes about our commitments and politics:

I will bullet point four of those commitments here:

  1. We make decisions based on our needs, our abilities and capacities, and we do it with consensus, and not because of external pressures placed on us by others (our institutions, funders, our mentors, etc.)
  2. We moved FemTechNet’s summer workshop to the Allied Media Conference in Detroit as a single-day Network Gathering –transitioning away from traditional academic conferences and venues and into an open, inclusive, community-centered, collective environment that explicitly names its commitments to the racialized, gendered, class-based struggles of the people of Detroit.
  3. We diversified our funding structures beyond traditional institutional funding to support our work. 100% of this credit goes to Alex, who helped us reimagine fundraising as a commitment to each other and to the struggle by  hacking the Honeyfund.
  4. We reframed our own history, narrative, and archive through our bojagi MediaMap to produce a non-linear, selective, subjective archive of SCR+M that highlights those moments and achievements that are important to us.

Like the network itself, and the map, we are a work in progress. We will change as we change and grow. We’ll make mistakes. We’ll figure stuff out. But, we’ll do it together, and we’ll do it with love.

So, SCR+M friends. I’m proud of us. I love you all and I’m looking forward to breaking stuff and building things together for a long time yet.