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. 

Our Origin Story at WPI

The very first step in building Media Map was through a Teaching Innovation Grant at Worcester Polytechnic Institute where Alexandrina Agloro was faculty in 2016-2017. One of the grant’s calls was to work on a project related to race and games, which is one of the first themes we developed. SCRAM (then known as CRES: Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Committee) was in discussions about our commitments to Ethnic Studies and our commitments to relevant education in the communities where we lived and worked. First, we wanted to build upon concepts and methods in FemTechNet’s Distributed Online Collaborative Course (DOCC). The DOCC is a feminist alternative to the MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) course format, and features collaborative synchronous and asynchronous content delivery through online classroom nodes taught by participating instructors. The DOCC provided a horizontal network for connecting instructors and engaging learners in multiple locations, while a MOOC depends on brand name institutions or third-party companies to implement a one-to-many vertical delivery model.

While the DOCC was a semester-long course that provides a survey of topics more generally related to feminist technology, Media Map focuses on the creation of flexible plug-and-play content packages that can be utilized in a greater variety of class settings. From university courses to community education, these modules will provide easier access to scaled programming. We built this model to be inclusive of educators who teach at universities, community centers, and teen after school/summer programs and who understand the need to create learning modules that could be applied outside a semester system. Additionally, our explicit thematic focus is at the intersections of race and technology, emphasizing the connections between underrepresented groups’ access to technology and relevant content delivery methods that respond to intersectional challenges.

We worked across the 2016-2017 year to figure out the content delivery platform, Media Map’s themes, and bring in relevant comrades and stakeholders into this project.