Elliot Washor's TGIF 10.11.2023
Updated: Oct 31
“Are you with me now?” AJ Ryder
"I appreciate a design that recognizes me because I can recognize myself in it. It is the absence of such recognition that has alienated blacks, women, the elderly, the disabled. When in the 1960's Johnson and Johnson introduced the "flesh-colored band-aid" the black comedian Godfrey Cambridge asked just whose flesh they had in mind.” Ralph Caplan
How are new technologies lending themselves to designs that are human-centered?
Andrea, Anthonette and I attended Kapua’s exhibition to the Kauai North Shore Community. It was heart-warming and filled with joy and passion about community. How this work is getting done reminded me of how we first started The Met. At that time, there was no B-Unbound but we did get parents, students and mentors from in and around Providence together in real-world settings. And, together we could all get a sense and a feel for what we were creating as our school. This same notion is happening with Namahana except now this past summer, Anthonette went to Kauai and introduced the B-U work through a community cultural center called Waipā. One big difference from 29 years ago is that the youth on Kaua’i are using the technology on their “Smart” phones to collect and analyze data. Back then, this was the vision. One of Kapua’s questions that framed her exhibition was: How does technology capture a learning experience? When technology is in-service to the community, we can produce embodied knowledge and not just more content. In our work, human touch and experience gives content value and meaning. Once content comes from people who care about what they are doing and saying, it is different and should not be demeaned or bemoaned as merely content. The examples given in Kapua’s exhibition of youth work was a combination of science and art where data has meaning to the community and there is a reciprocal relationship with the self, the community and the planet.
Industrialization, mechanization, personalization, digitization and now CONTENTIZATION
In a recent article in the NY times - Emma Thompson Is Right: The Word 'Content' Is Rude, actress Emma Thompson told a group of college students. “You don’t want to hear your stories described as ‘content’ or your acting or your producing described as ‘content.’ That’s just like coffee grounds in the sink or something.” Right now, all of us are providing and taking in content from our devices. This article points out how various social media, AI and the movie, music and entertainment industries demeane the creative work of humans by lumping the good, bad and ugly as just content that fills a void.
Here's a great line from this article -
“In practical terms, “content creator” neatly accomplishes two things at once: It lets people who make garbage think they’re making art and tells people who make art that they’re making garbage.”
Similarly, In education we have been guilty of using language in very reductionist ways. I’ve done a bit of that myself but always come back to a place where I see and change my ways.
“In the end, language matters. The way we talk about things affects how we think and feel about them.”
Today, I spent the day at SMASH and Michelle & Barack Obama Center For Inquiry & Exploration, a k-12 articulation of BPL. I spoke with students about their interests and how they were exploring them at the Santa Monica Community College where the school is based. At the community college, students are not taking intro courses. They are actually taking courses around their interests and going in the field to study them. Later in the day, I did a book talk with Andrea Purcell and Michael Aspinwall with three students from Port of Los Angeles High School (POLAHS). These students were just amazing in discussing their interests and how the schools supports them. One was a LEGO builder and the others were a graphic designer and bike and car mechanic and fabricator. They were all doing what they loved and getting supported. We will be working with POLAHS in the coming years around supporting the development of their internship program and HFF’s. Our first program officer from The Gates Foundation, Kyle Miller was at the talk along with Carlos Santini from Mizzen and it was great to see them.
Sonn and I had a talk with Matt Henderson up in Winnipeg. They are sending two or three of their principals to the Leadership Conference and we will be going there in February. BRRRRR!
Yesterday, Dennis flew down from Seattle to San Diego for meetings. We spent good time together talking about next steps for our collective work and the possibilities of how it meets down the road.
I have two responses from Carrie Duff and Scott Carson from Australia to join the meeting on the revision of the School Apgar Score. We’ll meet next week. Anyone else wishing to join, let em know.
Next week, I’m in Durango with Taylor Harper and then back to San Diego in Sweetwater.