Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

October 27, 2016
by Maha Bali

Surprise! You Can Run Simultaneous Live Hangouts on One YouTube Channel

Reading Time: 1 minutes

So this morning, @NadinneAbo and I tested running two different hangouts on air LIVE at the SAME time using the Virtually Connecting YouTube Live account…and it actually worked.

We had our audio muted coz we were using 4 devices in one room (2 devices to run the hangouts and make them live on air, and two devices to be participants in each of the two simultaneous hangouts) . While running the hangouts, we checked the livestream and it does indeed allow you to run 2 hangouts at the same time from same account of VC! And it streams just fine and records just fine. No problems.
This means that folks who are doing Virtually Connecting sessions in back2back hangouts can ask a different Virtual Buddy to login a few minutes earlier than their session is due, and start getting virtual participants ready, while the other hangout one is still running. It also means that if one hangout wants to continue live virtually for a while (after onsite folks have gone), while another hangout is about to start going live, it’s not a problem.

I can’t believe this works. Part of me is thinking “yeah, why wouldn’t it?” and part of me is thinking “how can it be?”/. Alan Levine is on the first camp. I was totally on the second camp until today.

October 23, 2016
by Maha Bali


Reading Time: 3 minutes

Have you been an alien before? I have. If you have been before you will totally understand this. The US term “alien physician” for a certain visa (J1) for foreign physicians coming in for medical training in the US. I was the J2 (dependent; so technically I was the spouse of an alien).
I always wondered why they used that term. So…alienating? Ha

So I was reflecting on a Disney cartoon my kid and I love called Miles from Tomorrow. I love it coz my kid learns so much science from it (no, really, even I do). But it has a lot of annoying assumptions about what it means to be alien. It’s set in the future where a kid named Miles and his family live in outer space and interact with species from all over the universe as they travel on their starship. But the cartoon has the following really annoying assumptions. It’s human-centric in an annoying way by making humans the default species universally. For example :

  1. They call everyone other than themselves “space aliens” which makes no sense because their parents’ bosses aren’t human
  2. All of the robo pets across the universe look like earthling animals. Robo-ostritch, robo-cat, robo-dog, robo-turtle. Really. Even robo-penguins. Even though they once found an adorable non-intelligent species (aptly called adorbies no less) – for the most part, it’s very earth-centric
  3. Species from all over the universe tend to speak English. Only occasionally does Loretta (Miles’ sister) need to use her bracelex to translate what another species is communicating in writing or speech. Like this is REALLY rare
  4. Species look only slightly different from eartlings. All intelligent beings are upright. Occasionally there are a couple of differences, e.g. skin color. Most look exactly like humans with two eyes and ears and a mouth. Some are missing noses; one has a trunk instead. Most have hands and legs, few have them look different. Older aged individuals in a species are white-haired (I mean, really!) and the admirals (Miles’ parents’ bosses) are Siamese twins of an alien green species that have 3 eyes each. Otherwise they behave like humans, eating bananas, brushing teeth and listening to music on headphones. Argh. Too human. Too too human. I mean right here on earth all animals don’t look as similar as that. Why are our imaginations limited by how we see our own selves?
  5. One species (of which Miles’ friend blodger belongs) looks like a blob of jelly with eyes. Yay. Different. But look at the technology in use. Something called an exoplex (i think) is a large suit of armor that you climb into and it allows you to make it move as if you’re a giant made of metal and therefore you can carry heavy stuff (like its arms are like a truck or something). This exoplex is basically a transformer-type body that resembles a v metallic and strong human. When blodger rides it he comments on how difficult it is for him to drive it because he isn’t used to having arms or legs to control. That’s discriminatory design for you
  6. One time they met an alien called Spectrix whose vision allowed him to see infrared (heat) rather than human-spectrum light vision. This was an eye-opening episode about perspective and what we can and cannot see from the perspective of another. I wouldn’t critique this episode for much, except that this Spectrix character spoke English fluently even as he went on about how awful humans were (until they helped him and he started liking them when he understood they truly hadn’t seen his ship made of material invisible to humans and so didn’t mean to crash into him). 

    All I am saying is that this (really otherwise beautiful) work of science fiction has embedded into it a lot of discrimination. Of defaulting to the creators’ own selves in imagining different others so that they really aren’t going too far from making human as default. In the same way we make white male as default. Everything else is just a version removed from that and we design our worlds for the default and others need to adapt. The world is designed for right-handed people and no one stops to think how difficult it id for lefties like me to use keys and don’t get me started on KITCHEN appliances that assume right-handedness. You only know if you’re left-handed.

    So I guess they need some “aliens” to help them design the show.

    While living in Houston I volunteered at Texas Children’s and occasionally an Egyptian family would need help translating. Alienness comes in handy sometimes. I was telling Simon Ensor the other day how those at intersections can offer portals or bridges for us to reach others 2 steps removed from ourselves. But that’s another blogpost.

    October 23, 2016
    by Maha Bali

    Contextualizing Microaggressions 

    Reading Time: 2 minutes

    I was so relieved the day I learned the term “microaggression”. It described all the little ways in which micropower is enacted on a daily basis to reinforce more macro power dynamics. It helped me see how critical pedagogy as a grand narrative is enacted in our lived experiences. It’s a useful term. And it’s also very useful to know, as Yolande Flores Niemann says on her interview w Bonni Stachowiak on Teaching in Higher Ed podcast, that most microaggression is not intentionally malicious – I think it’s an internalized form of discrimination that is so subtle those of us who enact it aren’t at all aware of what we are doing. Much of it is reflexive. But becoming aware is important. And it’s also important when you are on the receiving end of it to conextualize it. Will explain in a minute.

    Watch this hilarious video for example

    This same conversation is a sensitive one for US-born non-white people. They often identify v strongly as American. They may not speak their parents, grandparents or great grandparents’ language (depending how far back they go) and they may or may not feel a strong culrural link to their ancestry/ethnicity. I have been in the US with other veiled women. They hate being asked where they are from and will say something like “Los Angeles”. I don’t hate being asked that question. But it’s because I am NOT from America. I know some people hate being told “your English is so good” (and it would be frustrating if you were born and raised in an English-speaking country…but I wasn’t). It’s not offensive to me personally because I fit the expectations of someone who would ask that: I am from somewhere else. It’s just not ok to assume that about the woman standing right next to me who looks like me but was born in America (for example). 

    Now reversing that a little. For the most part, if you are in Egypt and you look  African, people here can tell if you’re American or African. But it should not be considered rude to ask, because people are just being friendly and there is no reason for them to assume one thing or another. Same for people who look Asian. It’s normal for people not to guess where someone is from and to be curious in a polite/friendly way. Also if you are white and you speak English with an accent, and you’re in Egypt, it’s completely normal for people to assume you aren’t from any particular country and ask where you’re from or assume you’re from where your accent indicates or such. Sorry if it turns out you are American or Canadian.  You’re not home and you’re a stranger here. I understand why that would offend someone in their home country but microaggression is contextual. Same way it would offend me if someone Anglo told me they didn’t understand my (near native) accent, but it’s ok if a non-native speaker doesn’t understand it!

    October 22, 2016
    by Maha Bali
    1 Comment

    Reflections on Reviewing Conference Proposals

    Reading Time: 1 minutes

    It occurred to me while peer reviewing conference proposals how complicated it is and how difficult it can be for someone to end up presenting at a conference that receives many more proposals than it has slots for.Think about it.

    You may be a great teacher or practitioner, but you may not be able to identify the most attractive or innovative aspect of what you do in order to present it.

    Or you may know what’s worth presenting about and not write the proposal very clearly or attractively.

    Or you may be capable of writing an attractive proposal but not be able to fit that into the conference’s proposal format for writing a proposal or running a session

    Or you may not find the particular focus area in that particular conference that is most affordable or convenient to you this year.

    Someone can be really good at writing conference proposals but not necessarily be good at what they will present about. Or they can good at it but not be good at presenting it.

    Or you know, maybe the reviewers just don’t know the very cutting edge topic you are planning to talk about and don’t think participants want to hear about it.

    And that’s just sad

    October 21, 2016
    by Maha Bali

    Empathetic Distance and Empathy as Luxury

    Reading Time: 2 minutes

    Just a quick thought. That our capacity for empathy is sometimes a luxury. And that distance may or may not help us be more empathetic.

    As someone who had fertility problems for almost 5 years, I remember feeling angry and not at all empathetic when someone complained of the difficulties of raising kids. As someone who understands the latter now, I (obviously) can empathize, and know they assuredly did NOT mean to rub it in.

    When I had fertility problems, I empathized with others w similar problems, but more w those who couldn’t get pregnant at all (like me) than those who miscarried a lot (which I assumed was much worse… I just mean I couldn’t possibly know how bad it was because my problem was different). More difficult was understanding people who  chose not to have kids and the more “default” situation of just naturally having kids without really thinking about it. Worst of all, getting kids you never wanted at all. I now think I can empathize more with this entire spectrum. New to me is getting to hear the experience of a gay couple seeking adoption. Just starting to understand it from friends i know and care about rather than TV shows and novels. It’s very different when it’s someone close to you. 

    So about distance. 

    When you have so much hurt your living, experiencing, it is hard to empathize with someone too distant from your situation. To do so, there needs to be some kind of luxury that you don’t need to invest all your emotional energy in your own self and you have some left over for others. Or you acquire distance from your OWN situation (e.g. because of time or changes) and you can be empathetic in hindsight.

    I hope all of this helps us broaden our capacity for empathy as we grow.

    I know that at times I was so caught up in my own oppression, marginality, pain, that I could only help myself and fight for myself, not noticing pain of others who were different from me, noticing only those similar to me.

    I know at times that being too distant from another situation means I cannot fully empathize and I need to bring it closer to home, to a feeling or situation I felt or lived in order to imagine it.

    I think, we can develop it in the moments we have the luxury or compulsion to and our capacity grows.

    As @BMBOD said on Twitter (OK she said several thoughtful things)

    October 20, 2016
    by Maha Bali

    Empathic Feeling, Empathic Understanding and Empathic Praxis

    Reading Time: 2 minutes

    Epiphany post ahead. Possibly stating the obvious but as a model. I haven’t researched this to check.

    So I am thinking empathy is multidimensional:

    1. Affective: I call it empathic feeling: to feel how someone else is feeling. This can happen without us understanding necessarily, but I suppose empathic understnading HELPS us feel, but does not automatically make us feel for another’s suffering. It’s also an attitude of choosing to allow yourself to care for another. Sometimes u suppress it to help someone (e.g. Surgeons)
    2. Cognitive: empathic understanding: a process of understanding how someone has come to feel a certain way, the why of how they got there, the why of how their journey got them to feel that particular way. A lot of what we do  n edu to promote empathy focuse on this dimension. But does it necessarily lead to full-on empathy? It may or may not. Because understanding is always interpretation (Gadamer) and as such, we only understand another persons story through our personal lens and history.  The more different another person is from us, the more ww need to concede that parts of them are not easily knowable to us, not because they cannot express it well, but because there is too much lived complexity that we cannot gain secondhand. It’s like living with a person who has depression. You don’t fully “get it” if you haven’t been depressed to that extent before. Men may never fully understand the experience of being a woman in a patriarchal society, but when they seek to understand more, they will be able to act better.and when they act bettee, they will be able to understand more (see below).
    3. Action/skill: I wanna call this empathic praxis, actually. It’s about how our knowledge and reflection and feelings inform our action and vice versa. Skills and actions in this dimension include empathic listening, allyship (acting to support another in empathy even when we don’t fully know what they feel exactly). It is where we recognize that empathy with that other is important and we constantly seek to understand better, to listen more, to put ourselves in situations to help us understand better. Like living in a refugee camp (however temporarily). This is a risky business. So there is a lot of intentionality in wanting to do this. But the key thing is this attitude of caring to know more and therefore behaving in ways that make us learn more and then acting to make a difference

    Does this sound like it makes sense to you? Am I missing something (other than examples!)? 

    In all cases I retunr to what I said at a DML VC hangout. We shouldn’t seek shortcuts to developing or promoting empathy. It requires deep and sustained engagement from our hearts, minds and bodies. Any other dimensions?

    P.S. Added later. Found an article about 3 types of empathy (similar but not exactly same). And this book chapter which I think is based on same theories. Quote:

    The three dimensions of empathy are perspective taking, emotional dimensions, and a genuine concern for the welfare of the other 

    October 19, 2016
    by Maha Bali

    Ugly Duckling & Impostor Syndrome – Diversity and Equity

    Reading Time: 4 minutes

    flickr photo shared by ma_bali under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

    I don’t know if it’s clear looking at the above image what it is I’m showing. The dark pink flowers are part of a tree, they’re growing naturally, in their space. The purple flowers aren’t supposed to growing on the branches of the pink flowers – they are supposed to be some kind of climbing plant (sorry, I don’t know the proper names). It found a way to climb onto the other one. It’s not home. It’s not a parasite exactly, because it’s not taking too much away from the other flower, but it’s an impostor, or something, because it’s in a place it’s not supposed to be. It’s a flower on a climbing tree that belongs on a fence, not wrapped around the branch of a totally different tree.

    You can look at the symbolism of this image and think…some kind of cross-cultural collaboration or serendipity. Or you can look at it and think about how it feels to find yourself an impostor in a certain context. I was thinking about the latter. If he flowers were alive the way animals are, it would be like the ugly duckling because it looks different from those surrounding it. What I absolutely HATE about the story of the ugly duckling is that, in the end, she turns out to be a beautiful swan, more beautiful than the ducks. Instead of learning to love herself for who she was, and finding others to love and appreciate her for what she was (different), her life only became better when she grew into something more beautiful and graceful than a duck… a swan, no less. She had to change (well not intentionally, but you get my meaning) to be accepted and to accept herself.

    But it makes me think a lot about minorities and women in academia. I recently published two articles I am really proud of. The first is a call to global South scholars, a call to action on how to collectively amplify their voices globally. I wrote it in English for al-Fanar and recently heard an Egyptian newspaper would publish the Arabic version (yay! Now I’m worried it doesn’t address the non-English-speaking audience too well… but anyway). The second article addresses scholars in the US/West and how academia can become more permeable – to minorities, women, global South scholars. I cite the work of a lot of wonderful people who influenced my thinking on this (all linked in the two articles, including Laura Czerniewicz, April Hathcock, Rafranz Davis, Sara Ahmed, and the person inspiring me a lot these days, Ruha Benjamin). Because of these articles, people have been sharing interesting articles and their reflections with me, and I wanted to focus on two of those specifically.

    Paul Prinsloo shared Fighting Equality with Silence, story of a man who stepped down from a panel on gender equity when he realized there were 3 men and one woman, and he gave up his spot for a woman – and eventually concedes the woman chosen was a better choice than himself. Interesting Facebook discussions ensued in which some really privileged people showed how clueless they are about their own privilege. Not surprised. (see also Doug Belshaw’s good post on Meritocracy). The other post is one by Aaron Davis, Is Gender the Elephant in the (Education) Room? Which is a really sensitive post on his struggles to make a difference on this issue. What follows is not a critique of Aaron’s post, but me picking on a particular sentence to illustrate a wider point. Aaron writes:

    I think that it is important to encourage women to present when and where applicable, especially when it is only confidence holding them back.

    Especially when it is ONLY confidence holding them back.

    Now let’s unpack this. I think “only confidence holding” anyone back is a really big hole to dig. First of all, there are years and years of patriarchal societies that influence women’s confidence (and years of colonialism and postcolonial economic, political and social issues influencing the psyche of the postcolonial person; and needless to say continual systemic racism built on histories of racism impacting the psyche of people of color). Add to that daily microaggressions (being ignored, dismissed, belittled, stepped on) at work and home and everywhere and you have a situation where the fragility of confidence of a woman or POC is more like inevitable than occasional. Add to that other factors that enhance our impostor syndrome – like generally not seeing people who “look like us” as defaults in places of power. Or, say, panels or keynotes at conferences. The cumulative effects are… Huge.

    And I say this as a really confident person here. I was more confident when I was younger and didn’t know better. Humility makes me less confident but I am still confident through my impostor syndrome. Other women are less lucky. I am fluently bilingual and can express myself eloquently in speech and writing. Others are less fortunate. I grew up with really supportive parents. Other people don’t have that. I grew up affluent. Others don’t have that. Think about intersectionality of a lot of academics who are women, or non-hetero or non-white or just non-default/dominant. Confidence is the least of our problems and only the symptom of our deeper problems. 

    Given all this. It’s not about encouraging women (or any subaltern group) to present because they don’t have confidence. A much more intentional effort needs to be made. To build their presence and confidence in academia by creating space for their voices to exist on THEIR OWN TERMS (hence the articles i just published). This is a much bigger paradigm shift than it seems.

    But any small effort helps. Like Aaron writing a blogpost. Like Paul sharing that article and questioning himself, if he should do the same (I think that’s extremely generous of him given his intersectionality and he should advocate without necessarily letting go of spaces because he represents several minorities already). And even when a dominant person gets the mic/stage they can intentionally cite minority voices and amplify them. There are so many ways individual and institutional. I gave you some in those two articles. Happy to hear more

    (added later coz i had forgotten) 

    It’s both a diversity and equity issue. Sometimes we forget the importance of the latter and how much harder it makes diversity possible. 

    October 18, 2016
    by Maha Bali

    On Attribution vs Privilege of CC0

    Reading Time: 4 minutes

    Let me share with you this true story of my Sudanese friend. One I share with students when I teach about copyright and plagiarism (and how to differentiate them). She was educated in the UK, but now lives in Sudan and has kids. She noticed her nieces/nephews science books were really bad so she created her own version with colorful illustrations and photos and they helped. She started using those books with others in her family. And then with others. Then it occurred to her she could commercialize this and make money, or go to the ministry of higher education and offer her services to make similar books across the science curriculum. 

    You know what happened when she went? She showed them her work and they took out a (badly) photocopied version of it and said “oh? We already have this”. And just like that, a golden opportunity to make a difference in her country’s education system was gone.

    Someone stole her work and gave it to others – copyright violation.

    Someone used her work without attributing to her – plagiarism.

    This kind of thing happens in my part of the world ALL THE TIME. Someone can take work you did and attribute it to themselves and make money off of it even if you had been offering it for free.

    That bothers me.

    While I do believe that making one’s work public (as in online in any form, whether public domain or other license) makes it easy for people to recognize it as yours originally… Putting a CC0 or public domain license on it means someone else can take it exactly as is and claim it as their own and make money off of something you created and made FREE. That bothers me. Even knowing that a license like copyright or CC-BY-NC won’t actually stop unethical people from doing what they will do (and even with copyright I don’t create stuff worth suing over!) it still makes me uncomfortable to go out and say CC0.

    I think it’s all contextual. Some things I am OK with making CC0, like the picture of a cat. Some things are copyrighted like the DigPedCairo photos (my university owns the copyright but all organizers have permission to use them). Some things are CC-BY-NC-SA like my blog posts. My thesis is CC-BY-NC-ND because HELL no I don’t want people taking parts of my thesis out of contexts and doing stuff with it (though isn’t that exactly what we do when we quote someone’s work in an in-text reference?) 

    There is privilege in posting our work openly in any form. You are comfortable enough in the quality of your work to put it out there. You are confident of your fame (to an extent) that you feel people will recognize it as yours even if not quoted as such. But recently, the DML Twitter account tweeted an article by someone else, and quoted a line from their article. The funny part? The line was taken VERBATIM from an article I had written…for DML. So there’s that. I contacted the author and they promised to add a citation. I believe it was an innocent mistake. But notice that it was a quotable line. Notice that the tweeter of said quotable line was from the same organization where I had written that line…maybe a month or two earlier. So there’s that.

    There is also the reality that much of what we do, say, write, make is not completely original. Even my thoughts are inspired by others and I won’t always attribute. I won’t always actually know where they came from because the thread is sooooo long it would be hard to trace the origin.

    But I also know how much it hurts people when their work or ideas are attributed to someone else. It’s not just an emotional hurt (though that’s bad enough), it can be career limiting and it can be a barrier to progress (as in the Sudanese case above). 

    Inspired by Doug Belshaw’s post On CC0, which cites Alan Levine’s post on the same topic…which is funny coz Alan ans I were just talking last week about CC0 vs CC-BY!
    Alan wrote clearly:

    But then I am thinking… why not put all my photos in the public domain? Why not do the most friction free license? The main difference, as I can see is that I am not licensing with an expectation of attribution. Frankly, even with a CC-BY license, often people do not attribute (those catfishers using my photos for their fake profiles NEVER give me credit).

    Alan, if you haven’t noticed, even attributes images he took himself. Because 

    Because being part of sharing commons is not about following rules; it is setting an example for others. 

    Sooooo should I let go completely? 

    I recently told another professor she was free to reuse my Twitter Scavenger Hunt activity however she liked, no permission or attribution necessary. I originally got the idea from someone else (Kim Fox, a mass comm professor at AUC) but changed it dramatically to fit my context. And yeah. My version is famous enough within my circles that people know it but it’s something I would put as CC0 so more people can benefit from it.

    But not everything I create can be CC0. Not yet. And in my local context these things can really really matter. It can make the difference between who gets a job or tenure or promotion and who doesn’t. 

    You don’t know CC0 in practice until someone takes an important body of your work and sells it as their own to others who don’t recognize it as your own or that it is freely available. 

    I know

    I know that I can copyright and even DRM something and someone could steal and commercialize it. I know. That just won’t always be an acceptable state of affairs for me.

    (i am not saying Never, Alan)

    October 17, 2016
    by Maha Bali

    Nostalgia: Speech from 2011 for Tim Sullivan

    Reading Time: 3 minutes

    ​Today was a complicated day, but the highlight of it was going to my office in the morning and finding Tim Sullivan waiting for me in my boss’s office – then spending around 1.5 hours alone with him…talking about everything and nothing. I am a really lucky person.

    (photo coming soon. My phone app is horrible at inserting images)

    Sullivan Lounge Inauguration (May 2011)

    Generations of students have become close to Dr. Sullivan during his lifetime of giving to AUC. Most of my friends who are close to Dr. Sullivan knew him from a class, or when they had senior positions in MUN – not me. By the time I was senior enough, Dr. Sullivan had become provost and there was another MUN advisor. But I did get to know Dr. Sullivan while I was a student leading another extracurricular activity.

    His door was always open – when I was a student, an alum, a staff member. By the time I started teaching at AUC he had left, but he was still always available via email, and we met whenever he came here. 

    When I was a student, he would make time to meet with me over matters relating to our ACM chapter – a small, computer science extracurricular activity at the time. I am sure much of what we did could have been delegated to others, but he always made time to meet us, and always attended our events. When there were matters related to AUC that disturbed me (e.g. issues raised in the Caravan), he made the time to discuss them with me, even though no action was necessarily going to be taken.

    As an alum, he remained a mentor and source of inspiration for me; he asked me the right questions to guide me to choosing the path that was right for me, in my graduate studies, and once I started, he supported me in my choice of doing my thesis about AUC. Up until now, conversations with him are helping me think more clearly about my teaching, my career and my life.

    Up until now, he is in touch with people from AUC via email – he is even on facebook! During the revolution, he was following our status updates and posting comments – someone who clearly cared about Egypt and its people.

    I learned from him two very important lessons: that much of the learning that takes place at AUC takes place outside the classroom, and all of us learn together. This was clear from his passion for MUN and how all of us who joined MUN were able to develop these leadership and interpersonal skills – and as he once told me, the most important outcome of an MUN experience is the confidence that [students develop that] they can make a difference[I later learned they call it self-efficacy and it’s important for citizenship].

    More importantly, I learned from him that people should always come first. This was clear in the way his door was always open to students – even when he was a provost, even to people like me, who initially had no close contact with him through class or MUN.

    Just the other day, I was reading in one of the student newspapers how AUC students would prefer that halls and rooms on campus be named after people who have contributed to AUC with passion, rather than simply with money. The Gerhart Center is one of the places that exemplifies this. I can’t think of anyone who deserves to be remembered for his lifetime contribution to AUC more than Dr. Sullivan, who has touched the lives of so many generations.  I hope that this lounge will be used in ways that would make Dr. Sullivan proud.

    [at some point I made a joke, probably at the beginning, that I hoped the room would be just like Tim Sullivan – easy to find and with an always open door; that’s a big joke on campus because rooms are notoriously hard to find on AUC’s new campus, especially the building where this room is located]

    October 16, 2016
    by Maha Bali

    The Me You Know

    Reading Time: 4 minutes

    Scenario 1:

    I’m in the middle of a conversation with a colleague/friend at work, and they say “yes, well when you wrote…” (and they refer to a blogpost or article I have written and I never knew that they were reading my writing before!

    Scenario 2:

    I am meeting with a colleague at work and before we start doing something together on her computer I get a glimpse of her email inbox. It says “Reflecting Allowed” and I realize she’s email-subscribed to my blog. I didn’t know that!

    Scenario 3:

    “I cried when you wrote about your daughter’s foot getting stuck in the revolving door”

    Scenario 4 (recurrent)

    Someone looking at me with a lot of… Love (?) and treating me really special when I don’t really know them that well (but really like them) and suddenly I realize it’s because they read a lot of my writing. And it’s an epiphany (this moment intersects with some of the above scenarios) 

    Scenario 5 (recurrent)

    I call a non-academic friend I haven’t seen in ages and she tells me “I read everything you write even though I don’t always understand what you’re talking about”

    Scenario 6:

    Someone I interact with online who barely (if ever) comments on my blog or retweets my work lets me know they appreciate my writing 

    Scenario 7

    The ex-president of my university emails me that she’s regularly reading my Prof Hacker posts

    Scenario 8 (roughly paraphrased)

    I feel connected to you, that I know you well, even when I am not talking directly with you because I read your blog/watch you on Vconnecting. I feel like I know you more than you know me

    Scenario 9

    A friend of mine (who blog a lot) discuss how it feels to meet someone f2f when they feel they know you because they read your blog and you’re embarrassed you don’t know them as well as they know you (either because they don’t blog as often or as openly or not at all…or you just didn’t realize they blogged…or you did but you can’t keep up with all your readers given how much you write).

    Scenario 10

    I do something (in a physical/sync context) that’s a little sensitive or empathetic in person and someone notices and they seem to be noticing it more because I write about this stuff. And I want to scream that what I write is what’s in my mind, the ideal, theoretical that I wish to put into practice, but in real life I am a so-so listener, in real life empathy gets me into trouble and sometimes I lose it altogether. In real life I make so many mistakes with people I love and sometimes they can’t stand me on days I just blogged something beautiful or something 

    Scenario 11

    People close to me in person seeing me as something different from how I view mysef as a whole person. Because they don’t read me. And that’s a big part of who I am and what I think and how I feel and how I process my life. Do they really know me if they only know my behavior and not my thoughts?

    Scenario 12

    FRIEND/Colleague(who has known  me well since undergrad, and now works with me) at Digital Pedagogy Lab Cairo tells me “it feels like I am now living inside Maha’s head” and it strikes me as the truest thing, because these people (Bon, Jesse, Sean, Amy) and I live in each other’s heads quite regularly. 

    Bonnie Stewart  recently published a piece in Inside Higher Ed based on the research she did with George Velestianos. Full citation of the peer-reviewed piece at the bottom of this article (I won’t refer to it too much – but it’s a good article. And you can guess who Maha, Associate Professor from Egypt in their study is)

    So a lot of the scenarios above happened in the past week or two. Some earlier. Many recur.

    It makes me think about how my embodied self could never live up to my (albeit still authentic) digital self. For example, yesterday I blogged and Facebooked highlights of my day, but a big part of my day was horrible and I couldn’t talk about it. I often write about oppression without specifying particular incidents. But sometimes I write in detail about very specific things and reflect on them. Because I can. Or because it can be valuable to others (even more important). And which things in our lives we choose to reveal are very personal and nuanced decisions. And while I know my reading has audiences beyond my digital niche group who understand most of my work, I sometimes blog (inhospitably) addressing just them. 

    Somehow, the great thing about having different possible avenues to publish our work, esp non-peer-reviewed work, helps us think about audience. Does an article belong on Prof Hacker (where I need to write at least 3/month) or DML (where I promised 10/year) or my own blog, or should I publish to an Arab academic audience (Al-Fanar)? And just sometimes it belongs in an email to colleagues. Or it starts as an email then I realize it will do more good (to the world or myself) as a blogpost.

    So just wanted to capture this moment 🙂

    Veletsianos, G. & Stewart, B. (2016).Scholars’ open practices: Selective and intentional self-disclosures and the reasons behind themSocial Media + Society, 2(3). doi: 10.1177/2056305116664222


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