📑 What We Talk About When We Talk About Digital Capabilities

Bookmarked What We Talk About When We Talk About Digital Capabilities: Keynote for #udigcap | Donna Lanclos–The Anthropologist in the Stacks (donnalanclos.com)

The history of Anthropology tells us that categorizing people is lesser than understanding them. Colonial practices were all about the describing and categorizing, and ultimately, controlling and exploiting. It was in service of empire, and anthropology facilitated that work.

It shouldn’t any more, and it doesn’t have to now.

You don’t need to compile a typology of students or staff. You need to engage with them.

In a keynote at the UCISA Digital Capabilities event at Warwick University, Donna Lanclos unpacks the effect of analytics and the problems of profiling when trying to identify improvements. A skills approach is an issue when decisions get made on your behalf based on the results of a pre-conceived checklist:

I want to draw a line from quiz-type testing that offers people an opportunity to profile themselves and the problems inherent in reducing knowledge work to a list of skills. And I also want to draw attention to the risks to which we expose our students and staff, if we use these “profiles” to predict, limit, or otherwise determine what might be possible for them in the future.

Lanclos suggests that we need to go beyond the inherent judgments of contained within metaphors and deficit models, and instead start with context:

We need to start with people’s practices, and recognize their practice as as effective for them in certain contexts.

And then ask them questions. Ask them what they want to do. Don’t give them categories, labels are barriers. Who they are isn’t what they can do.

Please, let’s not profile people.

When you are asking your students and staff questions, perhaps it should not be in a survey. When you are trying to figure out how to help people, why not assume that the resources you provide should be seen as available to all, not just the ones with “identifiable need?”

The reason deficit models persist is not a pedagogical one, it’s a political one.

She closes with the remark:

When we ask students questions, it shouldn’t be in a survey.

This reminds me of coaching the fluidity of the conversation. This also touches on my concern with emotional intelligences as a conversational tool.

The interior of the triangle is where people map the practices that are bounded by their
institution and the work they do in institutional digital platforms and places. The exterior of the triangle
is where they can map everything else–what they do that is not bounded by the institution. This can
be their personal lives, or their work that does not take place in official channels, but rather on the
open web, in self-hosted or commercial platforms.

There is also a recording of this presentation:

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