The following research group descriptions are archived because they are no longer offered, the faculty member is on sabbatical, or the group is taking a break. Please contact the faculty member or an advisor to learn more about these groups.
TIME IS A TECHNOLOGY (TIAT)
Advised by Sucheta Ghoshal
Facilitated by Nat Mengist
Winter 2022 — time TBD
One credit seminar
This DRG is at capacity for winter quarter and no longer accepting applications.
“The Challenges of the ‘Semester Slam’ are: Unstructured time; Varied and time-consuming commitments; The tendency to unconsciously prioritize seemingly urgent, unimportant tasks and other needs while neglecting our own health, well-being, relationships, and long-term success; Lack of clarity about how much time research and writing tasks actually take; Institutional cultures where everyone works all the time.” 
“Within the Yoruba culture, the world is first and foremost understood as a field of dynamic flows of experiences, a space of visible and invisible, destructive and creative encounters. Its divinities and ancestors are governed by the same laws as humans and are placed into the fourth dimension: the transitional space between the past, present, and future. Immersion into the cosmos allows one to overcome the anxiety and anguish these shifting flows of forces generate, and helps one to better understand the cosmos.” 
 Anthony Ocampo, “SKILL #1: Every Semester Needs a Plan” (Webinar, National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity, Detroit, MI, January 14, 2021), https://www.facultydiversity.org/webinars/semesterplan21.
 Felwine Sarr, Afrotopia (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2019), 84, https://www.upress.umn.edu/book-division/books/afrotopia.
As the epigraphs above suggest, this directed research group hopes to create a collaborative space to discuss and critically engage with the institutional reality of time. Time has been positioned as an essential currency by the commodity cultures of global capitalism and white supremacist domination. Grounded in this historical, socioeconomic, and cultural understanding, we aim to question some of the common assumptions underlying the institutionalized realities of time that get inscribed in the design (processes and outcomes) of popular technologies.
Questions that interest us include, but are not limited to: what does it mean to “spend time” or “save time”?; do we have “all the time in the world,” or is time “short”?; how did the phrases "time is money" and "colored people's time" come into vernacular discourse?; and finally, how might we enable these (and many other) temporal interventions to create time that works for liberation, rather than against liberation?
Toward these ends, we strive to generate the following learning outcomes in this space:
- Exploring the historical range of temporal technocultures: The content of TIAT is structured in order to raise collective consciousness about the plurality of temporal philosophies across history and culture: specifically Black, indigeneous, and other liberatory engagements with time that predate the social reality of time manufactured by racial capitalism.
- Evaluating the moral and material worth of temporally-situated claims: Furthering our critical examination of temporal technocultures of the present day in white, Western contexts, we will study how popular expressions like “time is money” leads to investing moral and material value into something as intangible and superfluous as time.
- Experimenting with technological mediations of time and tempo: Finally, we will learn to leverage insights from Black, indigeneous technocultures of time (“colored people’s time”) through thoughtful experimentation with the mediating functionality of rhythm, gesture, and animation in order to practice instantiating temporal formations committed to compassion over profit.
TIAT borrows from Kirsty M. Robertson’s “clutter curating” style of collaborative teaching and learning. The first half of the quarter focuses on guided research through shared readings and facilitator-led discussion (curated). This will prepare us for self-determined research through independent readings and participant-led discussion in the second half of the quarter (cluttered).
Weekly commitment includes (1) participating in an hour-long synchronous session with (2) two hours of asynchronous thinking/producing between sessions, which will be held remotely via Zoom. This DRG is at capacity for winter quarter and no longer accepting applications.
Speculating Beyond Data Capitalism
Led by HCDE PhD student Caitie Lustig, co-sponsored by Professors Daniela Rosner and Sucheta Ghoshal
In this DRG, we will take a critical look at the labor of data workers and its relationship to wider systems of oppression. Data are essential for the creation and functioning of the software we use every day, but how are data produced, managed, and cleaned? Who does that labor and under what conditions?
We will read about and discuss topics such as data capitalism, data colonialism, the labor that goes into producing and managing data, the materiality of data and the work needed to maintain and repair its physical infrastructures, and designing for alternatives. These readings will be contextualized in case studies on different kinds of data labor, such as Amazon Mechanical Turk workers who train machine learning models and content moderators on social media platforms.
This DRG has three objectives: (1) to discuss these topics through the lenses of anti-capitalism, post-colonial theory, feminist technoscience, and critical data studies, (2) to write design fictions to speculate about alternative futures, and (3) to learn about other methods that we can use in our future work.
Format and output of the DRG:
This DRG is 2-3 credits.
Over the course of the quarter, we will discuss readings, and some weeks we will have researchers and/or activists join us as discussants. In the latter half of the quarter, we will write and workshop short design fictions as tools for thinking about how to design more equitable alternatives and provide critiques of existing systems.
At the end of the DRG, we will share out our design fictions, potentially as a contribution to a conference or journal, or as its own website.