12644 ED: Blind Spots in Maker Communities: Examining and Addressing Diversity and Equity in What’s Available for Making, Who is Making, and What is Being Made in Youth DIY Media

06/11/2015 @ 4:00 PM – 5:30 PM
The Wiltern BC

Organizer: Yasmin Kafai
Presenters: Deborah Fields, Yasmin Kafai, Michael Lachney, Kristin Searle
Discussant: Shirin Vossoughi

Much attention has focused on the lack of diversity in commercial maker activities, such as the covers and content of Make magazine, as Leah Buechley pointed out in her keynote address at the 2013 FabLearn conference. Far less attention has been paid to what makers themselves are producing and how this impacts magnitude and diversity of participation. In this panel we plan to turn our attention to the other side, maker communities, their members and productions to examine what materials, kits, and tools are available for making, who is doing the making, how processes of making unfold, and what is being made. Our goal is to identify some of the blind spots and to discuss what we can do to increase diversity and equity in makers, making, and made things, thus aligning ourselves with DML’s 2015 theme of Equity by Design. Our presentations and discussions will focus on two key dimensions of diversity and equity: (1) availability and levels of participation and (2) approaches to promote and increase cultural diversity in youth DIY media productions. We will begin with an overview of available content for creative production and participation in over 140 DIY media sites conducted by Sarah Grimes and Deborah Fields (http://semaphore.utoronto.ca/diymedia/index.php) and then examine participants and programming projects in the Scratch online community. Deborah Fields, Yasmin Kafai and Michael Giang will share findings from an analysis of over 5,000 online participants with a focus on how newcomers and girls fare in their overall participation and program complexity compared to other members (www.scratch.mit.edu). The next set of presentations will illustrate how culturally aware designs and culturally responsive making can address makers’ blindspots. Michael Lachney introduces a critique of the “content agnostic” design position, in which he shows a “basin of attraction” towards commercial content for children working in purportedly “open” visual programming environments. He contrasts this critique with his own work on the “content aware” design approach to programmable Culturally Situated Design Tools (csdt.rpi.edu). The youth-produced documentary Knit, Purl, Compute shows evidence that content aware educational technology design can be culturally specific while also allowing youth to transfer mathematical knowledge across cultural domains, in this case knitting and Native American beadwork. Finally, Kristin Searle will showcase her efforts to connect educational maker activities with heritage craft practices in an American Indian community school. The work brings together hands-on, project-based learning with craft practices and Indigenous Knowledge Systems, broadening not only who is making but what is being made. Findings highlight the importance of craft practices as an initial point of connection, the importance of allowing space for design agency in engaging students in making activities, and the ways in which the tangible dimension of maker artifacts facilitated connections across multiple dimensions of students’ lives. Our discussant Shirin Vossoughi will focus on challenges in identifying and increasing awareness of blind spots in maker communities and possibilities for intervention to increase access, diversity, and participation.

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