Margaret Rhee

How have you participated in both ‘virtual’ organizations or new collectives, as well as more traditional sites of learning?

I have participated as a HASTAC scholar for the past two years, engaging in public forums such as Digital Storytelling, Race and Ethnicity, and the
one I co-hosted Queer and Feminist New Media Spaces. Previous to HASTAC, I was involved with an online collective/workshop focused on Asian
American poetry, hosted by poets/activists Ching-in Chen and Marlon Unas Esguerra. We ‘met’ online, posted poems, and every week gave each other feedback. It was a wonderful process and demonstrated to me the possibilites of ‘virtual’ spaces. However, HASTAC forums are on a very
different scale, and an exciting one. HASTAC forums really provide an ‘open’ ‘free’ and ‘accessible’ space for learning and engagement. I loved
that everyone who wanted to, could log on to HASTAC. That people such as prominent scholars in the field to undergraduates or community folks could engage with one another. I was just talking to my friend Sonny who works on transgender studies at the University of Massachusetts in Sociology, about the Queer and Feminist New Media Spaces forum we participated in. We mutually expressed how dynamic and engaging it was, how fast the responses were, but also so thoughtful, and how the learning really happened in an organic, engaged fashion, it was truly queer feminist studies at its best!

I am a doctoral student in ethnic studies, and new media studies at the university of california, berkeley, and also have a ma in ethnic studies from San Francisco State university. I have def experienced traditional learning spaces, like the classroom, but am truly jazzed and excited and transformed by the work and the teaching/learning being down via virtual spaces, that oftentimes, are dynamic, passionate and non-hierarchical in a way the traditional classroom/conference often is not.

How do you see the two interacting, or what can each learn from the other? In what specific ways can these two spaces, or modes of learning and interacting, inform each other?

I think both most certainly do, interact with one another, and can and must learn from one another. The traditional classroom for instance, usually has one professor teaching, while us students sit, take notes, and ask questions. On a HASTAC forum, there is a dynamic way, where the material flows from ‘experts’ but also is responded to and by other ‘experts’ (ie everyone). While folks can certainly just simply watch/read the forums, and I was told by my friend Hoang Nguyen at Bryn Mawr, who decided to print out the entire forum to read hard copy, I think most people feel okay to log on, and join in on the fun when they feel compelled. the traditional physical classroom space does not have so much of that ability to conversate, and join in when you want/can. However, collaborative work, groups, and other means can def facilitate this way of working together in the traditional classroom, that provides ‘students’ are not only depositories, but all can be ‘experts’ and ‘teachers’ in some and all ways.

I think the two can and must interact, in terms of, its exciting to think of the traditional classroom incorporating some of the issues and dynamics
found in virtual environments, like having a class blog or chat, or even the openness of students using twitter as a way to write notes? Its exciting to be imaginative and how we can facilitate technology to help teaching/learning. Moreover, a lot of our knowledge comes from traditional classrooms, so the virtual spaces always benefits from the traditional learning ie my queer and lesbian class at sf state, def helped me work and engage on the Queer and Feminist new media spaces forum. The interaction is crucial and exciting, on how these spaces can learn from one another!

What does “collective” mean to you, especially in relation to the term “new collectives” or virtual organizations?

The politics of building a community is of particular importance to me, being a scholar in Ethnic Studies were race, racialization, and other axes of difference is prioritized. I think of a collective as a community where like minded folks can come together, and collaborate to make some real stuff in the world happen. As Benedict Anderson writes of nationalism, community is an imagined one, but virtual collectives or organizations can bring this imagination to life, to reality, by creating together. It is an intensely creative and political act to build a collective and/or community, and have always been thankful for HASTAC and other organizations like Kundiman, of which Ive been a member, for providing engagement safety, and openness to all the work being done, at the heart of the collectivity.

How do you see digital media being used for education, learning and building collectives? Either theoretically, or even better -practically and literally, in your past experiences.

I have been thinking much about constructionist learning, and the importance of learning through creating. I recently began translating Korean poetry into English, and found through translation, the most intimate act of reading, they say, I was learning not only about Korean modern poetry, but Korean history, Korean language, and Korean culture. Not to mention, I needed to talk to my mom who is fluent in Korean, to assist me in the work of translating, not an easy act. But in talking to my mom, I also learned things about her, like how the poet I was translating Kim Nam Jo was one of the first poets, my mom read as a teenager in Korea. Her first boyfriend gave my mother, a Kim Nam Jo book. Truly beautiful stories, I would have never known. In a sense, I realized how much translating poetry, is constructionist learning, that I am learning by creating/translating.

From thinking about one of the oldest forms of art/communication: poetry, to new media work, I think about how our current new media, or as nakamura would say, “post-internet” age, is really ‘overwhelmed’ in the digital/visual culture on a massive scale. And how we are able to and need to ‘translate’ much more than before, in the very structures in which media is made. is constructionist learning is so important at this moment, especially since we can and should utilize media itself to learn and empower. I have always liked the remixed work of Negativland, which utilize the media clips to demonstrate, for example, how many times the gun is utilized in American popular culture films. Negativland is a band, but also a collective that was also very political in the work brought forth.

In my own experience, I worked closely with many community media organizations like public access Berkeley Community Media, Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project, and Center for Digital storytelling. I really love these organizations, because they provide digital tools for people to claim their voices and create their own media. My first filmmaking class was with Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project, where for the first time, I used a Mac computer, held a video camera, and tripod, and finished my first documentary short on Asian American drag kings. It was a formative experience because it made me realize that in the digital age, the equipment was accessible in a way, its never been before. And that instead of always critiquing the ‘negative’ images of the mainstream of Asian American women, it was also upon me to utilize my own agency to create images that I want to see.

As someone really interested in analyzing media and culture, its really important to me, that the stuff of media is open to not only analyze, but re-mix and recreate and educate…When i get asked to speak about my media research, I often provide a participatory aspect as well. I can talk all I want, reading the images of particular films etc, but people listening to me, can also disidentify with what i am saying and the image themselves. Im truly interested in this aspect…so after my ‘talk’ I ask participants to pick some of the images (printed hard copies) and re-mix them. through markers, pens, scissors etc. Ive had astounding experiences working with students this way, where they really engage in remixing the media. they write back poems, draw photos, and bascially theorize the images by remixing them. it reiterates how media reception is not static, and also, does not have to be. The images will go online, and in turn, become another ‘representation,’ but one that, lets say, LGBTQ youth actually had a hand in creating, together. this excites me about digitam media learning and education. I feel the most vital learning experiences I had, were the ones that I was encouraged to be hands on with digital media, as images/representation is not seamless, static, and all god powerful, but open to not only interpretation, but recreation itself.

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