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The DIRT for December 10-14, 2018

Digital Detox 2019 to Focus on Bias & Inclusion in Digital Spaces

Written by Sarah Lohnes Watulak

Digital Detox 2019 - Bias and Inclusion in Digital Spaces

The Office of Digital Learning and Inquiry (DLINQ) is excited to announce our second annual Digital Detox.

In DLINQ, we look holistically at “the digital” in our lives and in our educational environments. This means we examine the promises and the risks of how we use digital tools, how those tools impact various facets of our lives and interactions, and the increasingly blurred edges between physical and digital realms.

Digital Detox is an initiative to reduce the toxicity of our personal digital environments and how we engage with them. The theme of this year’s Detox is Inclusion and Bias in Digital Spaces. When you sign up to participate in the Detox, you’ll receive a twice-weekly email newsletter in January and early February with actionable strategies for reducing exclusion, increasing inclusion, and combating bias in digital spaces. Topics include data and digital redlining, radical listening in digital spaces, critically considering tools, confronting the invisible digital divide in higher ed, and more! By mindfully taking on this detox, you will begin to develop critical and healthy habits in digital spaces.

Digital Detox 2019 is created in partnership with DLINQ’s Inclusive Design studio.


Fourth Edition of “Small Moves” Instructional Design Blog Series by Heather Stafford

Teacher’s Desk – Linn School, by Todd Petrie

Heather Stafford continues her blog series to dig deeper into some of the small moves that were discussed during her October 25th online workshop ‘Student-Centered Course Design Using Canvas.’ In the series Heather shares activities and design elements that faculty can implement to amplify connectivity of a class.

In the forth edition of the series, Heather features the practice of establishing virtual office hours with a combination of Canvas’ scheduler and Zoom web conferencing tools.


Amy Collier Hosts Digital Fluencies Workshop on Misinformation, Bots and Sockpuppets

Written by Bob Cole

On Tuesday, December 4th, Amy Collier facilitated a workshop titled “Misinformation & Bots/Sockpuppets” as part of Middlebury’s Digital Fluencies series, co-sponsored by the DLA, CTLR, Davis Family Library, and DLINQ. The session invited participants to explore the following questions: What role do bots (automated fake social media accounts) and sockpuppets (human-operated fake social media accounts) play in our digital information environments? How do you spot a bot or sockpuppet and try understand their influence? How do human, non-human and hybrid actors infiltrate our digital “public” spheres, and how might we combat them? 

During the session Amy situated the wicked challenge of dis/misinformation within the context of our current digital information sphere which is heavily consolidated among a few big tech companies (e.g. Facebook, Google, Twitter) and primarily driven by their commercial interests. The work of “bad bots” (BTW they’re not all bad) and the goal of active disinformation campaigns is to hack the public’s attention in order to sow doubt, erode trust, polarize, destabilize, and radicalize. Amy noted that while propaganda is not a new phenomenon in the United States, what’s different about what we are seeing today is the massive reach that these forces can have, especially when they are activated in heavily siloed social media platforms accessed by hundreds of millions of people around the world. The impact of coordinated dis/misinformation is even more pronounced as our information spaces have become equated to our personal identities, what we believe, and how we feel.

The metaphor of environmental pollution guides Amy’s approach to talking about the effects of dis/misinformation in our lives and is foundational to the work of DLINQ’s Information Environmentalism Studio. Through inquiry and exploration we can move beyond a sense of learned helplessness about the toxic state of our information environments. We can work together to develop new critical habits like fact-checking and bot-spotting to raise our awareness of the influence of algorithms in our information spaces. Ultimately, however, Amy suggests that to reclaim the web we are going to have to place more pressure on platforms to change policies. The commercial platforms will not make moves to change until they see an impact on their bottom line.

A few resources mentioned from the workshop:

How Hate Groups Forced Online Platforms to Reveal Their True Nature, John Hermann, New York Times

Congressedits Bot, Wikipedia

Information environmentalism research: Fake accounts and mis/disinformation on Pinterest, Amy Collier, DLINQ’s Information Environmentalism Studio

Russia is gearing up to misinform the U.S. public about Syria. Here’s our cheat sheet to identify Twitter trolls. Jack O. Nassetta and Ethan P. Fecht, Washington Post

Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy, Siva Vaidhyanathan, Oxford University Press 


The Digital Fluencies Series investigates what it means to develop more critical facility with digital technologies. Faculty, students, and staff are all welcome to participate regardless of digital skills. Learn more about the series at go/digitalfluencies.


Dig Deeper:
Under the pavement, the dirt is dreaming of grass.

― Wendell Berry

Featured image Weston Beach by James Ting

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