Conference Paper

Mementorium: Designing for playful and interactive learning about gender and sexuality-based marginalization

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FULL TEXT available @ Mementorium is a heartfelt story about identity and belonging told through a virtual reality (VR) branching narrative. Mementorium’s design builds upon our previous designs and research on queer reorientations to computing and queer approaches to embodied learning in VR. The design is accomplished through the branching narrative, which supports listening to marginalized experiences and emotional co-construction of the story, and through the interaction design, which encourages play and embodied learning and centers authentic practices of belonging and becoming. This paper introduces Mementorium’s narrative and interaction design and research that informed the design. Mementorium is an approximately 30-minute single-player, room-scale interactive VR experience intended for a general audience to learn about gender and sexuality-based marginalization in science and technology.

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Technological imaginaries underpinning computing and technoscientific practices and pedagogies are predominantly entrenched in cisheteropatriarchal, imperialist, and militaristic ideologies. A critical, intersectional queer and trans phenomenological analysis of computing education offers an epistemological and axiological reimagining by centering the analysis of gender and sexuality through the lens of marginalized people’s experiences (queer, trans, and intersecting marginalities). It analyzes how systems of domination and liberation occur through relationships between objects, people, and their environments and how these systems of power multiply in effect when people are situated at multiple axes of oppression (such as gender, sexuality, race, and disability). Complexity, heterogeneity, and fluidity are at the core of queer and trans imaginaries and challenge the assumed naturalness of biological categories that underpin much of the cisheteronormative harm and violence in K-16 education, STEM disciplinary practices, and technological innovations. Foregrounding complexity, heterogeneity, and fluidity supports the critique, construction, and transformation of computational objects, worlds, and learning environments so that queer and trans perspectives, narratives, and experiences are centered and valued. In doing so, ambiguity, fluidity, and body becoming are centered in virtual spaces, thereby offering emancipatory possibilities for supporting critical literacies of gender and sexuality. Methodologically, approaches rooted in active solidarity with queer and trans people and a commitment to listening to intersectional experiences of gender and sexuality-based marginalization and resilience reorient computing learning environments towards liberatory, justice-oriented practices. Computing scholars and educators have identified data science (more broadly) and algorithmic bias (in particular) as an essential domain for furthering education research and practice. Histories of erasure, exclusion, and violence on queer and trans people, both by carceral technologies and algorithmic bias, and as part of the computing profession, are enacted on individual people and reflected in societal biases that inform and shape public experiences of computing and technologies. Overall, queering computing education and computing education research directs attention towards a multifaceted problem: the historical and ongoing hegemonic, cisheteropatriarchal control over programming; the limitations to representation by code that a computer can recognize; the possibilities to queer code and computer architectures; the technological regulation of identity and bodies; and the limits and affordances of technological representation of gender and sexual identity. A queer, trans, intersectional, justice-oriented approach to computing education attends to the structural, socio-historical context in teaching and learning computer science and coding, including the dominant cultures of the technology workforce and the everyday disciplining interactions with technology that shape who we can become.
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In this chapter, we argue for an epistemological shift from viewing coding and computational thinking as mastery over computational logic and symbolic forms, to viewing them as a more complex form of experience. Rather than viewing computing as regurgitation and production of a set of axiomatic computational abstractions, we argue that computing and computational thinking, should be viewed as discursive, perspectival, material and embodied experiences, among others. These experiences include, but are not subsumed by, the use and production of computational abstractions. We illustrate what this paradigmatic shift toward a more phenomenological account of computing can mean for teaching and learning STEM in K12 classrooms by presenting a critical review of the literature, as well as by presenting a review of several studies we have conducted in K12 educational settings grounded in this perspective. Our analysis reveals several phenomenological approaches that can be useful for framing computational thinking in K12 STEM classrooms.
The authors describe an emerging paradigm of educational research that pairs theories of embodied learning with a class of immersive technologies referred to as mixed reality (MR). MR environments merge the digital with the physical, where, for example, students can use their bodies to simulate an orbit around a virtual planet. Recent research supports the idea that body activity can be an important catalyst for generating learning, and new technologies are being developed that use natural human physicality and gesture as input. However, existing research on embodied learning technologies has been disparate, driven largely by specific technical innovations and constraints, and often lacking a clear focus on establishing their efficacy in educational contexts. On the basis of the unique characteristics of these technologies and on their own experiences conducting research in this area, the authors put forth six precepts for embodied learning technology researchers that pertain to the rationale, design, and execution of empirical studies.
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