Through tracing the history of a book and a laptop, we learned that there is so much more that goes into the production of our belongings than we normally have the chance to learn about. When we think about purchasing products, we very rarely think about how natural resources are exploited, how people and communities are subject to unhealthy and dangerous conditions, and the sheer amount of labor involved for us to check out a library book or use a laptop.
Our original goals
Throughout our month of work, we also engaged with many readings about issues of race, gender, class, and other identities and frameworks are crucial to understanding Digital Humanities, technology, and the world we live in today. We paid special attention to the work of scholars and writers that are often underrepresented in academia, and we see that work as foundational for the research and development of this project.
As mentioned in the Introduction, we set goals and chose certain Design Justice Network principles that we felt were particularly important to this project. In a group brainstorming session, we decided that we wanted our final work on Scalar to be easy to navigate, read, access, and understand. By working with the tags, paths, table of contents, and other tools on the platform, we kept in mind that people may be coming to our site with a wide variety of access needs. We used the platform's formatting tools to make the site accessible to screen readers, Scalar's unique path functions for ease of navigation and understanding, and we held each other accountable to keep our language accessible to anyone who may come across this site- community members, academics, students, organizers, etc. By making this site public, free, and accessible online, we hope that we are able to share what we have learned with the Barnard community, or even other campuses. Through our research, we constantly interrogated issues identity and systemic inequities and used them to guide our writing. We drew from existing work on sustainability from Indigenous communities and organizations researching circular campus models, as well as the knowledge of people already doing this work at Barnard.
Simultaneously, we realize that the official publication of the webpage does not mark the end of the project. Our achievement of our goals and the Design Justice Network principles depend on other folks' engagement with our work. As we seek to prioritize impact over intent, we welcome commentary and feedback on this site. Readers can leave comments through the Hypothes.is installed add-on.
We want to reemphasize that we feel that Barnard should support the DHC in hosting this program for the full summer. To learn new platforms, technology, and skills, build an independent website, create individual Scalar pages, and complete a project in only 4 weeks was no small feat.
As we approached the deadline to complete the project, we felt more time pressure and started to become more focused on the "final product," rather than what we were learning along the way. With more time, funding, and support, it would be possible to continue fostering an environment in which students can collaborate and take the necessary time to learn at their own pace. This is important not only for the sake of learning, but also to adhere to the idea that work distribution and individual contribution should be relatively equal. Hosting this program for a longer period of time would make it even easier for Alicia Peaker and the next cohort to learn and create the most equitable environment as possible.
What can change at Barnard?
While the goal of this project was not to create a concrete plan for implementing a circular economy at Barnard, our research has shown us that there are potential action items that the school can take in the near future in order to create a more sustainable environment. Related specifically to the objects that we investigated, we would encourage Barnard and its community members to:
- Create an official “lending library” supported by BCIT in order to make old college-used laptops available to community members for personal/school use
- Similar to the FLIP library, we hope such an initiative would prioritize and take into account the needs of low-income students.
- Expand the inventory of laptops (and other devices) for students, faculty, and staff at home to use as we work and learn from home
- Remove 4-year contract restriction that prevents faculty and staff from repairing their devices at BCIT
- Continue recycling laptops when they are no longer able to be used or repaired
- Share physical copies of books among students, faculty, and staff
- Increase the number of low cost courses available to students
- As seen when we suddenly shifted online in Spring 2020, many professors who had been adamant about their inability to share their resources and ensure all students were able to access course materials suddenly were able to redistribute readings, book chapters, and other resources to the whole class. This way, students would not need to purchase expensive books that they will only read (or skim) once, which in turn would reduce the overall environmental impact of being a student at Barnard.
- The Personal Librarians are currently working with faculty to make low cost courses, as part of a series of efforts led by Miriam Neptune. Faculty and students should reach out to their Personal Librarian if they would like to lower or eliminate the costs of their course for students.
- Motivate community members to donate books to the FLIP library or community organizations who accept donations
- Inform students of off-campus or online resources to access course materials that Barnard does not have, such as New York Public Library (NYPL), Borrow Direct, and the Interlibrary Loan system.
We look forward to seeing how college campuses will apply more sustainable practices in the future.