Representation vs Appropriation

I’ve recently been involved in a series of conversations regarding representation in order to promote inclusion and diversity.

The online learning space can often feel and be cold in terms of human contact. Injecting humanity and personality into what we present online is, in my opinion, vital to appealing to the affective realm and helping students to make positive emotional attachments to the online space and each other.

As educators we can ensure we have a profile image and a bio. We can create videos where we at least periodically show our faces. And if we use images in our course materials, where people are part of the imagery – we can and should strive to show a diverse range of humanity.

Some platforms allow for the use of gifs of real people – often actors and comedians, but sometimes just meme-able folks – to use as emotional responses or reactions. And that is where appropriation and a question of “digital blackface” can creep in.

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