I’m Kathi Inman Berens, a professor and digital media maker based in Portland, Oregon. I’m honored to teach at Portland State University’s English Department.
I’m also a mom, wife, music enthusiast, weekend cyclist and humble yoga practitioner. I’m lucky to live in a place where it’s almost effortless to dip into nature and experience awe.
Key to my pedagogy–which means “theory and practice of teaching”–is the idea that students need to build digital artifacts in order to understand how they work. That’s why my students meet in labs and in virtual classrooms online: so that we can play with tools and in doing so, learn more about the evolving human/computer interface. I have a hunch that face-to-face is still the gold standard of human learning, provided we are fully wired and connected.
I’m fascinated by a double-helix: the social dimension of the language by which computers operate; and the way such language winds invisibly, mysteriously through daily human interaction. I suspect there is a procedural logic to face-to-face embodiment, a vast but discoverable range of operations permitted by our neural “equipment.” The determinism evolving out of neuroscientific research compels me but also raises my suspicions: Freud, that poet of our conflicting desires, thought humans were machines, too, and used archetypical literature rather than brain scans to describe the operating system.
When I read Apple’s iOS guidelines for human/computer interface, that’s when I knew I’d found a puzzle I could work. I am a committed family gal, attuned to the life of the home; but if you totted up the hours and stray minutes, the face I gaze at most often is my iPhone’s.
I am alive to the history of migration here across turbulent oceans and vertical peaks. I feel the shimmer that enticed people of all colors and tongues to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento. But manifest destiny isn’t the Golden State. It’s the little portal dreamed up in Cupertino that sits in the palm of your hand.