Scholar Spotlight: Martin Perez Comisso

Hi! I’m Martín, a Chilean third-year Ph.D. student at Arizona State University. My program has the most extended name that I know for a degree, called “Human and Social Dimensions of Science and Technology,” which is based on science and technology studies (STS) but goes above and beyond that field. In the next questions, I will share my motivations and experiences as a HASTAC Scholar

1) Why did you apply to HASTAC? 

I heard about HASTAC from a colleague of mine, @drnikki. I was thrilled to find such great inter-disciplinarian and critical community around learning in our technological times, and how to include diverse voices in our learning communities. Last Fall (2019), I saw the new call for scholars. I decided to apply with a faculty mentor who has been supporting me since last year in a collaborative and ambitious teaching experience. HASTAC gives us the expertise to enhance this relationship and allows me to continue working together on these projects. 

2) What has been your favorite course so far as an instructor or student? Why?

I loved a class on Visual Narratives from Dr. Wendy Williams that I took looking at elements to understand better engagement. She divided the class into parts between fixed and mobile images, integrating narrative and aesthetic appreciation in an excellent collection of classic and contemporary works. This class was far from what I was expecting to learn in my program, and probably, that makes me enjoy it heartily. I drafted as my final project a fascinating paper about Visual Narrative in Fortnite Battle Royale in late 2018 because, during that time, I had started to play this game too. 

3) What do you want to do after you graduate?

I love teaching and public service. For that reason, I would like to work in academia or a civic organization. First, I would like to teach about the systemic and critical dimension of technology, that I consider highly fragmented and disconnected. In particular, in Chile, the STS community, in which I identify most of my work, is young and vibrant. I would like to help to increase the relevance of this community and its impact on different technological arenas. Also, I envision myself as a public official in an advisory role for a national or international organization where I can increase the inclusion and participation for better technological decisions (whatever that means in that context).

4) What’s something that people would be surprised to know about you? 

People that have never met me in person can be shocked about my oscillation. I usually can be seen rocking when I’m sitting, and it’s very noticeable (and may be disturbing for the first time). This TIC is something that I have since I have memory, happens unaware, and it’s very integrated into myself now. When I’m in classrooms, this becomes a superpower allowing me to be more focused on the conversations. However, I try to control it whenever somebody asks me.

5) What are some things that you wish you knew before you got into graduate school?

I will share an unpopular fact. That very few people do all assigned readings. During Grad schools, people are very focused on their projects, and sometimes classes have unrealistic amounts of texts for seven days. During my first two semesters, I was stressed with this. Later I discover that people use techniques as skimming and scanning on some of the weekly readings. I tend to read everything very detailed, and that makes me feel pressured when a long and dense text for the next day wasn’t read the night before. It’s essential to be prepared for each class. Still, also it’s OK to miss every detail of one or two “mandatory readings” because you’re dedicating your time reading a fantastic monograph that informs your dissertation interest. 

6) How do you envision HASTAC and/or higher education in 10 years? Where do you fit in?

I hope that HASTAC became an even more global community. Currently, there are several international scholars, but most of them are based on the US. In the next decade, I will love to see HASTAC as a multinational program, with regional nodes and conferences, and a larger cohort of multilingual and multidisciplinarian scholars each year. I wish to contribute e HASTAC within my Latin American networks, in particular, those engaged with teaching and learning in digital ways. 

7) How does digital scholarship fit into your research or teaching?

My current research project is looking at the design, development, and implementation of a Solar Digital Offline library called SolarSPELL. Digital scholarship takes different meanings to me in this project, in all of the central. On the one hand, digital skills are mostly discussed on DH or Internet studies, being a central area in the project that I’m researching.

Also, this library is based on open-source resources. Sometimes I contribute with new resources and materials on the library, and knowledge about databases, collections, and digital resources that are open learning resources is necessary to find potential new elements for the groups.

Finally, I like experimenting with non-traditional scholarly projects. For that reason, digital humanities publications practices inform my ways of communication and decisions about venues and formats for this research. 

8) What do you hope to accomplish with your research or teaching?

I like to think that my research can offer a more integrative, inclusive, and diverse approach to technology studies. Several STEM disciplines reduce the complexity of techno-social systems, ignoring human and social dimensions of overlooking risks, dynamics, and techniques. On the other side, more critical approaches can mislead the actual mechanisms of how things work and the material and physical limitations to make them better in their design, distribution, or use. On that extend, I would attempt to incorporate several traditions of thought in my scholar practices, that can make technological aspects something more accessible for non-expert communities.

9) What are you currently reading, watching, or listening to?

I’m finishing “The Charisma Machine” from Morgan G. Ames, an ethnography for the project One laptop per child (OLPC) in Paraguay. I recently watched “Paris is burning,” a documentary from the late 80s about the ballroom culture in NYC, and I’m listening to Joshua Weissman’s Big Cooking Energy in Spotify.

10) What’s something we should ask you? What’s your answer?

I think because in addition to the COVID-19 outbreak my country it is on a constitutive process, I will ask: What means to be an international student when in your country there is a civil-unrest?

I think Universities are highly stable and rigid structures that just recently are trying to integrate better contingency on our privilege spaces. (Because we can’t forget that even fragile, universities are a privileged space in society). As international students, you can feel a lot of powerlessness, and frustration is at the distance of your people and your causes. It was challenging for me to focus during the first month of the unrest, in which the police were killing people and the government of Chile violating human rights (and still does it). I also wasn’t alone, because last October, several other countries were on civil unrest for different reasons: Hong-Kong, Lebanon, Ecuador, or Bolivia also had messy internal processes. Other friends and colleagues were looking from the screens their countries on fire, too.  

Nonetheless, being at a distance have me safer than being there, and my friends, family, and a colleague are still threatened for an unstable situation and an abusive police force. Despite the violence has been decreasing, and the constitutional campaigns are ongoing for a historical consultation on next October, you feel even more alienated when a piece of news from your city. I recognize that these historical processes happen unexpectedly, and I hope when I finish my program find out a more democratic constitution. I wish in that time be able to arrive in a country which dignifies everyone without distinction, and in which my daily work can contribute to a more responsible, fair, and safe future for everyone. 

Finally, I want to acknowledge the proofreading of my colleague Vanya Bisht for this piece.