Wednesday Round Up #22

A room, a bar and a classroom: how the coronavirus is spread through the air

The risk of contagion is highest in indoor spaces but can be reduced by applying all available measures to combat infection via aerosols. Here is an overview of the likelihood of infection in three everyday scenarios, based on the safety measures used and the length of exposure

Co-editors’ introduction: Reimagining damaged-centered research as community wealth-centered research

In 2009, Eve Tuck wrote an open letter pleading with researchers to “suspend” this damage-centered research – “research that intends to document peoples’ pain and brokenness” (page 409) without robust reference to markers of strength and resilience. She cautioned scholars about doing “research that operates, even benevolently, from a theory of change that establishes harm or injury in order to achieve reparation” (page 413).

Because of the potentially destructive nature of damage narratives, the strengths and resilience of communities of color is emphasized by a new generation of educational researchers. These scholars do not place blame for the educational struggles of marginalized youth on the shoulders of the youth themselves or on their families or their communities. Rather, they look at what is germane to success in schooling, namely the curricula and pedagogies that draw out the strengths within families and facilitate the development of strong and resilient students who are capable of developing deep knowledge, critical thinking, and meaningful investment in their own personal and collective academic achievement.

Process Maps: Many Voices Help Make Change

Process maps can grow to include a large amount of detail, sometimes incorporating multiple user points of view and steps at the periphery of the main process. The level of detail in your map should serve your unique goals for creating one in the first place. In the example of LACP, outlining every step a student takes as part of the program was crucial to increasing the chances that the team could identify as many opportunities for program improvement as possible.
Show it to program participants and get their feedback

Gather some of your participants and show them what you created. Consider organizing a few focus groups where you bring printed versions of your process map and walk participants through it. Ask them to annotate the printed copies along the way, share where the process looked different in their personal experience with your program, and highlight steps that represented special challenges to them.

MDRC helped LACCD colleges with this step by running student focus groups as independent researchers. These focus groups resulted in rich and new information for staff members, and clear ideas from students themselves on what the process map had gotten right and wrong, highlighted in the marked-up version shown in Figure 3:

Brain’s immune cells put the brakes on neurons

Inhibition is crucial for keeping neuronal activity in the optimal range for encoding information, minimizing the brain’s energy use and computing useful neuronal outputs. It has conventionally been thought that inhibition is mediated by a neuronal subtype called interneurons that release neurotransmitter molecules (such as the amino acid GABA) to make the membrane potential of the downstream neuron more negative — although neurotransmitter release from non-neuronal cells called astrocytes can also contribute1. Writing in Nature, Badimon et al.2 extend this repertoire of inhibitory influences to include microglia, the resident immune cells of the brain.

The Need to Touch

Lately, though, touch has been going through a ‘prohibition era’: it’s been a rough time for this most important of the senses. The 2020 pandemic served to make touch the ultimate taboo, next to coughing and sneezing in public. While people suffering from COVID-19 can lose the sense of smell and taste, touch is the sense that has been diminished for almost all of us, test-positive or not, symptomatic or not, hospitalised or not. Touch is the sense that has paid the highest price.

But if physical distance is what protects us, it’s also what stands in the way of care and nurturance. Looking after another human being almost inevitably involves touching them – from the very basic needs of bathing, dressing, lifting, assisting and medical treatment (usually referred to as instrumental touch), to the more affective tactile exchanges that aim to communicate, provide comfort and offer support (defined as expressive touch). Research in osteopathy and manual therapy, where practitioners have been working closely with neuroscientists on affective touch, suggests that the beneficial effect of massage therapy goes well beyond the actual manoeuvre performed by the therapist. Rather, there is something special simply in the act of resting one’s hands on the skin of the client. There is no care, there is no cure, without touch.

The Ongoing-Lived-Experience of Trauma

During the research I conducted in the context of TCTSY (iii) , a special form of trauma sensitive yoga in Berlin, people experienced moments of connection to, and awareness and feeling of, themselves and their bodies, and the present moment became more and more central as a moment of relief and healing. This revealed much about the lives of persons who live on after edge-of-existence experiences. One of my collaborators sums up her daily experiences:

“The general trembling, dissociation, constant attentiveness, insomnia, the tendency to traumatic reexperience, depression, self-destructiveness … the burden” (Atara Interview 1). (iv)

First of all, a life shaped by such states was for none of my research partners traceable back to the one and only traumatic event. They might refer to several nameable events or conditions. Some of the events were not nameable, some remembered, many not remembered, some were locatable in time, others not locatable. It often appeared to me as a complex web of (familiar, social, political) conditions with some more central, dense woven areas, which are remembered as traumatic events or as an increase of suffering taking different forms. This web is in process, connections are spun, others cut, new parts are formed.

How Living With Baboons Prepared Me for Living Through High School

My parents’ research focused on the evolution of communication and social relationships, and how human brains had evolved to process complicated thoughts through primates’ abilities to process and keep track of a huge amount of information about who they and their family were and where they stood in relation to others in their troop.

Sweat dripped down my back, and I hiked my backpack higher on my shoulders, taking a welcome break before starting another focal. Mom and Dad had given me a list of about 15 females they needed data about, which was again pretty typical for the day, but very different than how I imagined my friends in Philadelphia were spending their summers. Most 14-year-olds were lifeguarding or being counselors at summer camp, not wandering bleeding through a game reserve in Africa following baboons and keeping an eye out for lions. But it was familiar territory for me: I’d been doing this since I was 8 years old, and I knew the landscape, the baboons and the dangers like the back of my hand. Not even our research assistant, Mokupi, spotted lions as fast as I did, and I was completely comfortable in the bush.

Our camp was four hours by boat from the nearest settlement, and there was no one around except for our family and Mokupi.

Against humanity

Rebels understood their experiences in the lum and as members of the LRA differently. Yes, they killed with machetes and beat people to death with logs – but they did not always have access or recourse to apparently more ‘humane’ technologies of killing, like the guns or drones employed by state armies. Yes, they might have been kidnapped and forced to fight against their will – but they sometimes found the spiritual and political dimensions of the rebel cause sympathetic. Many regretted being forcibly taken out of the lum and returned home to towns and villages across northern Uganda, where they encountered alcoholism, unemployment and infidelity. Yes, they had been living in the wilderness, sometimes for decades, and had begun to see themselves as gorillas engaged in ‘gorilla warfare’. Yet identifying as animals was not a fall from grace, but rather a kind of ascension to a higher status of power and ferocity.

Most found the process of reintegration puzzling. They had experienced the army as a time of living a meaningful and active life amid close friendships and family. They regarded each other as brothers and sisters in the lum, united in a spirit of togetherness and mutual support as though they were blood family. Some said that their relationships in the lum were stronger and more supportive than those they had with civilians after leaving the army. Why did civilians treat them like violent, dirty beasts who needed to be taught how to be human?

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