Counterspaces, LGBTQ Representation, and “Be My Eyes”

Writing Groups as Counterspaces for Black Women Graduate Students at PWIs, by Torrie A. Cropps for Diverse Magazine

Just one of the challenges Black women graduate students face at predominantly white institutions is finding adequate opportunities to develop their academic writing. Studies show that their research interests are often minimized, undermined, or deemed controversial, and they receive less help from white faculty on publishing matters. Finding peers they can identify with is difficult, so they’re forced to navigate the challenges of graduate school and decipher the unwritten rules for success on their own. In response to these challenges, Torrie A. Cropps, a mentor and doctoral candidate in the Department of Youth Development & Agricultural Education at Purdue University, calls for more counterspaces, or “safe spaces that lie outside of mainstream educational spaces,” where “members are comprised of individuals that possess marginalized identities.” Counterspaces in the form of writing groups can serve as peer mentoring opportunities and sources of “hope, emotional support, increased confidence, and enhanced sense of belonging.” They also serve as what author and activist bell hooks calls “homeplaces,” or “places of resistance where Black people can go to speak freely and safely, find stability and trust, and affirm and heal each other.”

LGBTQ Representation Has Decreased At The Movies, But There Is One Bright Spot, by Jill O’Rourke for A Plus

According to GLAAD’s 2018 Studio Responsibility Index study, which looks at the representation of LGBTQ characters in films released by seven major studios over the past year, LGBTQ representation is the lowest it’s been since the study began in 2012. Only 14 out of 109 major releases featured LGBTQ characters, and none of them were transgender. Only nine films passed the Vito Russo Test, a measure that assesses how respectful and truthful those representations are, similarly to the Bechdel Test for women characters. There was one highlight from the study: 16 out of 28 LGBTQ characters were people of color (although there were no Asian or Pacific Islander characters among them). In response to the findings, GLAAD made the following suggestions: studios should include older LGBTQ characters and comic book movies should “stop erasing characters’ canonically LGBTQ identities from adaptations.” They warn against “leaving a character’s sexual orientation up to subtext,” and encourage “tying LGBTQ characters more directly to the plot.”

Be My Eyes App Helps Visually Impaired People With Everyday Tasks & You Can Help, Too, by James Loke Hale of Bustle

For people who are blind or visually impaired, things like making a wrong turn or selecting canned food can pose a serious challenge. Google’s new app, “Be My Eyes,” seeks to alleviate these issues by “instantly connect[ing] blind and visually impaired people with sighted people who, through voice and video chat, can help blind and visually impaired people with everyday tasks.” After users log in, a “nearly screen-size button” pops up on the free app, and “it takes just ‘a minute or two’ for blind and visually impaired users to get paired up with one of Be My Eyes’ more than 1,200,000 sighted volunteers.” Blind and visually impaired users then point their cameras at whatever they want to see—which then appears on the sighted user’s screen. Audrey Demmitt, a visually impaired writer for VisionAware, said that one morning, a volunteer in Stockholm helped him “choose between a regular coffee and a decaf coffee pod for my Keurig,” describing the app as “incredibly easy to use and very helpful.”

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black women
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counterspaces
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graduate students
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representation
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visually impaired

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