People in the Field: Deb Chachra

I spent a fair amount of time searching before I found Deb Chachra, Professor of Engineering at Olin College, a small undergraduate university in Massachusetts, USA.

I was instantly struck by her enthusiasm, inspired by her energy, and by her views on education. Listening to her speak in Sources and Methods #30: Deb Chachra (2016), Chachra describes her article in the Atlantic, Why I am not a Maker, which deals with maker culture, the social history of makers-of-things as elitist and overvalued while calling out the stigmatization of those who do the labour. She speaks of how we learn from the making that we put out into the world, and of having a zibaldone, and of libraries. She speaks of education models, of how the factory model of education is about quality control and cost efficiency (which we see a lot of in Weller’s 25 Years of Ed Tech). In Gratitude for Invisible Systems: One way to improve democracy is for more people to appreciate its complex technological underpinnings, Chachra speaks of invisible systems that underpin our democratic society, systems that we subscribe to as members of citizenry and only notice when these systems fail (think pandemic). She also wrote Care at Scale, centring infrastructural citizenship that begins with place-based learning and reads like a manifesto where we follow Chachra on an analysis of interconnectivity. On Twitter, she shares variations on the intersections of education, engineering and science, gender studies, technology and culture, and the environment. She writes a weekly newsletter, Metafoundry, you can also find her on Instagram, and she is writing a book on Infrastructural Systems.

3 thoughts on “People in the Field: Deb Chachra”

  1. Thank you so much for this Angela! What a great find. I read through Care at Scale and find her cultural perspective as an Indo-Canadia fascinating. For me, as an HSE professional, mention of Bhopal always conjures horrible cultural and scientific images. Likewise, her notes about the impact of the Pickering Nuclear Generating Station and its impact on stable electricity in Canada inspires pride in me as a radiation safety professional. Her identity in this intersection, as well as in WISTEM, makes her a wonderful source of information. I’ve added her to my sources and I look forward to her upcoming works. (PS – still reading through Why I am Not A Maker, which is equally interesting!)

    1. Thanks, Corie! You’ve made a few connections here I didn’t consider and will now return back to see through a new lens, love it!


  2. Thank you for bringing Dr. Chachra to my attention. Her article “Why I’m not a Maker” was fabulous. It brought to mind a rant by a teacher that was shared among my teacher friends years ago. He touches on some of the very same ideas that Dr. Chachra does, answering to the of derision over the salary of a teacher. Admittedly, as a white man addressing this, perhaps he gets more attention for it , but still, you might appreciate the sentiment, and I think Dr. Chachra would as well. Here’s it is, if you’re interested.

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