Encoding Self

Encoding Self

Over the summer, as Faculty Director of makerspaces at DePaul, I wrote a process document for anyone who might wind up in my position some day in the future. The practice was spurred on by some internal changes that we were making as we grew, but in the process of writing the document I turned it into an exercise in understanding which parts of the things I do — which parts of me — I wanted to leave encoded into these spaces I’d spent so much time on.

It strikes me that just about every plan that we write — every business document, yearly plans, strategic directions — is an exercise in encoding individual or collective values into a process. A plan should be an extension of you and how you contextualize the world around you. If they don’t do that, then they’re useless.

At best, this means you’re creating a legacy. Some part of you that lives beyond your own individual, everyday exertions. You are creating an entity that lives as an extension of you, but beyond you.

At worst, this means that you’re encoding your biases, negative experiences, and fears into processes that exert influence over others. You are creating an entity that causes harm through its very existence.

Plans are ways to exert control over uncertain circumstances by assigning our best procedural thinking to the task. As a result of implementation, we need to think less, and can act more. Thinking less can be a good thing, but just like with everyday decisions, we should learn to question why we’re able to think less.

Be very careful about the plans you make.