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Introduction: What is this Dictionary? How did we write it, and why?

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Introduction: What is this Dictionary?  How did we write it, and why?  


This dictionary is a set of key terms that were collaboratively selected and defined through a deficit and desired based approach. We wanted to first tease out the nuances of these abstract concepts objectively, identify its strengths and weakness, as well as cite examples that would clarify the full spectrum of deficit and desired-based approaches. Each member of the class was assigned to contribute two words to the dictionary. Then, the class worked collaboratively through a google doc to create definitions together. The collaborative process of using google docs allowed students to compliment, challenge, and suggest revisions to each other's definitions. This allowed the dictionary to grow dynamically, collaboratively, and in real time. Students were encouraged to incorporate media like URLs and photos in the dictionary. The dictionary was then edited and formatted for the Serendip Studio website. 


While we were engaged in the process of defining these words, it allowed us to reflect on how the construction of words can trigger certain interpretations and preconceptions that may have damaging effects. We initially thought a desire-based approach was merely an opposing end of a binary, but we are now realizing that what we mean by a “desire-based” approach is not a replacement of one approach for another, but rather a “critical thirding” (Tuck).  A third way that takes its energy not from the known, even what that known highlights strengths, but from the unknown, the not yet, the inchoate, the dream. As Tuck and Yang write in R Words: Refusing Research, "Desire is time-warping." -- "the not yet, and the not any more." Desire “interrupts the binary of reproduction versus resistance” (Tuck, 419) and reveals oppositions that are irreconcilable yet can coexist.  A truly desired based approach creates a third category that is neither and both, acknowledges “complex personhood” and makes room for contradictions. 


Given this idea of "critical thirding", as well as a desire to challenge binary ways of thinking, using a dictionary to format desire and deficit based thinking may seem counterintuitive. Rigid definitions and binary side-by-side comparisons of "desire" versus "deficit" based thinking might perpetuate binary thinking, box in ideas, and close off possibilities. However, it was the collaborative and dynamic process of making this dictionary that helped us understand how desire based thinking goes hand-in-hand with empowerment. We often found ourselves faced with the challenge of morphing deficit based ideas into desire based ideas (rather than the other way around). As we tried on our new and seemingly abstract desire-based lenses to look at familiar ideas like "education", "sickness", and "elderly", some of us found the exercise to be too abstract to be practical. Yet with a surrounding culture and society that so often approaches ideas and problems from a deficit based lens, thinking through desire was an inherantly new experience for many of us. Thus, in the case of this dictionary, it was the process more than the product that helped us achieve a higher understanding of empowerment, desire, and this act of "critical thirding". In other words, through different lenses of thinking and binary definitions, we learnd to use desire based thinking as the translator, connector, and reconciler of different ideas in order to reach a higher level of understanding. Thus, through using desire-based thinking as the thread between different perspectives and ideas, a binary definition can be understood with complexity and empowerment.