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Tanner Vea

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Tanner Vea,
PhD '18

Studying animal rights activists

Tanner Vea, PhD ’18, studies animal rights activists to deepen the contribution the learning sciences can make to understanding political change. A former producer and game designer at WNET in New York, Vea came to the GSE’s Learning Sciences and Technology Design program to study parent-child interaction around digital tablets. But in his first year, he took an anthropology course in posthumanist theory that, he says, “sort of blew my mind” and revised his trajectory. For three years, Vea worked with activists who staged protests in grocery stores and restaurants and rescued farm animals that appeared to need veterinary care. By documenting and sharing visuals of their efforts with the public, activists influence people’s emotions—a key, Vea says, to understanding today’s political life. “We like to think of ourselves as ‘reasoning’ through politics,” he says, “but the way we feel is crucial.” In research on learning, he points out, emotion is usually studied in the context of motivation, as something that drives or inhibits learning. But he looks at emotions as learning outcomes in their own right. “Animal rights activists use tactics to make people feel certain ways,” he says. “Political change is often most effective when our passions are most inflamed, and becoming passionate is something we learn to do together.” 

June 15, 2018
Photo by Ilana M. Horwitz, PhD ’19

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