Press Pass, Personas, and the Past

Mothers for Justice and Equality PSA, by PressPassTV

Press Pass

During last Friday’s Codesign Studio, we had two visitors and a hands-on workshop. Notes from the two presenters are available on this etherpad, but I’ll provide short summaries here.

First, Cara Lisa Berg Powers from Press Pass TV gave us an overview of the work that they do to link youth media and community organizing. The Center for Civic Media has collaborated with Press Pass TV before, on the Aago project, which Rogelio has been a part of. Currently, they’re gearing up to launch a campaign called Respect In rePorting (RIP), designed to shift the ways that journalists cover youth violence. They’re excited by the possibilities of reworking a news remix tool we’ve been developing, as an engaging way to bring the RIP campaign into high school classrooms. Later, Cara emailed me the following recap:

*We would love to work with your team to create a branded version of the
news hacking tool for the Respect in Reporting Campaign

*We could definitely use a student interested in working with us on our
website and social media strategy

*Please let us know if there's anything we can do to be supportive of
documenting the Aago project



Next, J. Nathan Matias talked to us about his own trajectory as both a developer and humanist, his background working with startups that mine vast amounts of user data to generate useful tools, and his work with the Ministry of Stories. Last semester in my Intro to Civic Media class, Nathan developed a timeline of co-design in context, and we talked a little bit about that. However, the conversation mostly focused on design personas. I don’t have time to do justice to the discussion, but we did come up with the interesting idea of “Social Justice Personas.” As Nathan tweets:

@ricaroseroque a strong critique against personas is that they take people out of the process. Can we use personas for social justice? How?

Social Justice Personas in the context of technology design might mean something like ‘design personas based on ideal-type users who are social justice activists,’ or it might mean ‘design personas that are developed through a process that is accountable to social justice values’ – or perhaps both. For example, under the former approach designers might specifically create personas for activists from social movement communities or in particular contexts – under open or repressive regimes, or with high or low levels of technology access or literacies. Under the latter approach, designers might meet with community members not just once, to extract information and generate design personas (personas are often created from interview notes), but also to share the design personas back to the community as a kind of accountability measure or reality check.

The Past

During the last hour, we shifted to a hands-on collaborative timeline exercise. We drew both from the work that Nathan shared with us and from workshops developed by Project South. Project South has been around for over two decades, organizing for social, racial, and economic justice among grassroots groups in the U.S. South and beyond. They focus on bottom-up movement building and popular education; one of their techniques involves the development of contextual timelines that link movement history with political history and economic history, as well as with individual experience. We employed this strategy and produced a timeline that tracks ideas, geopolitical events, technologies, and social movements, then added key events from our own lives:

When we went around the room to discuss the timeline, almost without exception each person described some kind of personal connection to the events they added. This was true whether the event was in the distant past, or more recent. At the end we stepped back to consider contexts in which this workshop might be useful, or not, in a collaborative design process. Adding the personal events (birth, politicization, migration, family, and so on) provides a space for workshop participants to locate themselves within the arc of intersecting historical forces while simultaneously learning more about one another and building community. An emphasis on the technology timeline might in some cases help participants focus on how past technology design processes may or may not have included their community, get excited about the idea of playing a part in design, think about how technological change is linked to other historical forces, or simply build trust.



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