Last Friday, March 23rd, the MIT members of the co-design team were able to meet with Cara and her intern in Harvard Square to review both our workplan and the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Rogelio went through the major headings of the workplan, explaining the rationale to Cara for each one. She really appreciated the comprehensiveness of the workplan. The MOU we presented was fine and Cara signed on and each member from the MIT side signed on. The next important thing that we really need to get hammered out is how we will conduct the workshops, who will be present, what the content will be and when they will occur. We hope to have the next workshop this Saturday. It is still unclear whether the youth will be involved, but we are brainstorming a number of potential alternative forms of communication through which the Press Pass co-design team can communicate with youth and adult community members. Some of the proposed strategies for getting the youth involved is to use Internet relay chat (IRC), live streaming, conference calling and/or pirate pad.
After receiving the occupy dataset (xls), available here in more forms, three people set to work parsing through the data. Because the data was coded using SPSS, not easily human readable, everyone did a bit of preprocessing. At first this led to repeated work: using the codebook to translate individuals responses into words. After a new person arrived and those working on parsing through the data explained what they were working on it was brought to everyones attention that they were repeating some of the same work.
Now a new human readable form of the dataset has been generated.
Procedural Take Away: Multiple People working in Parallel can lead to repeated work. More sharing of process needs to occur so that things are done efficiently.
On Friday we had the great opportunity of reflecting on the opportunities for failure that our projects might face. Everyone in the class took time to brainstorm ways in which we would predict that each others’ projects might succumb.
Reflections on reflections on failure
There is a rich history of failed projects for social good, and a great deal of gnashing around how useful it is to pay a lot of attention to failure. (The #FailFare conference, started by MobileActive.org, comes down firmly on the side of amplifying failure).
The tricky aspect of all reflections on failure (or attempts to learn from success) is figuring out what the important variables are that distinguish failed projects from successes. There are so many ways something can fail – everything from design, timing, poor community connections, or infinitely many other dimensions – it’s difficult to say with rigor which things did or didn’t lead to a particular project’s failure. This difficulty is doubly compounded when it’s prospective: for a project that hasn’t failed yet, which are the things that could do it in? Where are the actuarial tables for design projects? Can we get more rigorous?
Yesterday we had a highly productive meeting with Rogelio, Song, Sumona and Sujata attending. During this time, we fleshed out the work plan, which we will share with Cara this Friday, March 23rd.
In our meeting, we discussed topics such as the different branches of the Respect in Reporting Campaign; these ‘branches’ are dubbed Areas in the work plan. Under each of these areas are ‘to-do’s to address a particular area.
In addition, the work plan includes
- Detailed definitions of how tasks are defined
- The collaborators on the workplan
- Types of meetings we will have and who will be involved
- Logistics of project documentation
- Information about Website Design/Online Tools and Widgets/Social Media Strategies
- Basic information for Outreach to
At the meeting we also had some generative dialogue on what might be various purposes for the different workshops and also techniques and strategies that we have individually learned about for facilitating storytelling among people in a community. One of those ideas came from Chris Johnson’s Question Bridge Project and the storybooths used in the non-profit organization, StoryCorps. We will also bring up these ideas with Cara when we see her.
What we have found in the last weeks is that as difficult as it is to get a group of us together, given all of our hectic schedules, when we get to really sit down together and collaborate, we not only get a lot done but we get to experience a creative synergy with the different thoughts and ideas which each of us bring to the table.
Because our workplan is so extensive, we have decided to not include it here. However, anyone who has the time to look at it for critique and/or would like to peruse it for his or her own use, please let us know and we will be happy to share it with you.
Here’s a writeup of the first design workshop for the consensus project, which we ran last Saturday. Many thanks to all who participated.
On March 16, the Civic Media Co-Design Studio conducted a “Fail Hard” session for all projects. This Fail Hard session was essentially a brainstorming session where people proposed possible scenarios of failure for each project. Each project was given a space within the course for feedback on potential “fails,” which consisted of individuals writing their fail scenarios on sticky notes and placing them on a dry-erase white board. Once scenarios were written down and placed on the white-board, the brainstorming focus would immediately shift to another group. When all groups were finished, they broke into caucuses and discussed how to sort their fails into areas and categories. This sorting process could potentially guide focus to specific aspects of the design process, and consequently, encourage simpler creation of solutions.
I have included a photograph of the “cloud of stickies” for the Respect in Reporting Campaign, and also a bulleted list of fails and a Word Cloud Map of fails by frequency of themes.
*NOTE: The list provided is hypothetical and is intended as an educational resource.
Co Team Management Fails:
- Scheduling issues.
- Goals too diffuse.
- Fail to find a specific project to complete.
- Focus of campaign too broadly defined.
- Badly planned campaign strategy and timeline.
- Scattered, no focus.
- Too many tasks, lack of ability to prioritize.
- Workload not equally distributed.
- Lack of consistent communication among participants.
- Group doesn’t collaborate.
- Balancing responsibilities.
- Bogged down coordinating 4 team members.
- Lack of division of tasks.
- Roles not clear.
- Too many hands on board, very little accomplished, and too much dialogue.
- Difficulty managing small team and Press Pass TV team.
- Not enough internal constructive criticism.
- Team dynamics fail.
Respect in Reporting Campaign Fails
- How to better bring in community participants.
- Lack of participation.
- Co-Design only extends to generating content instead of strategy.
- No Latinos participate.
- No youth on strategy team.
- Privileged grad students overshadows and hi-jack project from youth.
- Not reaching the represented communities well enough.
- Local community has no interest to the project.
- Cannot attract enough volunteers.
- Ignored by the youth that is is trying to help.
- Results in Slacktivism and Clicktivism.
- Spur riots, gang violence, and death.
- Replications of social inequality in governing process.
- Small voice in relation to big corporate interests.
- Campaigning has the opposite effect.
- Fox news attacks project.
- By taking too few actions, Press Pass TV becomes a watchdog that makes media production so hard and academic that it is disregarded.
- Criticized by other movements for unengaged approach instead of direct action.
Design Skills Fails:
- Crappy graphic design.
- Workshops are boring and don’t stimulate creativity.
- Minimal coding experience.
Community Partner Fails:
- PPTV can’t decide what they want.
- Press Pass TV loses all funding.
- Partner wants you to just fix their website.
- Press Pass TV loses power…again.
- Miscommunication on deliverables.
- Local partners (PPTV) has no interest to the project.
- Students prefer something else.
- Cannot find the right tools for the project.
- Digital inequality.
- By promoting the campaign, media biases are made into jokes like other promoted topics of social advocacy.
Impact Interests Fails:
- Reporters don’t sign up.
- News agents don’t want to participate.
- No one goes to website.
- Campaign has no effect.
- No outreach done for workshops.
- Mass media has no interest to report the event.
Poor Impact Fails:
- Campaign fails to make impact.
- Rhetorically sound, yet inconsistent in outcome and practice.
- Project dies, yet grad students benefit from citations, publications, and conferences.
- Social media have little response to action.
- Does not find life on its own.
- How to measure impact.
Memorandum of Understanding Fails:
- Legal battle regarding News Jack.
This week I introduced myself and the goals of HIA to the organizers of TGBSM and Occupy MIT. Both organizations were interested in either connecting with other groups or documenting themselves to increase visibility. A few interesting issues cropped up involving membership, ASA recognition, and history: how to best reach MIT students- how it has been done in the past and what the best tactics are for today.
Things I noticed:
- TGBSM is 2.5 years old, Occupy MIT began in the Fall, and The Forum came into existence about 1 year ago. Their approaches, focuses, and motivations are all different. This definitely justifies having different groups. The organizations are interested in reaching the same population- Undergraduates and in the case of TGBSM graduate students as well; however, each struggles to get the manpower to produce a meaningful and dedicated interaction. The question arises as to whether student run and led organizations- new and evolving- are the best forms to spur student interaction. What about once off events?
- The current approach of Undergraduate organizations with social aims has a positive and a negative side:
+ Individuals get to engage in the formulation of something new. This is very empowering and helps MIT students to get the skills that they need to go out into the world and create an environment of their own. Their is no reliance on the institute- in some cases organizations do not even become recognized by the ASA until later as a result. (HIA for example)
- Establishing continuity, a substantial leadership pool and an effective spread of leadership can be difficult. As argued by an SAO representative: Reconstructing best practices can be a tedious and unneeded burden that MIT students often take on as they create organizations. These pressures may cause the organization to be short lived, not lasting beyond the group of motivated individuals that sculpted it.
My meetings confirmed the need for some institutional support and connection between these individuals. There are now ppl looking to contribute their message and put their hands and minds to work on the website proposed and the individual projects within it: INFOGRAPHIC and HEADSHOT CAMPAIGN**.
The first infographic workshop will take place tomorrow.
The final development is he meetings and discussed the format of the upcoming Service Dinner to see if I could seamlessly build in acquiring headshots as a way to start generating some visibility for the campaign to build links between the MIT Undergrads that care about and work to tackle social issues.
Important Comments & Thoughts:
I heard a really nice comment that resonated with me at the TGBSM meeting:
In order to have deep conversations without confrontation we speak from our experience instead of from head knowledge.
The same idea was expressed by Robert LePage at the first meeting of 21M.805 the Performance and Design Practicum.
With social movement it is important to understand one’s community and it is often re-examined by new groups- this is probably a good exercise as it legitimizes an organization and gives them the opportunity to network. Idea expressed by one of the Occupy MIT members.
** On the Hand of the HEADSHOT CAMPAIGN I spoke with the other members of HIA to see if we could generate the first headshots at the Service Dinner. AJ and SRV are seeing if they can make the action fit.
- To raise the clout of Press Pass TV as an expert on issues surrounding misreporting of issues, particularly related to racially and socioeconomically disadvantaged communities.
- To raise awareness around biased reporting and the misuse of words, such as ‘illegal’, to describe those who do not have citizenship to those communities. Such practices have a dehumanizing effect on individuals and perpetuate structural injustices. While this project was on the table before our team from MIT came on board, it is still in a nascent and developmental stage.
- Before website launch we need to get supporters on board. As described by Cara, there are three levels of supporters: organizational partners (i.e. institutions such as Harvard or MIT and non-profits such as ARC and Free Press), media partners and community activists.
- Once support from groups mentioned in the previous activity become coming in, then we will start capturing stories of mothers who have lost children to violence and other youth in the community who have been the victim of violence and mis-reporting to make small videos that can be put on the website
- Get earned media from other outlets such as Colorlines and MotherJones (PressPassTV has a board member in common with MotherJones and may be able to get an early sign on from them). Cara also has a friend of a friend who is a producer at MSNBC.
- Build videos through storytelling workshops.
- Workshops on letter writing and/or letter-writing parties.
- Doing workshops will draw people to the website.
- Blog about the outreach and community activities – this is a good way to build legitimacy and accountability.
- Using the website to crowdsource direct action (kind of like MoveOn.org) – we will probably need some time-lines and how we are using the website to target people and groups.
I have received a lot of concern on the side of what I hope to accomplish. I hope that can be ameliorated through some of the statements below.
Monday HIA Meetings are a recurring opportunity to evaluate the design of the proposed website in terms of other HIA goals. This helps to put HIA’s desires out on the table.
Meetings with the actual community partner are in the works and will take place:
Interest has been communicated to one of the organizers of The Forum, an MIT student group that has politically relevant discussions. A time to meet will be set this weekend.
Next Tuesday 6-7PM I will attend the TGBSM group meeting. To format that meeting in the right light I will send an email to the group’s organizers.
Tentative CoDesigned Workshop || The Infographic
Grunt Work || Headshots and PSC and SAO Student Group Resource Documentation
Forward progress in the consensus design project has been slow; getting started with one-on-one interviews has been stalled by the slow grind of research bureaucracy. But here’s the tentative schedule we’re working on. Eric will be heading up some workshops in the Providence area, and I’ll run some in Boston (and one in Texas, with one of our community partners).
- Complete 1-on-1 interviews by March 17/18. I have a list of 20 or so folks who are eager; just waiting on the paperwork to give a goahead for the protocol. This may have to push back later depending on the speed of the bureaucracies.
- First Boston/Providence workshops by March 17/18.
- First testable prototype by March 31, with minimum testable functionality.
- Workshop in Texas on March 31.
- Second Boston/Providence workshops by April 15.
- Second round of prototype iteration by April 31.
- Documentation of this phase of design process by May 15.
So in total: interviews with 15-20 people, 4 workshops, and 2 prototype iterations. It’s possibly ambitious, but I like that.