Project Case Study – Daphne and Hanna

Expanding the Notion of Public Good: A Popular Education WeChat Strategy for Chinese Progressive Association (CPA) Boston

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Summary:

We are creating educational content for progressive Chinese American community organizations to distribute on WeChat to broaden their base and to counter right-wing Chinese narratives.

Abstract:

The Chinatown Progressive Association (CPA) organizes working-class Chinese/Chinese Americans in Boston around issues of housing and workers rights. Civic action and political education around economic and racial justice are embedded in their organizing model.

Through discussions over the course of March and April with CPA staff, our co-design project landed on the form of educational content expanding the notion of the public good, and on the issue of right-wing organizing on WeChat, a Chinese social media platform that has been utilized extensively by conservative Chinese activists.

To address misinformation spread by right-wing Chinese Americans, there must be a more diverse range of content available on the WeChat platform. We are designing shareable WeChat content that can open up easily within a group chat and that can be integrated into a subscription account post. This collection of images will also be given to CPA in larger file format so that they can also be used as posters. The first topic we chose was data disaggregation, one of the most contested issues on WeChat currently.

Case study here.

Presentation here.

Reflection on Learning Goals

This class has been very rewarding in that it has guided us through a process that I hope to continue to go through after graduating when working with community partners. It has helped me reflect on how to position myself in relation to community organizations, and ways in which I can be more intentional with collaboration and relationship-building. I appreciated the ways in which listening methods, writing the design brief, and crits on our design brief presentations were integrated into the process. The weekly progress report to the class also helped push the work forward. Overall I have appreciated the opportunity to get more involved with CPA Boston through the class, and to get more connected with Boston, which was important to me coming here as a graduate student.

Questions I continue to have include 1) how to design with the community in a way that balances their needs with our skills and interests, and 2) how to facilitate collective creative processes instead of being narrowed down into a specific project at the beginning of our relationship with the community organization.

My concern is that we may be a little behind the class schedule (still have to power map and write a project agreement!) but I think we have a good idea of how to move forward.

Daphne says HI!

Hi all! I’m Daphne. I’m a first-year Master in City Planning (MCP) student at MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning. I have experience in community development and ethnographic research in Chinese and Chinese-American contexts. I’m back in school to develop a practice premised on a more holistic understanding of place. I’d like to learn tools in design, policy, media, and art to interrogate and influence people’s connection with place, sense of belonging, and agency.

Previously, I worked with a team of designers in Beijing, China to transform air defense basements into shared community spaces in residential neighborhoods. As the ethnographer on the team, I led a participatory design process with local community members. Here is a video of an event we organized. In this class, I look forward to building a network of co-designers and connecting our practice across contexts. I’m excited to be in a space fully dedicated to experiencing the nuances of realizing the principles of Design Justice.

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I believe the co-design process is cyclical and reiterative. Its messiness comes from curiosity (‘what if we thought about this another way’), chance (experimentation through error), and changing contexts (‘we don’t need this anymore’), but ultimately, the many steps in the process create roots that sprout! In this class, I’d like to be rooted in real contexts and authentic relationships, and to deepen my involvement in Boston. I hope that with the collective creativity and energy of our class and community partners, we’ll have mini-sprouts of interesting and smart but grounded ideas that help tackle issues of inequity and injustice ingrained in our society today.