Response to Hackathon Readings

I found the course readings on discotechs, design jams, and hackathons to be very interesting and relatable, despite not being a computer science/design person myself. Much of what I learned from the readings was new information to me although I did have some inkling as to the various perks and problems of hackathons thanks to hearing about many of my friends’ various experiences.

I agree with Charlie Detar that hackathons don’t, or can’t, solve big problems. It is unreasonable to believe that solutions to large scale issues can be created in the span of a couple days. However, because I have such limited knowledge of and experience with hackathons (and discotechs, and design jams) I was under the impression that most hackathons were meant to be a space where one can meet other people interested in tech and collaborate on fun projects. Perhaps this is because the only hackathon I have ever been to is WHACK, Wellesley’s hackathon, which I have heard offers a more inclusive and relaxed environment than other hackathons. WHACK is also great because it caters to women in tech, who are often marginalized, and offers them a safe space to hack. I believe that this specific hackathon serves a good purpose because it allows women to be comfortable doing design with others and invites people who may not have a tech background explore in a welcoming environment. I understand that this is not the norm, though, and that they can sometimes foster more toxic environments.

From the many friends I have in CS and tech I know that there is an unhealthy lifestyle associated with hacking that is almost glorified within these departments and at hackathons. People often stay up late and get very little, if any, hours of sleep and really on heavily caffeinated beverages to stay awake. While I knew there was pressure for participants to sleep as little as possible in order to “maximize” productivity at hackathons, I was shocked to learn that there were sometimes no sleeping areas available or that hackers were “restricted to sleeping on concrete slabs.” It’s upsetting that the people organizing the hackathons aren’t prioritizing participants’ health which can then lead to participants picking up habits they start at hacks and carrying them into their own life. Going without sleep or proper food and hygiene is not a sustainable way to live nor does it contribute to being productive when the point of these hackathons is to find solutions to problems, not create more.

From what I have seen personally, though that experience was limited, and what I learned through the readings I believe that hackathons are worthwhile and important so long as they are organized with reasonable goals in mind and with programming that helps to foster a more healthy hacking environment. Hackathons should help promote interest in tech and hacking instead of trying to tackle on impossible issues. This way we can grow a network of people who can later work on these issues with the amount of care and time they deserve and need.

Interview with Jorge and Felisa

Jorge Caraballo Cordovez

I interviewed Jorge Caraballo Cordovez and his partner, Felisa, as part of the East Boston group.

Jorge came to speak to our class about his work with East Boston, Nuestra Casa. He explained that when he first moved to Boston as an international student from Colombia studying journalism at Northeastern, he became especially interested in learning more about East Boston. He heard from many people that the area was populated by many Latinx people and would remind him of home, which it did. After doing journalism work in the community, he began to hear about issues of gentrification and displacement from the people who lived in the area. Many of the people affected, some of whom only spoke Spanish, were unaware of their rights as tenants. This led to the creation of his postcard project, which we in the Co-Design Studio were fortunate enough to hear about and see the postcards firsthand.

Since we had already heard about East Boston, Nuestra Casa I decided to focus on Jorge and Felisa’s personal experiences and observations regarding gentrification and displacement in East Boston. It was interesting for me to hear from them as they are both immigrants and students living in East Boston; the two are often shown at odds with each other when it comes to displacement. Perhaps the most important thing I heard from them was that while displacement and gentrification is a serious issue that disproportionately hurts Latinx people and immigrants, it is not the fault of the people who then move in and take their place as tenants. We all need a place to live and it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that there is enough affordable housing for all.

Listen to the full interview here.

Photo by Adam Glanzman.

Final Project: Homesticker


Abstract: Displacement of residents is a growing problem in many communities in the Boston area. However, this crisis in the making remains mostly unknown, partially owing to the fact that those impacted are often low-income immigrants whose primary language is one other than English. To counter both the lack of attention as well as the anti-immigrant sentiment that buoys displacement, we propose an interactive mobile installation that allows residents of neighborhoods to label locations that they consider to be their homes, giving a face to the victims of displacement and also demonstrating the problem’s magnitude.

Presentation link

Case study link


Final Project

Open Book Screenshot

Calvin Z. + Kate W. + Daniel C.


Open Book/Libro Abierto is designed to be a versatile platform for community members to share their stories. The print medium allows users to interact with the book in a tactile way, physically making their mark on the story of their community. The book presents handwritten and printed words along with photos of community members, and offers viewers access to audio interviews via QR links. Our goal is to create a hackable book that invites viewers to share their stories and start conversations, responding in whatever medium they choose. The book will be exhibited in Urbano’s Nomadic Sculpture, where visitors will be able to read the stories and respond by writing directly in the book. We hope to foster productive and honest conversations about what displacement and community mean to the people of Egleston Square, both physically written in the book as well as verbally during and after the exhibition.


Updated 05.21.17:

Link to project:

Link to presentation:

Link to case study: Case Study 

Final Project Blog Post

Kathy, Nina, Max and I finished and installed the project last night! I have lots of photos and video to share at class tonight. Within the night and morning, people walking past shared dozens of thoughts about Central and the photos we took. At some point today, someone stole the sharpies, which we expected to happen. I’m satisfied with the ephemeral nature of the project (and I’ve already noticed people bringing their own pens).

I’m currently working on getting the images and videos uploaded, but here are a few to start:

IMG_0747 IMG_0728 IMG_0748 IMG_0783 IMG_0740

Final Project Blog Post

Screen Shot 2017-05-16 at 10.29.48 PM


Abstract: Rainbow is a public installation that tells the stories of about Cambridge residents and their history with the area. The goal of the project to highlight important issues mainly gentrification in and around Central Square. Using audio recordings and photography, this installation will help the voices of people who live in the area to be heard and shed light on how universities and businesses are changing Central Square and making the low-income life increasingly difficult.

Link to Presentation:

Link to Case Study:


Peas in a Podcast: East Boston Voices


Abstract: ”East Boston Voices” is a podcast special centered around events of gentrification and displacement in East Boston. The mission of Peas in a Podcast is to unveil the hidden stories of the neighborhood to the greater Boston community, hopefully instigating change among East Boston’s residents. Each member of our group interviewed someone in the community who’s dealing with the effects of gentrification and displacement directly, compiling their stories and presenting their contents to our audience with added data and thought-provoking questions.

Link to podcast:

Link to presentation:

Link to case study:

Interview with Chad Shabazz (Central Sq Resident)

On Tuesday, I met with Chad Shabazz in the cafe of the HMart on Central Square. I know Chad through a friend, though this was our first time meeting.

He had just finished a training session at his job as a youth advisor at the YCMA. He was wearing a black motorcycle jacket completely covered in patches; “People look at me and they’re surprised that I work with children. And the parents are surprised. And I take pride in that,” he told me.

Chad’s 33 years old. He’s from the Cambridge Coast, and grew up in Cambridge around Central. He’s written a song about his experience growing up between MIT and Harvard.

His mom grew up in Boston, he tells me, around the Blue Hills area. Right now, he and his family live in in Cambridge Port. He spoke immediately and passionately about his experience, and struck me as someone with a sense of urgency—and at the same time, optimism.

He shared his observations, and also his experience being evicted by Wynn Management as a young adult. I’ve clipped and transcribed parts of our conversation that moved, frustrated, or interested me. (Read more…)

Continue reading

Interviews with Carlos

I’ve been very overloaded between work, NuVu, several migraines and two allergic reactions so I designated time today to get this post from last week done.

I interviewed Carlos Espinoza-Toro from the Jamaica Plain Neighborhood Development Corporation (JPNDC). This is a link to my interview.

Carlos and I talked about the JPNDC’s work with small business-owners and their families.The JPNDC does a lot of work with businesses facing eviction. Many businesses facing eviction/displacement don’t have the information they need to fight back against exploitative landlords. The JPNDC is able to support local families’ businesses, which protects them and their community against interests that are trying to extract value from their land by kicking them out.

The JPNDC often acts as a connector, linking lawyers and community advocates (especially from groups like Harvard Legal Aid Bureau and City Life / Vida Urbana) with tenants or small family business-owners. This can level balance of power between landlords and residents, since landlords often begin with a greater understanding of the law. Even knowing that they are allowed to fight a displacement can be a significant improvement for residents or business-owners.

Carlos and I discussed the difference between the words gentrification and displacement as they relate to the people he works with. When people talk about gentrification, he said that they often focus on the new residents entering an area. He believes that it is important to consider the people that are pressured to leave an area as a result of economic, cultural and other changes that occur in tandem with new residents moving in. This concept, displacement, more directly refers to the people who have to leave.

Carlos talked about specific cases like a group of tenants whose landowner sent them a notice that their building had changed ownership and they were not sure of the significance of the document they were being asked to sign. This uncertainty was aggravated by the fact that the residents “didn’t speak English very well…they were afraid to sign it.” When they reached out to the JPNDC, they partnered with several other local organizations (like Egleston Square Main Streets, and City Life / Vida Urbana). The tenants didn’t have enough money (>$5,000) so Carlos applied for a mini-grant from the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation so that the tenants would be able to pay for legal representation from Gabriel Mendoza. This let them negotiate with the new landlords for support towards their relocation. Carlos considered this a “great model for helping tenants going through the exact same situation.”

I interviewed Carlos a second time on video, at the JPNDC. This interview will be included in a film that I’m making, along with interviews with a number of other activists, professors and people fighting displacement.

Interview with Loreto Ansaldo (Activist, educator @ Hyde Park)

I got in touch Loreto Ansaldo through Maggie from Urbano project. She is an educator, organizer, and artist who has previously led workshops at Urbano, and currently both teaches and leads the Activist Calendar project.

She introduced herself to me as “an intersectional activist;” she’s concerned with how many topics around under-represented and marginalized communities are connected and affect each other.

Loreto grew up in Boston, and her aunt still lives in Egleston. When asked why Egleston is being targeted by developers today, she responded simply that Egleston was one of the few places left in Boston that hadn’t yet been gentrified.

 As if it were only a matter of time:

“There’s almost this list of neighborhoods… Now, what do we have left? We have East Boston, we have Egleston Square.”

Language, she emphasized, is a crucial tool. It can open up emotions—she notices how, in public events where people are speaking in their native Spanish, they’re able to be “more expressive,” and more full of feeling. Of course, it creates essential channels for access, and autonomy.

“While there are a lot of events talking about gentrification and knowing your rights, if we’re not making them accessible in other languages…. [people have to] rely on family to help them out.”

She cited successful organizations in Egleston as Keep It 100% and City Life Vida Urbana; she noted that their long-term impact and focus have derived from specific goals as well as multiple modes of outreach. Like we discussed in class, she emphasized how crucial it was to organize across many communication modes: social media, to face-to-face, to local publications, to using your physical body to prevent evictions.

For young people like ourselves—who are often just learning about specific neighborhoods, and beginning to understand displacement in our cities—she advised us to really tap into the expertise and experience of existing groups. Marginalized communities have been fighting these fights for “a really long time,” and we might actually “be hurting them,” at worst, or at best “still doing double the work,” if we don’t deeply understand their work.

Finally, I wanted her perspective on how displacement is connected with other long-standing issues in low-income, marginalized communities:

It’s affecting kids educations because when families have to move away, education gets disrupted. And then families then will have longer commutes to work. So it’s affecting their job. So they need to find new work, or spend less time with their children. So it affects their family life. Then down and down the line. Now people have less access to healthy food…

As a teacher, I look at my classroom. And I have mostly students of color. But if they’re being pushed out of their houses, what will this classroom look like down the road

Or, will this school even exist? Because of the push for… charter schools? Will my school even be there?

The more you ask questions, the more you see that everything is affected. And connected.”