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.

Audio Go

Audio Go – Aveen Nagpal, Alex Jin, Natalí Espitia


Audio Clip:

Our group thought it would be a good idea to make an audio tour app that would work similarly to the PokeStop feature on Pokemon Go. The app would be used to locate different significant locations around the city that would feature an interview with an activist. We believed this would be a fun interactive way to listen to the interview clips while also taking a tour around Boston that highlights significant events, struggles, or organizations in the area that people may not be aware about.

We met at the Cambridge Public Library to divide work and come up with more ideas for the app including the design and layout. We decided that we wanted a simple design with few “extras” that would distract from the main features of the app. The loading sequence would alternate between logos for our different schools and organizations. The main screen would be a map with a green icon at the bottom left that you can click to reach the interviews.

The page with interviews would have a photo of the location as its background with a small image of the activist interviewee at the top that you can click to play the interview. Below the interviewee image will be text of the audio so that the app is inclusive to those that are hard of hearing.

One challenge we encountered was splitting work fairly since Aveen is the only one in our group who knows how to make an app. Our biggest challenge, however, was finding a time to truly work together since we come from different schools/locations and have to work around three very different schedules. For this reason, a majority of our work was done through text. We believe our work would have been much easier and ideas would be more efficiently shared had we been able to meet during class time which we all had set aside.

Moving forward, we will finish collecting images for the app and meet with a professional app developer to work out different bugs and improve design. We also hope to incorporate a bigger element of discovery into the app. Perhaps one way we could promote interest in the app as well as increase how interactive it is would be to allow people to submit their own interviews with area activists which would increase visibility for these activists in addition to increase the number of interviews one would encounter on their normal walk around the city.

About Me – Natalí

Hey y’all!

I’m Natalí, a current junior at Wellesley College. I am a cinema and media studies major with a concentration on production, so I really love movies and different forms of media! Homework keeps me pretty busy but outside of class I am heavily involved with Mezcla, Wellesley’s largest Latinx org, as Vice President. I also take violin lessons and like to play music in my free time. This is my first time taking a course at MIT and I am excited to get started and know everyone! I’m hoping this course will expose me to different forms of media that I am unfamiliar with and how to utilize them to make a positive change with everything going on around us.

As a queer Latina, I know how frustrating it can be to never find diverse representation of people like me in popular media. Mainstream storylines often feature predominantly white voices which can be discouraging for people of color who wish to identify with protagonists and see themselves on screen or on paper. One young activist that I find inspiring is Marley Dias who started the #1000BlackGirlBooks campaign. Marley was tired of reading books that featured “white boys and dogs” so she started the campaign as a way to collect the titles of books that featured young black girls such as herself. With the help of her mom and attention from local news, Marley’s campaign took off and currently has a collection of over 7,000 titles.

You can learn more about the campaign here: