We have spilt into the aspect of our project that requires much more individual work and therefore have each written individual reflections about our own experiences with interviewing.
This week I returned to the Downtown Palo Alto Farmers’ Market to address the mistakes I made in my first trip to the market on which I reflected in our reflection two weeks ago (I did not take enough photos for the slideshow, collect ambient audio, or ask to re-record the beginning of Ben's interview in which he begins with “It has . . .” rather than “Climate change has . . .”). I returned with the intention of filling these potholes in Ben's interview so that his story would be more feasible as a final deliverable. I succeeded on all fronts, and I was even able to distribute honorarium packets to both Ben and Lisa, both of whom I interviewed during my last visit to the market. They were very thankful and glad about the honorarium, and I think I can confidently say that providing them with compensation enforced the legitimacy of the project in their minds and strengthened the bond between them and the Community Voices exhibit at The Tech. So far I think the honorarium pilot project has and will continue to work in favor of both The Tech and community members. I am glad we piloted honoraria, as I think honorarium and information packets on the whole will continue to establish the ethos of the project and build trust between community members and The Tech.
Regarding asking Ben to repeat his opening statement, doing so was a lot easier than I had thought. Fear and worry of taking up too much of his time prevented me from doing so the first time around, but I overcame these emotions this time by reflecting on the significance of the project as a whole and by remembering how kind he had been the first time I spoke with him. He turned out to be very willing to help for a second time. The honorarium I gave him also aided me in the process of overcoming my worry of taking up his time during his working hours with little to no benefit to him.
To provide an update on my audio editing progress, Danny and I both agreed that Lisa's interview would not be feasible as a final deliverable, as she jumps around and speaks fast in the interview, and the story does not have a consistent or very identifiable storyline. I also spoke with Danny about switching my focus from fisheries, the focus I had assigned myself to in the Project Scope of Work, to farmers in the Bay Area. He formally approved of the switch, saying that the project is critically lacking in stories from both fisheries and farmers, so focusing on either would be great. Now that I have refined the materials for Ben's interview, I will focus on editing his story with the re-recorded hook (“Climate change has . . ” rather than “It has extended our growing season.”) and ambient noise I recorded this week, and continue editing the Raging Grannies audio clip from Danny’s unedited audio stories from a Climate Strike he attended. I will have these two stories of the deliverables completed by the end of Thanksgiving Break, which is truly something to celebrate! As for the final deliverable packet and presentation, we will begin to work on them over the break, especially in the first half of the break. We aim to complete solid rough drafts of each by the end of the break. Attending office hours made me feel much better about the two, as I now have a better idea of what is required of us for each. I shared the example of last year’s Community Voices presentation to the rest of the group, and we decided to ruminate on it over the break as well, keeping it in mind throughout the process of creating our presentation. Overall, I am excited for what we will accomplish over the break.
I think this was a really exciting week for our group as it's when a lot of things all finally came together. After plenty of discussion with Danny we finally decided on a method for compensation and put together compensation envelopes containing VISA gift cards and free tickets to The Tech. I think this is a really exciting development as it's something the The Tech will continue to use in the future even after our group with our quarter-long collaboration. In addition, we also finally got access to the audio software we were hoping to use, Adobe Audition, and will now be able to make some high quality audio edits.
Personally, I'm really excited about the progress we made this week as I was able to conduct my in-person interview on Thursday. It was with Salvador Mateo, assistant director at Planting Justice in Oakland. Planting Justice is a non-profit organization with the motto "Grow Food, Grow Jobs and Grow Community." They operate a community farm and nursery business right in the heart of Oakland and focus particularly on helping formerly incarcerated community members with their rehabilitation and reintroduction processes. Ayoade kindly was able to travel to their nursery site in Oakland with me and we were able to get a 17 minute interview from Salvador. I'm personally really excited about editing this interview as I think that in addition to a pertinent story about climate change it also includes some really important insights about environmental justice and environmental racism that are currently lacking from the collection of stories that have already been collected for this project. I plan on editing the audio file over Thanksgiving break and having it deliverable-ready by the time we return for Week 10. I also plan on editing one of the interviews that Danny recorded at the climate strike over Thanksgiving break. Overall, I'm feeling good about our progress on this project and am excited about being able to share the deliverables and contributions we've made with The Tech and also the rest of our class!
While I reached out to two leads who seemed eager at first to be interviewed, scheduling has proved difficult and they have been unresponsive lately. So, I altered course and am now planning to interview Matt who works on Burning Man's sustainability initiatives. The challenge is that Matt is only free starting the week of Thanksgiving, but I will be home during that week. So, I have to wait to interview him until the week after Thanksgiving, which will be possible just very tight with timing. My plan is to have the other two audio clips edited before then, so that I can focus on Matt's interview afterward.
I am excited to pull our project together. I enjoyed the Environmental Justice talk this past week, as it highlighted and put into practice many of the concepts we have talked about in class. I look forward to maintaining a good code of ethics during the remainder of our project.
Things have been building up to our final deliverables this week - it seems that collectively we have been hearing back from leads we were trying hard to get ahold of, and carrying out meaningful interviews. In tagging along with Natalie for the Planting Justice interview with Salvador, I was glad to see that our compensation and information packet set-up feels like it works very nicely and also feels like adequate thanks.
In reflecting on the interview, I’m very glad that the exhibit will hopefully include this narrative emphasizing food justice, housing justice, and their connections to disproportionate impacts on low income communities of color by climate change in its broader climate change narratives.
In terms of work in the near future, after a bit of back and forth I’ve been able to schedule an interview with Loa Niumeitolu, who works with the Sogorea Te land trust, and women-lead indigenous land trust focused on land sovereignty and reparations in the Bay Area. I am very much looking forward to completing editing work over the break and doing the same for Loa’s interview by the time we come back to school!
Alisha plans to include their contributions to this reflection in the comment section of this discussion post.
This week, we are focused on working with audio. We are editing our audio clips based on our paper cut that we workshopped with Alexi. We have also started creating a community power map and our final presentation. For our audio, we each have slightly different methods and modes of editing, and will each be crafting a clip that reflects the content of our individual interviews. We wanted to use this reflection to briefly outline each of our audio clips, and then explain our ideas about our community power map.
For Erik’s final clip, he wants to tell the story of my interviewee through the use of a pieced together storyline of his subject’s life’s work. First, Erik will use the interviewee’s childhood to explain how he was tied to the Navy shipyard and why working at Greenaction means so much to him. His connection to the community is told through his knowledge of shipyard workers and how he had the fortitude to realize the systemic flaws placed on him. One of the challenges Erik is running into is trying to make a seamless transition between different parts of the life story. Finding the proper transitions is what will make the audio story flow throughout the five minutes.
Claire is hoping to achieve more of a podcast-style piece. The idea behind the podcast style will mean that she will incorporate ambient sounds, music, and even splice in her own voice for clarity. She really wants to bring her narrative to life using the tools the team has available. One of the main challenges will be finding sounds, and creating a piece that sounds how she wants it to. It could take lots of time, which will be another challenge. Her goal is to send her draft to Alexi over break.
Jim added to his original papercut to include more of his interviewee’s upbringing and life before homelessness. Prior to this addition, the paper cut focused more on his current life and the issues he is fighting against and worried about. By incorporating his upbringing and early life, this better allows the listener to connect with the interviewee rather than just showcasing another case of gentrification. This addition will add a few more minutes to the overall audio but will present a fuller picture of another human being’s life and story.
Community Power map
The Community Power Map is an idea based on the Narratives of Resistance map that AEMP has already incorporated into their website and project. For our map, we want to achieve a few goals: explain the history and significance of AEMP and eviction/black exodus in the Bay Area, give a nuanced view of individual narratives, and visually tie the narratives to a map. To do this, we will be using the software Prezi, which is a simple “moving presentation” tool. We will start with a background map of San Francisco, and place each of our narrative audio clips (and pictures!) at the location that they are referencing. The software “zooms in” to the area and plays the audio clips, if you click on them. We want to present this map to AEMP as one of our deliverables, as well as a possible addition to their website.
Thoughts on Project
Transcription and audio editing was a separate individualistic contributor type of task and was easy to coordinate in terms of delivering a product but hard to coordinate consistency in perspectives, styles, and methods. Due to the volume of audio that required transcription and the time intensity, it was more achievable to divide and conquer different interviews. However, had the team took the approach of peer-editing each other's audio files or simply transcribed simultaneously together, we could have achieved a more cohesive and consistent product. However, the trade off there would be a reduction in diversity of style and approaches.
One key takeaway we all shared as a team is the power of the transcriber and editor to shape other people's narratives. When going through the editing process, it sometimes felt questionable to cut sentences or thoughts just to fit them into other parts for a cohesive narrative. Although the interviewees may have had the thoughts separately, would it be ok for us to morph and interpret it from our perspectives without running it by them first?
Lastly, issues of sustainability and equity are intertwined throughout our interviews. Whether it be the fairness of toxic exposure in shipyards or the displacement of formerly homeless veterans, these individuals have been forced to make a choice between poor options. One way to help combat and bring awareness to these issues is through sharing their stories through interviews so that others may learn from them, prevent repeat incidences, and stand by them for their causes.
Update on Project Activities
We are currently in the last steps of our data analysis. It has been very exciting and interesting to see conclusions come out of the survey data. Each team member is continuing to work on the aspects of data analysis that we originally decided on: Katherine, Andea, and Brian are focusing on the quantitative aspects of the data from the survey with respect to different demographics while Jessica is doing geographical analysis using GIS and Steven is doing analysis on the qualitative data from the survey. For the most part, we just need to finish processing the additional survey responses in order to update our existing graphs.
This week, we met with Derek to discuss our data analysis. Each team member showed Derek what analyses we had performed on the data. He gave us feedback on what could be improved and what further steps could be taken to provide a more complete report. Derek’s input will be valuable as we make important decisions regarding which data interpretations will be included in our final report and what suggestions we will make for further steps regarding East Palo Alto’s concern and awareness of climate change issues based on the data interpretation.
As we finish up our data analysis, we are starting to turn our attention to working on the final report and presentation. We are planning to make as much progress as possible on the final report over Thanksgiving break so that we can maximize the time we have to proofread/edit the final report and prepare for our presentation. We are also in the process of deciding how we want to structure our presentation; we will have a better idea of how to structure the presentation once we have our final report laid out.
What We Observed and Learned
In class this week, we discussed smart cities and also attended the Environmental Justice Symposium. The Environmental Justice Symposium was a nice way to tie together the themes of the class and the projects we’ve been working on. It is useful to look at our project through the lens of environmental justice as one of the main goals of our project is to reduce the environmental burdens on the citizens of East Palo Alto as much as possible.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
Looking back on our project, there are a few things we could’ve done differently that would have made us more productive and efficient. For one, we felt that we should have communicated more extensively with our community partners in the early stages of the project to get a better sense of the work we were responsible for and the expected timeline. At the outset of our project, we had a sense that the majority of our work would focus on data analysis of the existing survey responses. We did not realize that there was still a fair amount of surveying to be done, and we could have devoted more of our time and effort towards attending survey events in order to get an adequate amount of survey responses more quickly.
Although we did not design the survey, we consistently regretted not including certain questions on the survey which could have added new insights to our data analysis. For example, we were curious as to the education levels of our respondents, but the survey lacked a question which addressed this. One of the most difficult parts of surveying is the fact that we couldn’t go back in time to ask respondents additional questions. As a result, we felt somewhat limited by the data analyses we were able to perform with the existing survey responses. It was also difficult to utilize surveys which were only partially filled out.
Our thinking about sustainability and community-based work began to shift when we realized that our project was about more than just analyzing surveying data. The data and the analyses we perform will help to guide the community’s decision-making process in addressing problems related to climate change, and more specifically the risk of flooding in Palo Alto. We are glad to know that our analysis will have concrete real-world application and hopefully benefit the future of East Palo Alto.
This week was a productive one for our group. Following our meeting with Christina Briggs two weeks ago, we prepared a presentation for the Milpitas Economic Development and Trade Commission on our learnings from the meeting, which Sophia presented. The feedback was quite positive and the trade commission continued discussing the ideas throughout the night, which we counted as a success. We also finally got a response from the Boston mayor’s office with an offer to answer questions if we email them over, but given their previous response delays it unfortunately seems unlikely that we’ll have the time to incorporate their answers into our report. This is a pity since the Boston Seaport district would have been a valuable glimpse into long term repercussions of an innovation district in the larger community, but there is a sizable literature online about it so we hope that we’ll be able to leverage those resources sufficiently to write our report. We’re currently working on writing the draft of our final report. We were concerned about division of labor for the final report because we wanted to maintain consistency of writing style throughout the report, so we’ve decided to split the work into a draft, which Yvonne and I are working on, and the writing of the report itself, which will be done by Sophia and Jessica.
Throughout this project, we’ve been consistently struggling with two major challenges, both of which are finally becoming less of a concern now. First, our project required a lot of contact with city officials, which was often difficult given their busy schedules. Second, and perhaps more importantly, we struggled a lot throughout with the vagueness of the project. In contrast to many of the other projects which had very concrete action items to execute on which were already defined at the start of the project, ours felt very open ended. I know I personally did not feel that I was qualified to advise a city council whose jobs were effective economic development on how to do so. We were often unsure of what the next step would be and how best to execute, and this led to some wasted time where we were just trying to figure out how to approach the problem. Alex’s support was invaluable in this regard; if he had not been there guiding us to the right people and giving suggestions on concrete action items this project would have seemed intractable. This project has taught me the difficulty of organizing these kinds of broad projects encompassing so many interests, and the crucial importance of having an experienced leader who knows how to create a plan for less experienced but capable team members to execute on. It taught me that I still have a lot to learn, especially in becoming the former.
This week’s discussion in class has been a relevant one on the topic of the innovation district. It’s quite likely, given the emphasis of innovation districts on younger millennials, that an innovation district would incorporate many of the smart city features we discussed in class. Towards this end, we recognize both the potential benefits and the polarizing downsides that a smart city could produce. In particular, we think it’s critically important to recognize that the benefits that a networked and intelligently sensing city confer are often unequal, and we believe that it’s extremely important to consider how to ameliorate these effects. Some of this, we think, could be answered by ensuring that these changes are part of the public infrastructure rather than being fully supported by private interests, but we also recognize the difficulties in funding such an endeavor. One possible solution is something similar to the successful work in Fremont where in discussions with developers, the government was able to convince developers of the need to public amenities to enhance property values and attract residents, which persuaded the developers to provide the funding for many of these amenities themselves.
Update on Project Activities
Over the course of the last week, we met with both Deland and our community partners to update them on our progress and gain their guidance on the form of our final deliverable. We shared the findings of our data analysis and received positive feedback about the new direction we have taken our project in. During our meeting with Deland, we discussed our final deliverables and agreed upon making a website to showcase all of our work (data, code, final report, executive summary, and story maps). We also divided the final project work up amongst our group. AJ and Lilla will work on analyzing Muni and VTA transit data with our code to provide recommendations about scheduling. Along with Ken, they will transfer this data into ArcGIS and create visualizations via StoryMaps to show how the inconsistency in transfer times is affecting communities differently.
Ken and Brandon have been working on building out the website to present all of our work in a visually compelling and accessible way. Allan has been leading the literature review and background/contextual information for the final report.
More specifically, work on the website—hosted by Weebly—began this week as a medium to display the work we have completed this quarter. The intention is to display the driving guidelines, background, methodology, findings, and recommendations stemming from our project. The layout of the home page has been completed. Visitors to the page are greeted with a scene at Millbrae Station, then provided with a link to our background along with the Grand Jury Report as well as the definition of the MTC’s Communities of Concern. Next is a link to our process and methodology, which has yet to be completed, followed by a space for us to clearly lay out our results and recommendations.
We have also started drafting our final report. Currently, we have our project description literature review, sections on background and context, bios about our community partners, and a comprehensive outline that we are slowly filling in. Once we have visualized our scheduling data, we will be able to type up formal recommendations and write an analysis on Caltrain access barriers that will make up the majority of the report.
In our meeting with our community partners, Adina and Ian, we were able to discuss how our new data could be most useful to them. Just by looking at the spreadsheets, it was clear to them that our data went beyond what the Grand Jury report had summarized. Ian pointed out the huge variations in transfer times and suggested some ways to visualize our data, as the spreadsheet format isn’t very approachable (though we will upload everything onto our website). He also proposed that once we do our analysis on VTA and Muni, we compare and contrast the data to further analyze the performance of different transit agencies in the Bay Area. Adina was really keen on how our data would be visualized with GIS and what insights this would show for Caltrain access within communities of concern. Both Ian and Adina pointed out how difficult it is to change schedules (as we also discussed with Deland, there are many factors that go into redesigning transit schedules). Therefore, Adina recommended that we focus our recommendations on small tweaks that can be made rather than overhauling the entire Caltrain Connection systems.
What We Observed/Learned
This week’s forum on environmental justice was greatly insightful to our project especially since we are focusing on Communities of Concern in the Bay Area and how to serve them better with public transit. Such areas potentially have been underserved by transit, so we go in attempting to resolve the issue with our community partners. Hearing the speakers discuss their strategy and work gives us an idea of what to expect in such advocacy work and draw parallels with Friends of Caltrain or Seamless Bay Area.
We have also looked more closely into the final deliverables of past sustainable transportation projects in this class. By exploring their websites and skimming their reports, we have gained insight on the best ways to communicate our findings.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
Over Thanksgiving Break and through the conference, we will:
Adina also had brought up that VTA has recently updated their bus schedules and is to release them after the term ends. We have initiated contact with VTA to see if we might get access to a version of the schedule to use in our analysis, as this could be an opportunity to point out any areas for improvement moving forward.