The Tech Interactive | Week 7 Reflection
Alisha: To this end, I met with Elijah, the head chef at Narnia, to discuss his relationship to food, produce, and sustainability in general. My initial talk with him was fascinating and I think there will be a lot of potentially useful content. Elijah was so incredibly knowledgeable about sustainable agriculture and the passion he has for his job, and life, in general, was beyond infectious. He is extremely deliberate about the choices he makes both inside and outside of the kitchen, making sure to responsibly source all of his produce, to treat all of his produce with respect, and to minimize wastage. After talking with him for a couple of hours, he seemed incredibly excited about the prospect of being included in the community voices exhibit and, as such, I am extremely excited to interview him. I am currently in the process of scheduling a formal interview time with him, however, I want to wait until after our group meeting on Sunday to make any firm plans.
Reflecting on my experience speaking with Elijah, both Elijah and I are very talkative and easily distracted. As such, I anticipate that many of the follow-up questions I ask during the interview will need to be both succinct and direct—I am cautious of having to sift through too much audio in the editing process! Furthermore, Elijah does not typically allow people to audio record him and, as such, is a little nervous about the formalities of the process. For this reason, I think that my decision to meet before the interview and establish a more genuine connection was very productive. This being said, I still anticipate that the interview will take quite some time due to the need to re-record audio.
Throughout the weekend, I will be reviewing and utilizing, the notes from my conversation with Elijah to construct potential interview questions which I hope to run by the group at our meeting on Sunday. Additionally, I will be working to follow up with my other main lead—a family affected by the recent California wildfires.
Natalie: During this week, I was able to make progress on finding a lead. I'm really excited about this lead as it incorporates two of my interests, environmental justice and farming. After class on Wednesday, I attended Haleh Zandi's lecture at the Stanford O'Donohue Educational Farm. This lecture was a part of the environmental justice speaker series that is being hosted by Emily Polk and Sibyl Diver for their Introduction to Environmental Justice course. Haleh is the co-founder and co-director of the Bay Area organization, Planting Justice. Planting Justice's motto is "grow food, grow jobs, grow community" and they operate a nursery, urban farm and community gardens throughout Oakland and the greater Bay Area. Their organization is unique in that they focus specifically on trying to hire formally incarcerated people and do what they can to support those who are excessively negatively effected by mass incarceration. I had a chance to speak to Haleh after her lecture and explained our project to her. She seemed really excited and interested in participating and being interviewed. I think this could be a really promising lead, however there is one caveat. After some email correspondence Haleh suggested November 21st as the date when we could conduct the interview. However, this is during the week right before Thanksgiving break which was our team and Danny's goal for when we should have all the interviews conducted by. I'm going to check and see if Haleh would be able to do an earlier date, however if not I think this would be a good thing to discuss with Danny about whether or not it would be okay to conduct this interview so late or if it should be a lead that should be left for the Tech Interactive team to follow up on later.
Keona: This week, I went to the Downtown Palo Alto farmers’ Market and interviewed two farmers, Ben and Lisa. Through this field work, we learned a lot about the interview process and what we need to collect at the next farmers’ market we attend. Reflecting on my interviewing skills, I need to be more assertive––though I am glad that I was conscious of their circumstances and needs. At this point I need to find a balance between assertiveness and consideration, and in the case of the farmers’ market, I feel I could have been more of the former. For Ben’s interview, for instance, he began a sentence with “It has been…” instead of “Climate change has been…”; Unfortunately, I did notice during Ben’s the interview that his first sentence was not a complete one––which the Handbook explains to avoid by asking the interviewee to repeat the sentence as a complete one––but I did not quite know how to interrupt him or follow up on it, especially since he immediately turned around and went back to helping his coworkers pack up after he finished talking. I will adjust accordingly and preface my interview questions with multiple requests to speak in complete sentences with defined subjects. Danny recommended us to treat the handbook as a checklist for future interviews, which is a necessary adjustment I will make. As for the next farmers’ market, we will collect ambient recordings for to include in Lisa and Ben’s interviews and take more photos of vegetables, signage, hands, etc for the slideshows for the Downtown Palo Alto market interviews. (Assuming, of course that we set the context of the story as a farmer's market).
As for Lisa's interview, it was also tough to try to re-record, as I caught her at a time when no one was at her stand, and just as she was wrapping up story, someone walked up to the stand and she directed her attention to them. A plausible solution to finding the right window of time during which we can avoid getting in the way of their sales is by showing up to the market very early (the Saturday one starts at 8am), when I suspect there won’t be many people, or as they are packing up. Lisa’s story is also difficult in that though she shares interesting and specific details about how her farm is adapting to climate change, she speaks very quickly and her story jumps around. This is something I will coach my interviewees on in the future (e.g. asking them to pause for a few seconds after they share a thought.
Discussion on Ethics, Compensation
Natalie: It seems as though this issue of compensation and informing interviewees about what an interview exactly entails is something that the Tech Interactive team has not thought much about. Therefore, Danny requested our help with trying to create some type of packet that we can give to participants of this project. Our group has planned to meet up on Sunday to formulate these packets and hope to include free museum tickets, museum contact information and potential compensation. We have yet to finalize what exact compensation amount will be adequate. However, we will be discussing this topic during a phone call with Danny and Deland tomorrow during which we will hopefully be able to land on an appropriate amount. Ultimately, I think we are progressing well with our project as everyone seems to be following leads and in the starting phases of editing the climate strike interviews. I am really appreciative of all the work that both Danny and Deland have put into supporting our group throughout this project and am really excited and optimistic about the outcome!
Keona: Regarding ethics, we realized that the existing waiver form system of the Tech Interactive is a largely one-way exchange of contact that could potentially limit the conversation between the Tech and community members involved in the exhibit. At the bottom of the waiver, there is an optional section for the interviewee to jot down their contact information if they would like to be contacted about the project. To open up further dialogue and inqury from the interviewee, we are expanding our process to include a pamphlet/flyer that includes Community Voices project members' contact information and more information about the project in an attempt to make the informed consent facet of research more effective in the form of a two-way dialogue. In terms of community engagement in the form of developing survey instruments and data collection, and in light of Joann Tien's lecture on the ethics of Participatory Action research, we are obligated to inform participants about the purpose of the story collection, the limits of confidentiality, incentives for participation, and who participants can contact with questions. We plan to discuss incentives further, particularly the standardization of compensation; continue this conversation of ethics; and compile information into a pamphlet this Sunday night at our team meeting.
Priya: This week we had a fruitful discussion with Danny around the ethics of interviewing and how we can make the process more transparent and open. Top of mind for me this week was thinking of best practices from a liability and research participant perspective. With regards to the former (liability), I think it is of utmost importance that the waiver be comprehensive and that we are fully transparent when interviewing individuals. I would not want the Tech Interactive to get in trouble or face any backlash if someone has the expectation that their story will be included in the Tech. Whenever money/compensation is brought into the picture, liability also becomes more important to consider.
Secondly, I am viewing our interviewees almost like research participants, who deserve ample rights when participating in any research study. It is our responsibility as stewards of the Tech Interactive to make our interviewees aware that they can contact Danny/the Tech with any further questions, etc. I wonder if we can provide the interviewees with the audio file after it is edited (as we had discussed), as an additional incentive to participate. I can imagine many interviewees would want this to add to their personal portfolio of work. This is a less pressing issue, but something we could potentially work on.
Alisha: Following on from our discussion with Danny, Zac, and Sarah, I spent a significant amount of time reflecting on how best to approach my story leads and how to ensure that they were adequately compensated for their time. At this stage in our process, I did not feel comfortable promising any sum of money to my interviewees and, as such, decided that the best approach would be to schedule an initial ‘informal’ talk before the actual interview. This way I thought that I could remain transparent throughout the interview process and establish a rapport with my respective leads before the recording. (I do, of course, understand that this approach is not always possible!)
Alisha: Overall, I am very happy with the progress that we are making as a group. I am very aware of the fact that our project, and deliverables, are entirely reliant upon the contribution of external peoples and, as such, it can be difficult to get the ball rolling. That being said, I have been extremely impressed by the pro-activeness of each member of my group and I have certainly started to feel things fall into place over the last few weeks–I truly cannot wait to see all of our hard work come to fruition.
Additionally, I wanted to acknowledge how grateful I am to be able to engage with a group of individuals who are so thoughtful and deliberate in the decisions that they make. The detailed discussions that we have had on the ethics of the interview process only serve to highlight the commitment that we each have for this project, and its mission, and, personally, that has been beyond refreshing! I also wanted to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their support and understanding throughout my periods of ill health. I am aware that it can be very difficult to have a group member who is not consistently present and I really appreciate all that you have done to facilitate my continued involvement.
Priya: I am excited to accelerate the interviewing and audio editing process. I am cognizant of the fact that we still do not have audio editing software to revise the summer audio samples. I hope that we can get access to that soon in order to have everything complete. I feel better after this week's discussions to move forward with the ultimate goal of generating great interviews.
Update on project activities
This week was a huge success for our team. On Monday, Katherine picked up ~65 surveys that Violet had collected at Saint Marks this weekend, and each team member was given a portion of those to digitize. As was mentioned in our reflection from last week, we met with Derek, Violet and Deland on Wednesday to check-in about our progress regarding surveying, digitizing and initial data analysis. After both this meeting and a Wednesday night team meeting, we officially finished surveying and digitizing surveys and are now beginning to focus all of our efforts on data interpretation so that we can begin the report shortly. We have ~314 surveys total!
What we learned and observed
Our plan for data analysis has changed drastically since last week -- and for the better. During our meeting with Derek, he recommended we make our analysis process more efficient by having more ‘horizontal’ analysis roles rather than ‘vertical’. Our team had previously been under the impression we should each tackle a different demographic and compare it to the survey results/climate concern, however with this new ‘horizontal’ analysis strategy each member now gets to work with each demographic, performing a specific analysis practice to each one. This strategy turned out to be incredibly helpful for our team, and allowed us to dive into things we are all interested in: for example, Andea, Brian and Katherine all are going to run their own quantitative analysis tests on the data (Andea using python, Brian using graphs, and Katherine using statistical analysis tools to find correlation coefficients and p-values) while Jessica and Steven were able to focus their efforts on the more qualitative data analysis work (categorizing short answer responses, creating word clouds), as they preferred.
We discussed many other topics during our meeting with Derek, Violet and Deland. Our team discussed potential drawbacks to the survey as it currently stands, and plan to write down our thoughts on the “recommendations” section of our report. Some examples of setbacks to our survey as it currently stands are:
The team realized a lot this week; mostly, we were reminded of the importance of having a strict plan with clearly established roles for each team member. We all want to participate equally, and with open communication and mutual understanding we were able to achieve this and more this week.
Critical analysis and moving forward
Derek emphasized the importance of setting deadlines for ourselves in advance of due dates so that each member can engage in ‘quality control’ with each other’s work. As such, by the end of next week, our team is hoping to be done with the data analysis for every demographic ( gender and climate concern in EPA, age and climate concern in EPA, etc.) so that the data interpretation process can begin and we can focus all our efforts on creating the report.
The Interpretation Process
Each team member will be responsible for interpreting the results of the data analysis for one/two demographic characteristics and climate change concern. This interpretation involves drawing conclusions and discussing patterns. We plan on referring to pre-existing literature to explain why we may have observed what we did for different demographics. As we all originally decided:
In addition to finishing our data collection and beginning data interpretation, our team is hoping to begin outlining the sections of our report that don’t depend on data (the background section, for example). In addition to the report we’re going to make, we’ve decided to create a one-page summary of our findings and recommendations (containing graphs) for the residents of East Palo Alto to read and keep.
At this point in our project, we have moved beyond ideation to formal organization of our paper, detailing what we consider to be the most pertinent components that an innovation district should address, especially in relation to the issues in the Bay Area. Social equity issues, as discussed in this class and with regards to affordable housing, concern us the most.
While writing for Politico, journalist Ethan Epstein described the changes San Francisco has made with regards to public— or rather, now private— housing in his article “How San Francisco Saved Its Public Housing by Getting Rid of It” (Epstein 2017). As the housing crisis and technology boom exacerbate gentrification and marginalize low income residents, Epstein describes how the privatization of previously city owned buildings has not only alleviated the stress of paying San Francisco’s characteristically high standard of living but has also provided amenities and afforded privileges that alleviate the stresses inherent to being low-income (i.e., lack of access to gyms, healthy options, stress relievers like massages). By doing so, this change affords the residents a higher quality of life and theoretically boosts confidence, happiness, and productivity.
Epstein’s article implies that there exists a feasible and sustainable way to provide equitable housing even amidst the rising median income of the Bay Area— at least, on the small scale. Elaborating on this model as well as other affordable housing complexes like 990 Pacific in Chinatown may provide insight as to how innovation districts can integrate affordable housing, with the many amenities and functions provided in the examples in San Francisco, into its design.
Innovation districts seek to create microcosms of creativity and to foster a sense of community and belonging. Creating such a community, however, requires a level of equity and equality between parties— a proxy for that being housing. The Milpitas Innovation District targets young tech entrepreneurs with, or looking for, high wage tech jobs. But as our mentor Alex Andrade explained, five service jobs accompany every one tech job. Since many of these service jobs have low wages in comparison to tech jobs, the idea of an innovation district seems to imply that these service jobs must be housed elsewhere. This false dichotomy between tech and service only contributes to gentrification. If the Milpitas Innovation District can provide equitable and accessible housing for both groups, it could limit the effects of gentrification and model equality in cultural and social spheres. Not only would these two groups interact with one another, but the amenities provided by accessible housing could mitigate differences in the daily rhythms of life.
More specific to our project, I am currently working on a literature review analyzing the extent of cultural inclusivity of innovation districts and the integration of different cultures, ethnicities, and socioeconomic classes. We have divided the final research paper into segments and added more details to our timeline, including a conversation with Christina Briggs, the chief economic development director for the Fremont Innovation District, to gain insight on the issues she faced and any guidance or advice she would be willing to provide. We would like to also contact a member of the planning committee from the Boston Innovation District, but have had issues communicating; we are now expanding our search to other innovation districts and will be sending emails to people in the Seattle South Lake Union Innovation District as well as that in Detroit.
Update on Project Activities
At this time last week, our team was struggling to find new, significant recommendations for this project. Settling at one concrete recommendation would have put the rest of our GIS analysis to waste, so we geared up for an important call with our community partners. On Monday, our group convened to discuss our concerns, and came away with a newfound clarity around the project as a whole. Thinking outside the scope of suggestions limited by distance to relevant stations, we are now considering other significant factors, such as the robustness of bike route infrastructure around public transit routes, how the topography of the routes, especially in mountainous or hilly regions around CalTrain, are affecting commuters, the accessibility of highway crossings and other physical infrastructural aids to travel, and how street width classifications can help us narrow down the changes that are most effective.
As these recommendations are made over the remainder of the project, we hope to remain in close contact with our community partners to help us review these recommendations in the wake of our final report and StoryMaps. Adina, in particular, can help us with the content of our recommendations and how these can be phrased in constructive ways. Ian, who is more familiar with computerized data analysis, can help us with the visualization of these recommendations and whichever elements of trouble we are having with StoryMaps. In addition, our community partners have pledged to help us obtain any data sets we need for analysis, specifically with the more elusive data on bike lane networks in the Bay Area. Other potential sources of data include the VTA, MUNI, and BART sets as a way to corroborate our recommendations and cross-reference their services with our findings to remove any duplicated areas of service we may find. Since the call, we have already obtained the data from MUNI and VTA. This updated scope of work helps us expand beyond finding just recommendations for service outside of a certain radius and incorporates a wider set of criteria for our recommendations.
As reported on last week, our Literature Review for the final report is underway. Most of the material that is relevant to our project hasn’t been covered in lecture yet (Transportation is scheduled for Week 8) but our team members have nonetheless started to review that literature already. In addition, we are reviewing older readings, especially the Plan Bay Area 2040 reading, which provides useful information and context to the transportation challenges that we are analyzing.
What We Observed and Learned
To ground ourselves in the new project direction outlined by our community partners, we decided to revisit the Grand Jury report to re-orient ourselves by reviewing the issue of route scheduling on transit connections. In this, we were reminded that only 34% of all SamTrans “Caltrain Connection” routes result in feasible and attractive transfer times (5-15 minutes). Because our project is now focusing more on the improvements made through schedule changes, we think that this statistic found in the report is highly relevant to our work from here on out.
Critical Analysis/Moving Forward
Now that we have compiled most of the data sets that we need in order to start carrying through our analyses in GIS, our main focuses for the coming week will be to flesh out the story maps website, continue working on making recommendations, and begin writing up sections of the final report.
As of now, we have some maps added to the story maps website, but we need to work on the descriptions and general design of the site. For recommendations, we are now going to start focusing on missed connections between Caltrain and the Bay Area bus systems to better serve the needs of our community partners. After rereading the Grand Jury report, we noticed the Caltrain connector data was not specific enough (giving only a handful of examples) by bus route in order for us to analyze the changes that could be made in scheduling, so we will be re-creating that data with analysis tools in Python and R. We will look at the average wait times for waiting for Caltrain after using the bus and vice versa during peak commute times. From there, we will determine use the SamTrans information already in our GIS to show how schedules and routes might be changed to allow better access for Communities of Concern. This change from our original plan was also informed by the realization that our original intentions moved beyond the scope of the project and also neglected to factor in the Grand Jury report, which is a major contender for our project. By narrowing down our focus, we will be better equipped to produce results in the coming weeks.
As our analyses move forward, we are continuing to work on the final report, particularly in the project purpose and literature review sections. We will go over all of the relevant readings and project descriptions in order to find content for these sections.
Update on Project Activities
This week has been a productive and motivating one for our project. First off, we got approval from Michelle at the Tech Museum to offer free tickets to our interview subjects. This will help us reach our goal of a more equitable project. Secondly, we conducted an interview with Violet Saena, from Acterra. The interview was extraordinarily productive, and gave us a clear path for moving forward. Finally, we have scheduled 8 interviews for the coming weeks.
What We Observed and Learned
In our interview with Violet, she told us a lot of great information about Acterra and the work they are doing to help communities have access to solar energy. She also gave us an insight into what certain communities in East Palo Alto face, where 60% of the population is vulnerable to flooding, and the flooding that happens is only getting more frequent and more intense with climate change. She told us about the different communities of the area, and how they have different needs and different struggles.
The interview was a great learning experience, and we were very glad that Violet was so kind and receptive to us making mistakes and learning how to use the equipment. In terms of audio recording, we learnt how to use the microphone, which is slightly more complicated than simply switching it on and off, as we needed to ensure the volume levels were within a clear range to ensure it did not have any distortion, which required a lot of trial and error in terms of the distance we held the microphone away from Violet as she was speaking.
In terms of making a good interview, while we thought of questions to ask beforehand, we found that Violet had a lot to say, and we heard the most insightful thought when she just spoke about what she wanted, without any prompts from us. In this way it was quite a challenge to think of prompts that were trying to prompts that would allow her to talk freely, while still providing enough of a question that she could answer. It was more about finding the threads of conversation that we wanted to know about in more detail than asking questions we wanted to know the answer to. It was also surprisingly difficult to balance thinking of insightful prompts related to what Violet was saying, while concentrating on what she was telling us and trying to digest that. I thought Cristina did a really good job of doing this, and the good thing about having multiple people at the interview was that we could fill in for each other when we needed to fill in gaps.
Critical Analysis / Moving Forward
We have a little over a month left until our deliverables are due, and even though we have been behind schedule for some time, we have many interviews scheduled in the coming week or so. These include individuals who work with bees, someone who focuses on energy, another who works at Jasper Ridge, and more. As we continue to collect these climate change impact and resilience stories, we will begin to edit the audio and photos that we take.
A couple weeks ago, Cameron and Cristina went to a community event in East Palo Alto, where many sustainability organizations from around the Bay Area were tabling and offering their services. A lesson learned from this event is that these organizations are super well connected, and if we follow these connections, we might be able to piece together a larger narrative of climate change impact and mitigation throughout the Bay Area. At events like these, we might also be able to meet more people like Violet from Acterra, whom we interviewed this past week. Violet is responsible for linking organizations together to help vulnerable communities prepare for climate change impacts, and she is an excellent resource in linking us to potential stories. In fact, at the end of our interview she asked us to send her our availability so that she can help us schedule interviews with some community members that she knows. She’s the person everyone pointed us to in order to talk more about community efforts in climate change. If we can meet more people like her - essentially incredible gateways to more people and more stories - then maybe finding more interviews will not be too difficult. Because of our positive experience at this event, we will be on the lookout for similar ones that bring together sustainability advocates and community groups in order to make more connections.
After thanking Violet for her telling us her story, she asked us if we could help her with a project. She is interested in starting a community research team and wanted to know if we had knowledge of people, departments, or funding options at Stanford that could help her with such. We suggest some possible resources and offered to connect her to potentially interested students and faculty, and in doing so, it felt as if a window opened up to in at least a small way reciprocate the time Violet took out out of her day to the interview with us. The request was unexpectedly, but we feel very eager to help. In addition to providing free tickets to The Tech Museum to our interviewees, perhaps we should try to be more intentional about open-endedly asking the interviewees if there is anything they would like to ask us to answer, leaving room for them to ask about potential resources.
Ultimately, some people we reach out to end up disregarding our messages or not able to provide the type of story we’re looking, which is definitely delaying the process. However, we are finding that even though some stories are not the kind we initially targeted for this project, the various stories from community leaders, members, academic, and other professionals are creating a narrative about climate change impact and resilience in the Bay Area with many layers and aspects that will speak to many.