As illustrated by our blog post from last week, we came in to this week feeling uneasy about the quantity of data that we have been able to collect thus far. We felt as if the quality of the data is high, but didn’t know if the low number of responses would somehow discredit that quality. Another insecurity that we were experiencing was that the data that we were receiving told a different story than we had originally anticipated. We had a brief meeting with Deland to express and work through some of these insecurities. She assured us that the work that we were doing would retain its impact and importance despite low response rate and that data points we had were indeed telling a story with heavy social implications.
We also scheduled a meeting with Jason, our community partner for Thursday afternoon. Because of traffic accidents and similar addresses in neighboring towns, we were not able to meet up with Jason in person. Instead, we took this opportunity with the three us all being together and Jason being free to have a very productive conference call. We updated him on how data collection was going and expressed our opinions about changing what our end deliverables will look like. Our team has had similar thoughts about the fact that the data we are receiving isn’t best depicted by a map illustrating movement as we previously thought. Luckily he was open to the idea of changing the deliverable to best display our data. We had previously planned to be done with data collection last week, but we decided with Jason’s endorsement to carry out making calls in to the early parts of next week to get any last minute data points.
What We Observed/Learned
This week we learned just how much the formation of expectations and unconscious biases can shape the process and products of a project. Because we had set such clear expectations for the end products of this project, the fact that we are most likely not going to be able to meet those goals feels disappointing. However, we have decided that being flexible to our plan and tailoring the deliverables to best suit the needs of the data, emphasizes the authenticity of the information we are presenting.
Ironically, this shift in the direction of the project is almost refreshing because it validates the importance of on-the-ground data collection and the fact that the only way to understand what a community is actually facing, apart from broad generalizations or predictions, is to ask those directly involved. It is easy for us, as outsiders, to impose our own opinions on to the situation and find “evidence” to support our claim, but when you let the people in the community dictate where the project is headed, you’re headed toward making a more significant social impact.
At the start of this project, our group was set on letting the data speak for itself, apart from personal narratives because that is what we believed would be most convincing to policymakers and local governments. However, because we have come to realize that our project has different implications that we first expected it to, we are beginning to understand the value of coupling raw data with the stories of the people that provided it. How you choose to present data is just as important as collecting it because the way that people interpret data is far from objective. This realization could promote stronger community engagement by emphasizing the human aspect of this project in putting faces to this cause.