Update on Project Activities
On Friday, 10/12 we went to the Tech Museum to meet with Danny and Michelle. We were able to get a feel for the museum and see where the “Sustainable Cities” display will be held. We learned about the other exhibits that will surround the “Community Voices” exhibit that we are working on. Overall, the exhibit will be 6x3 feet and will display more than just the San Jose area, it will include most of the bay. This gives us some more flexibility when collecting stories because we do not have to dismiss a lead based off of geographic location.
Along with seeing where the exhibit plans to be, we went to the backroom where the prototype is being created. There is a more cartoon-like map as of now but we spoke with Danny and agreed it should have a more landscape type of look, but then have bodies of water and green areas brightened and bolded in order to provide clarity of location. We spoke about having background noises from the places we interview playing on the map and Danny showed us how as of now there are “water” sounds in the rivers and a news cast playing in an area where there was a story about climate change.
Beside from the planning of the visual aspect of the map, we spent a lot of time speaking about who we should be interviewing, how to get access to them, and what questions or prompts to ask. We will create a “how-to” list in collaboration with Danny in order to be on the same page when interviewing others. As of now, a lot of the interviewee list is tech companies or bigger organizations that have been doing mitigation. We spoke about getting local orgs that could connect us to community members in order to broaden our group of stories. We collected our first story by interviewing Anja Schulze, a coworker of Danny and Michelle from the museum. She spoke to us about the use of mushrooms to build materials such as plywood, bricks, and even styrofoam. We will continue to interview others and begin reaching out to organizations this week in order to conduct the interviews in the coming weekends. Our next meeting with Danny and Michelle will be a conference call just to check in on our progress with stories and interviews.
What We Observed and Learned
During our visit to the tech museum on Friday, 10/12, we were able to observe the atmosphere of the museum, and spend some time walking around, noticing how people interact with the space, and who these people who visit the museum are. We noticed, and heard from Danny that a large percentage of the visitors are student groups, and field trips from local schools.
We got to see the exact location in the museum where our project will be housed - within the larger exhibit which is about how technology is being used to combat climate change. The exhibit has a definite positive undertone - an emphasis on hope and inspiring collective, constructive action. We were also able to take a look at the prototype of the project, back in the office area / work space. We had a good talk about the design of the project, and how it will work, technically. Mapping seems a great way for people to engage and connect the issue to their own communities and landscapes. They can see where they live and the places they frequent in their neighborhoods in relation to climate issues. They can also learn about members of their communities that are taking action and get inspired.
After the tour of the museum and taking a look at the prototype, we met in a meeting room for a discussion where we clarified the expectations for our project with the community partner, smoothing out wrinkles, and making sure that we are all on the same page. During this discussion, we expressed our concerns and strategized altogether on how to complete our project in an ethical and impactful manner. We learned that our group has a lot of discretion in choosing the stories we wish to collect/pursue - our community partners have created a spreadsheet with some contacts (mostly tech-related companies and groups) and ideas for who to contact and interview… during our discussion, we did some brainstorming, and added some more ideas onto this spreadsheet. We definitely got a better idea of the types of stories our community partner has in mind, and we also talked about respectful ways of reaching out to interviewees, and the types of questions we want to ask them.
After our discussion, Danny introduced us to Anja Schulze - a biotech developer in charge of an interactive exhibit in the museum on the process of turning fungi into sturdy bricks for building, etc, potentially replacing materials like styrofoam and plastic. Cameron gave us a quick lesson on the equipment, and provided a great example of how to listen, record, and ask questions at the same time - emphasizing the importance of adapting to your interviewee and trying to maintain a natural flow of conversation. We had a good conversation about how to prepare for interviews as a group, and how to create guiding questions beforehand, but also being able to adapt during the interview if the conversation goes off track.
Critical Analysis / Moving Forward
After reading “To Hell with Good Intentions” and class on 10/08, we began to really question the ethics of our project in terms of who we are going to interview. We have come to face the ethical issue of interviewing people impacted by climate change without actually helping their situation nor being able to offer some type of solution. Although we know we are giving their story a platform and amplifying their voices, the exhibit may not directly help impacted people nor may it even be accessible to them given that the Tech Museum's entrance fee is $25. However, we acknowledged that this is a long-term project for the Tech Museum and that reciprocity may come in the long term. Finally, we also see how this all fits into the grand message of the museum in that we wish to inspire hope for action when visitors learn about how their own communities are being impacted by climate change.
Moving forward we plan to research political community orgs and focus on grassroots, community solutions/mitigation in order to find regular community members to interview. The Tech has many connections and leads with big tech companies and corporations, and while they are important players in climate change mitigation in the bay area, they can not be the only stories being told since we want visitors to be able to relate to them. We believe that focusing on community orgs and community grassroots movements would allow us to achieve this goal.
Moreover, we want some stories that focus on political systems and corporate accountability instead of centering too much on individual mitigation/adaptation stories. We recognized individual action, but we don’t want to neglect the larger issues of corporate complicity. We also want to highlight the importance of pro-climate candidates in the area in order to drive home the fact that government regulation is vital for a sustainable future.
Although we are still figuring out the ethics of interviewing marginalized affected communities, we do want to find stories that show the intersection of race,class, and the environment since these communities tend to face the brunt of climate change. Examples such as the stories of flooding victims/ areas that flood easily but aren’t receiving enough public $$$ to restore and prevent flood damage.
Lastly, we created some action items as we begin to dive into our project. We want to create a flexible script and list of best practices for interviewing people. Additionally, we want to prep for our interviews with a training session with the audio recording equipment. Finally, we hope to move along and start interviewing our first round of subjects within the next week.