Bridges: connections between STOREE’s principles and other work

I began working as a graduate assistant with the STOREE project in May 2020. I am a first-generation student of color who began my academic career in my late 20s, after eight years of fits and starts to receive my BA. This was due in part to not having any idea of how to navigate academic systems, like finding resources, either for financial aid or classes, and having to poke around and push against limitations of these system to get my needs met. I feel that these experiences are part of what drove me to UBC’s iSchool to pursue my Master’s of Library and Information Studies (MLIS). What drew me originally to the STOREE project are its objectives of making research more relevant and accessible to non-academic audiences and supporting those doing research in ways that worked with and for communities. I have been happy to work and learn from my professors and colleagues on this project, many of whom that share my goals of opening up the “ivory tower,” sharing resources, and thinking critically about how things are kept behind walls and how we get rid of them.

Last October I also started working with the Office of Regional and Community Engagement (ORICE) and their Gender+ Collective to create a guide centered around data justice in community organizations conducting citizen science. My small team and I started by examining the excellent work a previous ORICE cohort had already undertaken, taking definitions and ideas from the book Data Feminism and the organization GROOTS Kenya. We started to put together an outline of a data justice guide. Data justice refers refers to “fairness in the way people are made visible, represented and treated as a result of their production of digital data is necessary to determine ethical paths through a datafying world”.¹ What does this look like in practice? We started pulling in trauma and healing informed frameworks, and working from a base of community engaged research. At the end of our time together, we had a skeleton of a document and many more paths we wanted to take. Presently, my cohort and I (three of us from the last plus two new students) will be conducting interviews and focus groups with different community organizations to obtain their generous feedback on our work so that we can make an effective resource. At this point we are hoping specifically for their feedback on accessibility in terms of what the form the guide might actually take, e.g., a print book, or a website with linked resources. What would actually be useful and have value?

When the ORICE team started this project, we originally focused on the idea of citizen science – the idea that anyone could collect data and make meaning from it. As we moved forward, we realized that, while this is true, data collection doesn’t just happen in citizen science projects. “Data” can be interviews, qualitative work, and more. The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on many inequities around data collection and data management within Canada, particularly for marginalized communities. I see a direct link between ORICE and STOREE: the goals of STOREE is to surface and make research relevant and accessible for non-academic audiences. Much of the work with my ORICE team so far has been to whittle down academic terms into more manageable ideas for a wider audience. We take inspiration from the solid framework of community based participatory research, as well as SFU CERi’s recently released guide for engaging in this work.

The opportunity to work on both the STOREE project and in progress ORICE guide has inspired me to keep investigating links between open, accessible data and those it directly affects. I’ve developed a burgeoning interest in AI and its (unintended) consequences, particularly in how engaging with data sets out of context can impact communities that I’m part of, like predictive policing. However, there is a myriad of work being done to combat these systems, some of which is being undertaken by organizations such as Data for Black Lives and the Algorithmic Justice League. There is room here to create a more equitable system, where technology can be empowering and not just an inhibition for marginalized people.

While this may seem like a far cry from the STOREE project, I truly see it as the next step in making research (even outside of academia) available to those that need it, by listening to their needs and making it accessible in ways that speak to them. The launch of the Downtown Eastside Research Access Portal, developed by the UBC Library and the UBC Learning Exchange, is one example of a new system that was built with input and feedback directly from the community. My hope is that the guide that I am working on with ORICE will similarly be made with and for the community we seek to serve. The STOREE objectives inspire me to continue working on projects like these – to try and educate and inform against the ways that information can be used against people, while also ensuring that it’s accessible for everyone.

¹
Taylor, L. (2017). What is data justice? The case for connecting digital rights and freedoms globally. Big Data & Society. https://doi.org/10.1177/2053951717736335

Kim Correa is a second year Master’s of Library and Information Studies student at UBC’s iSchool and a member of the Designing for People research cluster’s CREATE graduate training program. Her research interests include equitable systems design, metadata, classification, and trauma-informed librarianship. Her role as a research assistant include maintaining the STOREE website and social media, planning STOREE-team meetings, and content creation.