Creating Anti-oppressive Spaces Online
November 2016 at MCN
At MCN 2015 I gave an Ignite talk that outlined my thinking about the connections between museums and awful, traumatic histories, and why it’s imperative that we as museum workers unpack how our institutions have benefited from those histories. A lot of people I talked to in the months after said the talk resonated with them, and they were fired up (YES!!), but didn’t quite know where to start.
At the same conference the following year, this tool was presented with specific ideas and practices that people could employ in their work towards this vision. Along with five other colleagues, I came up with a checklist that can be used before, during and after a tech project to help gauge how well we’re building our systems for as many people as possible. Listen to the audio from our session here and download the slides here.
Check it out on GitHub
Museums and Structural Change
In the fall of 2016, Suse Cairns and I exchanged a series of letters over postal mail exploring the idea of structural change in museums and how it happens. We talked about a lot–connecting museums to a larger landscape of institutions, structural change as a process of healing, and how transformation must be aligned with other social liberation movements.
It was an interesting conversation because we both think about institutional transformation quite a lot, but we come from very different perspectives. It challenged me to think hard about my ideas in order to articulate them as clearly as I could. I learned so much from our exchange, and she told me she did to.
Check it out on medium.com
Model View Culture article
In the Fall 2016 issue of Model View Culture, a social justice tech magazine, I had an article titled “Thinking About Trauma in How We Build Tech Products.” I collaborated with Tanuja Jagernauth, a Healing Justice Organizer in Chicago, to get a stronger sense of the principles of trauma-informed care to base my article on. Here’s an excerpt:
It’s made me think more deeply about how our applications can create space for users who are processing these, and other traumatic events in their lives. The realities of oppression mean that so many of us are survivors of violence, assault, abuse, harassment, chronic stress and other acute and ongoing traumas. How are we, as technologists, working to understand and build in a way that is sensitive to that faced by so many: people of color, trans and queer folks, working class people, differently-abled people and other marginalized people?
Timelines of Museums' African Collections and the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade
Spring 2016 at Museums and the Web
At Museums and the Web a colleague and I did a demonstration of the uses of D3.js, a powerful data visualization library. To address the questions I’d been asking for some time: how have museums benefited from slavery, I pulled publicly available museum data of the creation dates of objects in the African collections of a handful of different art museums, and put them side-by-side with when enslaved people were removed from the African continent. Check out the code on GitHub.
Check it out
MCN is one of two museum technology conferences that happen annually. While there are many talks and conversations diving deep into technical topics, the conference is most known for its threads on organizational culture and social transformation. Following are some of my major takeaways.
To the tune of “wheels on the bus:”
Last night I gave an Ignite talk at MCN 2015 in Minneapolis about museums and oppression. An Ignite talk is a 5 minute presentation with 20 slides that advance automatically every 15 seconds. I fit a lot in there, so I thought it might be useful for folks at the conference to refer back to what I said. Below is a video, my slides, and the text from my talk, entitled Towards an Anti-Oppression Museum Manifesto:
Thoughts on how the board game Catan replicates early U.S. treatment of indigenous and black people for Indigenous People’s Day:
Several months ago, I wrote an article for the Incluseum blog breaking down ideas of oppression for the museum community: Oppression: A Museum Primer. Here’s an excerpt:
There’s been discussion among museum professionals questioning if and how our institutions should participate in the movements that have arisen from Ferguson in some way. As I’m sure many people in the conversation have been, I’ve been extremely affected by the recent decisions to not indict law enforcement in the killings of unarmed black people, and these recent injustices have occupied my mind a great deal in recent weeks. I recognize that these decisions are part of a history of the state murdering black people with impunity that goes back hundreds of years. I also recognize that this history includes the murder of and sexual violence against women and trans folks as well, whose stories are often met with silence. With this weight, I share in the great mix of emotions many of us are experiencing. And if we do talk about responding in some way, I want it to be based in reason and compassion, with an understanding of our relationships with black people and our shared histories.
Over the past year, I’ve gotten together with a group of three of my friends who are men every two months or so to read writings by feminist authors. We’ve read fiction, non-fiction and essays by feminist writers, mostly women of color. It’s been fun for me to connect with my friends in a new way, and for all of us to grow our thinking together and be critical of ways in which we participate in sexism, male domination and rape culture. Here’s essentially what I did to get it going:
During a panel about open authority at #MCN2014, I was struck by a question Porchia Moore asked: “why don’t visitors of color participate at the rates of other groups?” This is a question that I’ve pondered myself for some time, and I appreciated her creating space for discussion with other museum professionals.
For some years now, I’ve been wanting to rethink Diwali in a way that celebrates the holiday as an expression of my wishes and hopes for a new year. In a conversation about pujas and Hindu ritual this week, a friend said to me “personally, the best prayers are those that are from the heart.” Her words inspired me to let go of my longing for finding connection in rituals that I don’t understand to create an expression of ritual that is meaningful to me. I still appreciate that many Hindu rituals have been performed for a long time by people all over the world, there’s something powerful about sharing in a common consciousness through shared ritual. But this year, I thought I’d take some of the information and perspectives shared with me over the past several years to think about what a celebration of Diwali would be like that fully resonated with me.
I’ve been hearing about Linked Open Data for years. I’ve sat in on sessions at conferences and followed many discussions on Twitter and e-mail lists. At times, the tone of these conversations seemed like “this is such an awesome tool that nobody is using.” But I never really understood what it was. I was left still wondering “WTF is Linked Open Data?”