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From Self-Advocacy to Public History: Building Collaborative Capacity among Remote Communities

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Abstract and Figures

Every community contributes to shaping society and hence merits a place in public history. Some communities are often excluded from knowledge-production due to the trivialization of their contributions or their marginalization. Such communities need to advocate for themselves and publish their own narrative. This project used a variety of research methods to propose design interventions intended to connect and amplify the voices of Indian Women leading political activism around the world. It is rooted in the opportunity of preserving pivotal social movements in the form of public history. The focus was to facilitate the transformation of individual voices into collective action. As a result, a new process framework was developed that can be adapted by similar remote and underrepresented communities. It details how remotely located participants can collect and manage a unique qualitative data set of their shared experiences. The framework is extensible to other communities that represent a significant voice, but feel under-capacitated to advocate for themselves. A design proposal visualizes the process of Self-Advocacy-collection to interpretation-through the navigation of a digital tool that embodies the framework and facilitates a community through the participatory design process. There is an opportunity for empowering communities to participate in building their public history. The paper discusses how the author designed, refined and defined the process for a community to advocate for oneself. Introduction Several communities that contribute to society are often excluded from knowledge-production due to the trivialization of their contributions or their marginalization. These 'Invisiblised Communities' need to advocate for themselves and publish their own narrative (Herzog, 2018). This paper discusses a participatory design framework developed with one such community-Indian women leading political activism around the world. In 2019-2020 India witnessed massive civic participation against new citizenship laws introduced by the government. This empirical research is rooted in the endeavor to prolong and preserve the impact of this social movement. Many movements in the past, however significant, have been pacified over time. Not all of these movements are recorded in public history. This project provides new channels of expression with the goal of longevity beyond momentary significance. This paper elaborates the process for a community to self-advocate through a remote-hybrid case study. Indian women around the world were interviewed for their participation or lack thereof in the new Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) related political activism. Multiple versions of the process were tested for improved engagement and transformative action. These evaluations fed the outline for an evidence-based process framework, that serves as a handbook for self-advocacy for a community. It outlines step-by-step instructions for the collaborative production of public history. To visually facilitate the process framework, a digital tool is proposed to help the user execute the steps of the process. The tool enables communities to collaborate by curating their oral history, from collecting their individual experiences to publishing a visual narrative.
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22st DMI: Academic Design Management Conference
Impact The Future By Design
Toronto, Canada, 5-6 August, 2020
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From Self-Advocacy to Public History: Building Collaborative
Capacity among Remote Communities
Neha MANN*a and Brooke BRANDEWIEb
a University of Cincinnati; b University of Cincinnati
Every community contributes to shaping society and hence merits a place in public history. Some communities are
often excluded from knowledge- production due to the trivialization of their contributions or their marginalization.
Such communities need to advocate for themselves and publish their own narrative.
This project used a variety of research methods to propose design interventions intended to connect and amplify
the voices of Indian Women leading political activism around the world. It is rooted in the opportunity of preserving
pivotal social movements in the form of public history. The focus was to facilitate the transformation of individual
voices into collective action.
As a result, a new process framework was developed that can be adapted by similar remote and underrepresented
communities. It details how remotely located participants can collect and manage a unique qualitative data set of
their shared experiences. The framework is extensible to other communities that represent a significant voice, but
feel under-capacitated to advocate for themselves.
A design proposal visualizes the process of Self-Advocacy collection to interpretation through the navigation of
a digital tool that embodies the framework and facilitates a community through the participatory design process.
There is an opportunity for empowering communities to participate in building their public history. The paper
discusses how the author designed, refined and defined the process for a community to advocate for oneself.
Keywords: Participatory Design, women’s rights, self-advocacy, tranformative mixed-methods, public history.
* Corresponding author: Neha Mann | e-mail: mannnh@mail.uc.edu
Neha Mann, Brooke Brandewie
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Introduction
Several communities that contribute to society are often excluded from knowledge-production due to the
trivialization of their contributions or their marginalization. These ‘Invisiblised Communities’ need to advocate for
themselves and publish their own narrative (Herzog, 2018). This paper discusses a participatory design framework
developed with one such community Indian women leading political activism around the world. In 2019-2020
India witnessed massive civic participation against new citizenship laws introduced by the government. This
empirical research is rooted in the endeavor to prolong and preserve the impact of this social movement. Many
movements in the past, however significant, have been pacified over time. Not all of these movements are
recorded in public history. This project provides new channels of expression with the goal of longevity beyond
momentary significance.
This paper elaborates the process for a community to self-advocate through a remote-hybrid case study. Indian
women around the world were interviewed for their participation or lack thereof in the new Citizenship
Amendment Act (CAA) related political activism. Multiple versions of the process were tested for improved
engagement and transformative action. These evaluations fed the outline for an evidence-based process
framework, that serves as a handbook for self-advocacy for a community. It outlines step-by-step instructions for
collaborative production of public history.
To visually facilitate the process framework, a digital tool is proposed to help the user execute the steps of the
process. The tool enables communities to collaborate by curating their oral history, from collecting their individual
experiences to publishing a visual narrative.
Background
Surge of Indian political activism in early 2020
The end of 2019 and early 2020 has witnessed massive unrest in Indian politics. The Parliament of India passed the
Citizenship Amendmen Bill amending the Citizenship Act, 1955 which altered the grounds for acquiring Indian
citizenship. The National Registry of Citizens (NRC) was conducted in the state of Assam in 1951 to document all the
immigrants from Bangladesh who took refuge in post-colonial India. The register was specifically made for Assam
which is one of India’s most multi-ethnic states. This NRC list was revised in 2018 with the final draft revealing a
total of 1.9 million illegals in Assam. These people were sent to detention camps, which were built rapidly in
Assam to house the allegedly illegal immigrants (BBC News, 2019). This was soon followed with the 2019
amendment of the citizenship act that allowed Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsees and Christians who migrated
to India from Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Pakistan to become citizens. These 2 laws were aimed at expediting
naturalization of refugees and immigrants.
However, the conflict arose when opposing leaders and citizens identified that the amendment leaves Muslims
off the list of protected groups, however. Many political analysts and human rights experts argue that the
government designed the law explicitly to exclude Muslim asylum seekers from acquiring refugee status in India
and, eventually, citizenship. The combined passing of these 2 laws resulted in a wave of protests and sit-ins across
the country, and among Indian diaspora around the world. The demonstrators fear the laws endanger the
nation’s Muslim minority and are a threat to the secular values of the Indian constitution (Victor, 2019).
From Self-Advocacy to Public History: Building Collaborative Capacity among Remote Communities
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Women leading social activism in India
It is also noteworthy that in recent years,
India has seen a series of increasingly
gruesome crimes against women.
Particularly in the last few months before
the political uproar, there were major
violations of women’s rights and safety
across the nation (India Today, 2019).
Propelled by these repeated injustices and
compelling systemic reasons, they united
to form what is now known as the longest
sustained political agitation led by women
in independent India (Fig 1). The
anticipated procedural consequences of
the Citizenship Amendment Act are
disproportionately unfavorable to women
than men. Women across socio-economic
strata often stay in the economic care of
men fathers and husbands deprived
women of possessing immovable
property. One of the qualifying documents to prove your citizenship require legal ownership of land. This lack of
legal documentation is furthered by unregistered marriages and undocumented children that were birthed with the
help of midwives (Worldcrunch, 2020).
On the other hand, women hold an advantageous position in social activism. Section 46 of the Criminal Procedure
Code prohibits the arrest of women between sunrise and sunset. It is because of this protective law, that women in
Chennai and Bengaluru formed human chains around male protesters to protect them from being detained. The
mass surgency documented women in such protective roles as police brutality on men is more normalized, as only
female police officers are allowed to handle women (India Code 1973) (Fig 2, 3, 4).
Civic Participation in the Decade of Hyperconnectivity
Civic participation refers to communal mediation of communities through the ‘combination of knowledge, skills,
values and motivation’ of individuals or groups. It means promoting the quality of life in a community, through both
political and non-political processes (Ehrlich, 2000). A civically responsible individual recognizes themselves as a
Figure 1. Protests against the new CAA law. (Luit Chaliha)
Figure 2. Female students against police
brutality (Masood Khan)
Figure 4. Bengaluru women form
protective chain around male
protesters (She the People)
Figure 3. Women on the 85th day of
24x7 sit in at Shaheen Bagh
(The Wire)
Neha Mann, Brooke Brandewie
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member of a larger social fabric and therefore considers social problems to be at least partly his or her own; and to
take action when appropriate.
Civic participation can be expressed through voting and community service; it can also take the form of the protest
and popular unrest now commonplace in many parts of the world. Increasingly, those protesting are utilizing digital
technologies to take a more active role in civic life, and to create and sustain participation. Despite the
disempowering effects of inequality, a citizenry now well equipped with these technology tools is demanding
change, and occasionally ‘influencing decision-making through collective action’ (World Economic Forum, 2019).
This digital activism is fueled by hyperconnected technologies that have made the world virtual smaller and densely
connected. Hyperconnectivity is a term invented by Canadian social scientists Anabel Quan- Haase and Barry
Wellman, referring to the integrative use of multiple means of communication, such as email, instant messaging,
telephone, face-to-face contact and Web 2.0 information services, which is very characteristic of the ‘digital-native
millennials who are the foot soldiers’ of digital activism (Ruiz-Grossman, 2017).
The past few years have seen a massive surge in violations and hence, demand for human rights across the globe.
From the streets of Hong Kong to La Paz, Kashmir, Paris, Bogota, Port-au-Prince, Quito, Barcelona, Beirut and
Santiago, we have witnessed a huge wave of citizens taking to the streets to exercise their right to protest and
demand change from those in power. The topics of urgent discourse in 2019 have included ‘corruption, climate
justice, cost of living and political freedom’, presented through unique challenges of specific locations (Amnesty
International, 2019). The most recent and possibly the largest civic movement in the world is the resurgence of
Black Lives Matter after incidents of repeated disparities in police brutality towards people of color in America.
Unfortunately, a common thread throughout these protests has been a harsh response from the state, which in
many instances has amounted to gross violations of human rights.
Understanding Contemporary Communities
Contemporary communities are defined as non-exclusive communities that share multiple experiences irrespective
of their location. As defined in Ezio Manzini's 'Cultures of Resilience' contemporary communities differ from
traditional ones in that they 'exist non-exclusively and commit to their beliefs varyingly’.
Well before hyperconnectivity, Indian women have led social reform through collective activism. The Chipko
Andolan (Sticking protest) in the early 1970s was a Gandhian movement that saw people protesting against
deforestation by hugging trees to stop them from being cut. Because of this movement, the government issued a
ban on the felling of trees in the Himalayan regions for fifteen years, until the green cover was fully restored. The
spirit of Chipko Andolan was carried forward by the Jungle Bachao Andolan (Save the forest protest) in the 1980s,
when the government decided to replace the natural Sal forest with highly valued teak in the state of Bihar. (The
Better India, 2015)
Another characteristic of a contemporary community is the desire to ' build their own shared identity' through
accurate and personal representation of their experiences (Manzini & Rizzo, 2011). In 2012, the Nirbhaya gang rape
case brought India together in protest (Times of India, 2019). This movement was one of the first to utilize social
media to voice their dissent by using a black dot as a profile picture. In 2018, a massive surge in civic participation
by women (fig 5) and digital movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp brought the systemic sexual harassment of
women to the level of public consciousness through widespread use of Hashtags. This was dubbed as ‘Slacktivism’
by the United Nations and said to have lacked impact for policy-change.
However, the impact of these hashtag movements was higher on an individual-level behavioral change and proved
successful in spreading awareness or demanding accountability. In the wake of #MeToo, which brought to light the
sexual harassment that women face daily, men showed their support with a hashtag of their own. Started by
Australian journalist, Benjamin Law, the #HowIWillChange movement saw men resolving to make changes to their
conduct so as to counter rape culture. The movement offered suggestions on what men could do to help change
societal norms that encourage abuse, assault and harassment against women. It emphasized how by not speaking
up people can be a part of the problem, even if they haven’t actually assaulted anybody (Youth Ki Awaaz, 2018).
This movement touches upon the individual behavioral change and awareness impact digital activism can have.
From Self-Advocacy to Public History: Building Collaborative Capacity among Remote Communities
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Figure 5. Women's movements across the world in 2018 (NY Times)
Neha Mann, Brooke Brandewie
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Theoretical Framework
Emancipatory Research through
Participatory Design
Emancipatory research is the perspective that
practices producing knowledge that can include
and improve the lives of the disadvantaged.
Design educator Lesley Ann Noel summarizes it
as a combination of ‘research streams including
critical theory based, feminist, race-specific,
participatory and transformative research’ (Noel,
2016). Emancipation relies on the existence of
‘multiple realities’ and re-assigns the decision-
making processes to the participants of the
study. This mindset of considering participants
topic-experts challenges the ideals of research
done by the ‘dominant or elite researcher’
(Groat & Wang, 2002).
Participatory design can be summarized as 'from
the simplest stand point that those affected by a design should have a say in the design process ... to ensure that
the existing skill could be made a resource in the design process' (Ehn, 2008). In order to utilize this ‘existing skill’,
participants play a central role by contributing their individual and unique competencies to the process. Unlike co-
design, that gathers user insight which may or may not translate to viable design outcomes (Trischler, Pervan, Kelly,
& Scott, 2017), the participatory model seeks the user’s inputs at multiple sequential phases, which are highly
iterative and collaborative in nature. It views the users as the experts the ones with the most knowledge about
what they do and what they need and the designers as technical consultants. (Namioka, Schuler, 1993).
Unlike co-design, that gathers user insight which may or may not translate to viable design outcomes (Trischler,
Pervan, Kelly, & Scott, 2017), the participatory model seeks the user’s inputs at multiple sequential phases, which
are highly iterative and collaborative in nature. It views the users as the experts the ones with the most
knowledge about what they do and what they need and the designers as technical consultants. (Namioka,
Schuler, 1993).
One such project is History Moves, a participatory design collaborative between a historian and graphic designer
that personifies the intended mindful representation of its participants. It stresses the participation of Women with
HIV in America as empowered decision-makers throughout the process of ideation to curation of their public
history exhibits (Wizinsky 2019). This study is modelled from the author’s learnings from History Moves.
In this project, the focus was to facilitate individual voices into collective action. Educator Donna M. refers to
emancipatory research as transformative research, stating its origins in the disability community, with the motto
‘nothing about us, without us’ (Mertens, 2015). This theory is essential to the study as it elicits a transformative
correlation between emancipation to curate and historic visibility of the participants (Fig 6).
The transformative research paradigm emphasizes the strengths of the communities that experience
discrimination and oppression on the basis of their cultural values and experiences (Mertens 2010).
Methodologically, the transformative paradigm is not a defined particular approach. Its implications include an
initial qualitative inquiry into the focus of the subject, substantiating this qualitative data set with quantitative
research in a cyclical fashion. In order to build ‘Cultural competence’ in transformative framework, researchers
must employ culturally and contextually appropriate methodology, and use community-generated, interpretive
means to arrive at the results (SenGupta, Hopson, & Thompson-Robinson, 2004).
Figure 6. Relationship of how the frameworks were utilized in this study
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Methodology
The study utilizes transformative mixed methods to collect and visualize the collective voices of a contemporary
community through participatory design (Fig 7). The objective of this study was to understand the process of
digitally collecting individual voices that are located remotely from each other. They would then be further
interpreted into insightful and accessible formats of public history. This would contribute to a comprehensive
understanding of the process from collection to dissemination for a target audience with unique challenges and
strengths. The community chosen for this study was women leading political activism in India during the political
unrest of 2019 2020.
The study is divided in 3 phases:
Collection of data
A digital survey with structured and non-leading questions was shared on social media. Participants answered a
secondary survey to volunteer their contact details if they wished to participate in the following phases of the
study. This was done to ensure the anonymity of the responses. Collected responses were sorted in a framework
spreadsheet and each participant was assigned a unique ID. The purpose of this survey was not to analyze the
responses, but to merely form a consistent data set of responses. The questions were open-ended to allow the
participants to respond through their unique perspective.
The questionnaire was designed to invite both supporters and protestors of the new law. The survey was open to
all Indian citizens, and the questions for male participants were seeking their perception of the role of women’s
Figure 7. Mixed-methods used in this study
Neha Mann, Brooke Brandewie
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participation. It was a time-consuming qualitative survey and the study benefitted greatly by the ongoing
momentum for the movement.
Organization of Data
When the data was collected, it was pre-sorted by individual response. The objective of the study was to find
shared voices and experiences among these individual responses. With this objective, the survey data was plotted
on a framework to start interpreting top-level similarities. Each participant was given a unique ID: W# for women
and M# for men. Each quote was tagged with the unique ID. This bucketing was done to form a baseline of
emerging topics for the researcher. The responses from this top-level theme were selected and sent to a focus
group of participants in the Interpretation phase. The primary themes were not disclosed to the participants, as
one version of the interpretation activity (mid-involvement proximal) was a validation of the process where
baseline themes exist.
A ‘classifying question’ was added to the survey, that sorted the responses objectively based on participation. The
multiple-response question asked participants to quantify their exact involvement in the civic participation. They
were classified on the basis of their response as high to mid to low level involvement.
Interpretation
Participants who volunteered their contact information were contacted for
the focus group interpretation activity. The purpose of this activity was to
develop a shared understanding of the topic. The participants were guided
through an activity to find similarities among their own voice and other
participants. In order to produce public history, and not mere historic
preservation of their stories, the process of interpretation is crucial.
Through interpretation, their individual narrative would be curated into
insightful and accessible formats of public history.
These focus group participants were sent tailored package folders with
instructions. The package contained 15 shuffled quotes from the digital
survey, including their own. The participants sorted the given 15 quotes into
5 buckets and assigned a title of each bucket. These handcrafted ‘raw
posters’ were photographed by the participants and emailed back to the
investigator.
To practice the participatory values of the project, the data was sent to 10
selected female participants to be interpreted. This selection was made of
the basis of interest shown, level of involvement and accessibility.
High I nvolvem ent Remo te ( 6)
Participants were emailed a digital kit (Fig 9) containing an instruction sheet (Fig 8), printable files and a post-
activity insights sheet. It also contained examples of ‘poster’ compositions done by other participants.
High I nvolvem ent Proximal (4)
Participants were mailed an envelope containing an instruction sheet, printed content, and the required stationery.
It also contained a physical example of a ‘poster’ composition that they could reference. At the end of the activity,
the kit contained an insights sheet which provided insights into pairings they identified.
Mid In volvement Proximal (1)
Participants were emailed a digital package (Fig 10) similar to Highly Involved participants, with the addition of 5
news articles. This was sent to mid-level involvement participants to make the bucketing, having clues for the
themes in the form of news articles.
Figure 8. Instruction sheet for interpretation
focus group activity
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Unaw are Proxim al (4)
An exploratory workshop (Fig 11)was conducted with 4 non-Indian participants, who were fairly unfamiliar with the
subject of discussion. They were also given the mid-level involvement analogue package including news articles.
This was done to explore the possibility of educating non-participants through the process.
Figure 9. Kit for high-involvement remote participants
Figure 10. Kit for mid-involvement proximal participants
Figure 11. Exploratory workshop with unaware proximal participants
Neha Mann, Brooke Brandewie
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Findings
The online survey circulated on social media and through personal networks was responded by 40 people from
India, USA, Canada, England and Ireland. The purpose of the survey was not to analyze the responses, but to collect
a consistent set of data of people’s first-hand experiences, values and feelings during the civic participation of 2020
in India. The following is a summary of the data collected.
64% responders were female and 36% male.
A majority of responders were from the 25-35 age group, with the exception of 5 people from 36-50.
While a majority of respondents were from cities in India like Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, 7 of them were
currently staying out of India in USA, UK and Ireland.
Their occupations varied widely from students, entrepreneurs, advocates, bankers, journalists, etc.
The first question, irrespective of gender was their general opinion on the current political climate. The responses
to this question resulted in 4 emerging categories:
Anti -CAA (30)
They are against the new law.
Within this community, there are members who are active contributors while others are passive supporters.
Most Anti-CAA responders wrote long paragraphs describing their experiences. Their contributions ranged from
organizing and attending protests, offering pro-bono services to encouraging discourse.
8 women said their experience in social activism was no different than any other gender.
11 women said they faced criticism for voicing their opinions and/or felt unsafe while participating.
5 women wrote about fighting a ‘double-battle: one of fascism and another of sexism’
Pro-CAA (2)
They are in favor of the new law.
This community is agitated by the disruptive activism and considers it ‘dangerous’ and ‘waste of time
and resources’ by ‘misinformed’ students.
Divided opinions (6)
They are yet to decide what to believe. They are mostly not participating in the activism.
This community is most aware of conflicting news and is fact-checking for themselves.
They are mainly Pro-CAA, but admit its flaws.
5 of the 6 people ‘condemn discrimination’.
Indifferent (2)
They aware of the situation but do not care about it.
32/40 responders shared their religion before expressing their views, even though it wasn’t asked.
All the responders who mentioned they were Christian, felt they were the ‘next target’ after Muslims.
13 responders referred to being Hindu as a privilege.
6 responders mentioned their caste, even though it was not asked in the survey.
From Self-Advocacy to Public History: Building Collaborative Capacity among Remote Communities
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The quotes were tagged with 3 colors:
White for Anti-CAA, black for Pro-CAA and Gray for divided opinions.
This matrix is the initial bucketing done by the researcher, as a baseline to illustrate the similarity in opinions of the
members of seemingly polarized communities (Fig 12).
Interpretation
Since the data was pre-organized by the researcher into overarching themes, the purpose of this focus group
activity was to identify the shared-experiences and also give them a specific theme. Four versions of the activity
were conducted:
High Involvem ent Remo te ( 6)
These participants had to print the sheets and arrange the stationery themselves. This task was chosen for the
highly involved participants relying on their enthusiasm towards the subject. Turnaround time was the slow in this
group. The activity required printing and handcrafting the raw posters. Participants titled their posters uniquely and
some even drew illustrations. (Fig 13)
Figure 12. Initial data-organization matrix
Figure 13. High-involvement remote
participant response
Figure 14. High-involvement proximal
participant response
Neha Mann, Brooke Brandewie
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High I nvolvem ent Proximal (4)
This group had the quickest turnaround time, owing to the fact that they were sent a physical package with all the
stationary required in the activity. Participants shared their interest in future work as the insights intrigued them
(Fig 14).
Mid In volvement Proximal (1)
This participant expressed difficulty in understanding the relationship of the news article. But once they started
recognizing the patterns, the activity was ‘too easy’ (Fig 15).
Unaw are Proxim al (4)
The workshop yielded quick results as participants matched the quotes to the news article. With limited knowledge
of the subject, they added a new perspective through their titles. On being asked if they learnt something new, the
participants agreed. However, they shared that it wasn’t enough knowledge to understand the context. A tailored
package at the end could be beneficial to unfamiliar non-participants (Fig 16).
Figure 15. Mid-involvement participant Response
Figure 16. Unaware proximal participant response
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Proposal : A systematic approach to Self-Advocacy
Once contemporary communities lose the momentum of their social movement, they bear the risk of disappearing.
Public History presents the opportunity to extend the life of a sustained movement coming to an end. Methods of
self-advocacy that aim to create public history increase the durability of the movement beyond active participation.
The artefacts of public history can preserve the collaboratively curated media and the spirit of the movement even
after pacification.
With this understanding of contemporary communities parsing physical limitations to collect and curate their
identities, the following section illustrates step-by-step principles for Visualizing Self-Advocacy (Fig 17).
The following is the evidence-based process-framework established through the study.
Figure 17. Proposed process framework
Neha Mann, Brooke Brandewie
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1. Identification of a community
To begin advocating for a community, a group has to first identify the topical connections between its members
and have a shared understanding of their systemic invisibilization. This process of transforming from an individual
to a community with shared-experiences is called Identification.
The process of identification has two routes:
1.1. Self-identification
In the present day, contemporary communities commonly self-unite through social media and develop discourse
around their collective interests. However, they are faced with multiple limitations of physical inaccessibility and
may feel under-capacitated to present a unified front for self- advocacy.
In such cases, members may actively seek their community, for example sickle cell disease patients sharing their
experiences with each other through a support group. Such support groups or information portals and often
formed on Facebook, which is a platform that made it possible to be a part of a virtual remote community.
1.2. E xternal Organization
The other method of identification would be by an external organization that can benefit the invisibilized
community and/or benefit from their visibility. These may include service-providers who are enabling a population
to self- advocate. For example, the healthcare community now identifies the trivialization of sickle cell disease
patients under the alias of a ‘rare disease’. So, in order to enable their shared experiences to be published,
Cincinnati Children’s Hospital may aid in the organization of sickle cell stakeholders through a conference. This
external organization acts as the leader of the group, to simply facilitate the process of self-advocacy. The decision
related to the curation of public history are still taken by the community itself.
2. Collection of their voices
The activity of collecting data in the form of conversations, autobiographies, memoirs and shared dialogue is the
foundation of design-led advocacy. The data to be collected can be perceived as answers to specific questions. In
case of personal information, question what identifiers are essential to the study rather than including frequently-
asked demographic information.
Ask questions that produce long-form detailed answers including narration of experiences, a story from a time
period and personal opinions on a matter. Let the participant know there is no wrong answer as you simply seek to
learn about their personal experience.
Methods like semi-structured interviews or qualitative surveys can be used, with questions that break down the
subject of discussion into smaller introspective experiences. It is essential to anticipate the formats of
interpretation and visualization of the collected data. One might benefit from a framework that organizes the data
in a format that catalyzes interpretation.
Organization of data
Once the data is collected, it needs to organized into usable formats. For an oral history project, interviews must be
transcribed, files stored and notes digitized, before the interpretation phase. This project utilized a digital survey
and developed a framework for organizing the responses. This step is essential particularly in project using
transformative mixed methods were multiple data sets must be correlated in the following phases.
3. Interpretation into public history
Once the data is documented in written and/or audio formats, it has to be interpreted into ‘public history’. Public
History is the ‘movement, methodology, and approach that promotes the collaborative study and practice of
history. Its practitioners embrace a mission to make their ‘special insights accessible and useful to the public’
(National Council on Public History, 2007).
From Self-Advocacy to Public History: Building Collaborative Capacity among Remote Communities
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Interpretation is identifying and highlighting shared experiences among a pool of collected data. It is helpful to plot
the responses in a framework that visualizes these connections. If data is captured across time, the framework may
extend to shared- experiences across time periods.
Interpretation is a collaborative effort between the participants and researcher. This phase is critical for remote
participants to build the topical-connections with other participants through the activity. Reading other responses
to the questions, can validate, substantiate or clarify the participant’s own response. This process enables remote-
connectedness through the interpretation of the collective experiences.
Post-interpretation
Following these phases, the
interpreted data must be visualized,
curated and disseminated through
strategic channels. The complete
process for Self-Advocacy was
designed by combining the learning of
two case studies.
This study identified mixed methods
for the process of collecting data to
interpreting it into publich history.
This framework informed the design of
a digital tool that can take the role of a
neutral facilitator of the established
processes. This design proposal is a
digital tool that embodies the
proposed process framework. It helps
communities to navigate through the
process framework, particularly
advancing work efficiency when
collaborating remotely (Fig 18).
Figure 18. Proposed digital tool
Neha Mann, Brooke Brandewie
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Conclusion
The complete process framework was developed by combining two studies Women leading political activism in
India and Women’s History of HIV in America. (Wizinsky, 2019) This paper focuses on the process from data
collection to interpretation. It validates methods of participatory engagement in the process of collecting the data
of a community.
The transformational aim of the study was to turn individual voices into collective action. In the process of
collecting and interpreting data, the methods were targeted at building solidarity among the participants. The data
collected was shared back with the focus group participants in order to validate, substantiate or bring a new
perspective to their own response.
It was evident from the process that each step requires a facilitator and hence the digital tool is proposed as a
neutral facilitator of the processes. It allows remote collaboration, with the participants still being the decision-
makers.
The execution of the framework is a slow endeavor, as it relies on committed participation from multiple
participants. The remote interpretation focus group activity, requires much more time than an in-person workshop
session. The challenges of a remote community lie in coordination and fluctuating responsibilities. In order to
navigate the extensive process of self-advocacy, a community needs to find a core group that is central to this task.
As discussed in the framework, the process can start with a single person, who accompanied by a small group can
reach the masses.
For future refinement of the process, the timelines of the study would be drastically extended. In the current study,
even though the survey was available in Hindi and English, the responses were all in English. It lacked
representation from older generations and lower economic strata. Being a long survey, it attracted mainly people
who are highly active in social activism or are extremely against it. For the digital tool to be used as a facilitator of
self-advocacy globally, it must be able to translate data into regional languages. It must have advanced capacities
for accessibility through tactility, sound and/or visuals.
To conclude, a design proposal visualized the ‘collection to interpretation’ process of Self-Advocacy, as done
through a digital tool that embodies the framework and facilitates the navigation of a community through this
systematic process. This paper discusses the methods and principles required for an invisiblized community to
collect and interpret their data into public history, through a process framework and a design proposal for future
development.
From Self-Advocacy to Public History: Building Collaborative Capacity among Remote Communities
17
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Protests around the world explained. Why is everyone protesting?
Amnesty International. (2019). Protests around the world explained. Why is everyone protesting? https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/10/protests-around-the-world-explained/
Women's Marches Across the World, in Photos and Voices of Protest. The New York Times
  • A Breeden
  • K De Freytas-Tamura
Breeden, A., & Freytas-Tamura, K. de. (2018, January 21). Women's Marches Across the World, in Photos and Voices of Protest. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/21/world/europe/womensmarches-london-paris.html
March for Our Lives: Maps of the More Than 800 Protests Around the World. The New York Times
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  • J K Patel
Carlsen, A., & Patel, J. K. (2018, March 22). March for Our Lives: Maps of the More Than 800 Protests Around the World. The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/03/22/us/politics/march-for-livesdemonstrations.html, https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/03/22/us/politics/march-for-livesdemonstrations.html
The Women's March Became a Movement. What's Next? The New York Times
  • S Chira
Chira, S. (2018, January 20). The Women's March Became a Movement. What's Next? The New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/20/us/womens-march-metoo.html
India Code: Section Details
  • India Code
India Code. (1973). "India Code: Section Details." Retrieved June 12, 2020 (https://indiacode.nic.in/showdata?actid=AC_CEN_5_23_000010_197402_1517807320555&sectionId=22417&sectionno=46&orderno=51).