Ham Radio as Resilient Technology after Natural Disasters

Just the day after the colloquium and I heard this story on NPR:
Ham Radio Volunteers Worry About Spectrum Plan. Of course it immediately made my think of Professor Duque's and Sonya's work on earthquakes.

Wrap Up and Looking Forward

Professor Longo talked about the future of the project. The idea is to continue the discussion into the future and to create a digital collection from the proceedings of todays sessions. How might we want this collection to look? Where do we go from here?

Practicing Art

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Barbra Nei shares immigrant story through video

Interesting - girl from Kenya - said before immigrating to the U.S. she knew nothing about discrimination. Or did not even think about other cultures

Barbara Nei now speaking. Began this project after the 2001, thinking about the backlash. Worked with the students at Wellstone School. Noticed that all the students had cell phones. Came up with a way to use phones to make Imovies.

Created a website. Each student has a bar with interview and their writing and their movie.


Notes on Practicing Art and/with Technology


[My comments in square brackets. Otherwise, my best attempt at summarizing / interpreting]

We started with a fascinating video of immigrant's stories in Minneapolis. I think it will be available for you to view when we publish the collection from the colloquium...

Barbara Nei talks about her work. It began for after the Sept 11, 2001 attacks and the backlash that immigrants felt after that event. Her first project involved projecting student immigrants' writing on a building in South Minneapolis. Later she worked on a video project with students and noticed that all of her students had cell phones. She wanted to find a way to use cell phone video cameras and made contact with a company [missed the name] the company helped get her set up with technology that helps do this.

[Next came a live collabracam experiment. This was pretty wild. I think my radical compositionist colleagues might be interested in doing something like this to have their students practice multi-modal writing. Hopefully we'll be able to post some of the results of this to the collection as well.]

Q: Stories can be powerful, but they also have the potential to retraumatize. How do you help students work through that?
Hamline: Well, we've never told people that their story was too difficult to tell, so don't tell it.
Barbara Nei: The students we work with get to choose what they want to tell us. Some of our students have told hard stories, and they've wanted to tell those stories. If it was real traumatic, I'd talk with the teacher. Wellstone school is so incredible, which is why I never let them off the hook. They have to keep working with me because they have the resources to do these things.
Hamline Hamil: Our work is not about capitalizing on someone's terrible story, it's about speaking and giving people the chance to tell their stories.

Q: Just to follow up, in the research I do, there is an ethical framework that is important to follow, to make sure that the people we work with have agency over what happens to their stories.
A: Yes, for example, in Foreign Born, we never showed a full face, and that's because some of those students are refugees or are illegal immigrants. [In another project] we had their parents sign releases, and some of the parents didn't want to participate, so we didn't use those stories.

Notes on Bridging the Technological Divide

[Once again, my notes on the session. My thoughts, digressions, and insecurities will be safely compartmentalized by square brackets.]

Amy Shellabarger and Sahra Noor work at the Community-University Health Care Center here at the University of Minnesota. Their project involves using technology to improve communication with patients from immigrant communities.

Sahra Noor talks about a new use of video technology to aid in interpretation for patients. This is not to ignore the barriers to using these technologies--barriers such as access to hardware and educational efforts, etc. Nevertheless, the benefits of using oral interpretation (whether by Skype or another technology) are clear. Something as simple as preventing an overdose by helping to interpret a pill bottle is a clear example.

Although there is a misconception hat immigrants don't have access to emergent technologies such as smart phones, statistics show that Latino immigrants for example have smart phones at a higher rate than the rest of the population.

Question and Answer Session
Q: I was interested in hearing the emphasis on language. Can you talk about the disconnect between the cultures represented by immigrant populations and the culture of western medicine?
Sahra: Our interpreters are trained in medical interpreting. We also have a strong focus to help the interpreters become part of the care team . This helps act as bridge between these two communities.
Amy: We also work with the health care professions to help them understand better how to interact with immigrant populations. I often say to health care providers: "Use your interpreter."

Q: Do you also train about folk illnesses and remedies?
A: Yes, we are familiar with some of the remedies in the community, and we are working on a brochure about drug interactions and making sure that patients tell their providers if they are taking any kinds of vitamins or herbs.

Q: Do you use technology in a public health sense? I'm thinking of outbreaks and vaccinations.
Sahra: We use videos that we publish through Facebook and YouTube. But the challenge is still that the clinicians themselves are not from the community. So you can have an interpreter or a translator, but if the message is coming from someone outside the community, it's harder to get the community to accept and embrace the issue. We work to socialize the issue as opposed to medicalizing it, but we have a long way to go in terms of using technology to help us with this.
Amy: And when we make these videos, we have learned that we have to really look at out audience and make sure the presenters and the interpreters are all communicating in culturally appropriate ways.

Q: Are you exploring the use of visual communication in these efforts?
A: We have looked at this. For example, we have worked on maps. If you've ever been in a hospital and not known how to get from point A to point B, you know it can be very frustrating.

Bridging the Technological Divide

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Sahra Noor: While technology can be useful for connecting immigrants with health care and health care campaigns, there are barriers to access. Need to consider cultural competence issues, of course, and literacy rates in local immigrant populations. For some, videos can help communicate important information. Their studies found that Latino immigrants use smart phones to access the internet, so health care providers now can devise more effective ways of communicating with them. The small group discussion begins:

Amy: each immigrant group that comes to the US has different experiences with technology, so their work involves finding out about the specificities.

Sahra: interpreters become part of the health care team, a bridge between technical experts (doctors and nurses), the patient, and others. An interesting and useful perspective...especially since our medical system privileges the technical expertise of doctors.

Amy: we take into consideration remedies people use on their own, by learning more about culturally specific remedies, and by informing people about interactions between the medications patients are prescribed and remedies they might use on their own.

Sahra: It's important to emphasize the social, and not just the medical. For example, during a recent measles outbreak we went to the West Bank and organized forums where people could learn more and talk with each other.

Question: use of visual information for communicating? In a project I was involved in, we developed communication that used only symbols. Sahra: some of the materials we developed were not necessarily multicultural, but did emphasize visual images, symbols. For people with language barriers we created videos that were posted on a portal.

Amy: we have a color coding system to make our directions even more clear. For example, we can direct people to a blue door or a yellow door.

Question: What about translation issues, for example, what if the translator mistranslates to avoid conflict? Sahra: we follow the four steps of translation, a review process. We had to outsource this for legal protection. There are still translation issues. But, what I find most difficult is that as health care providers we make things much more complicated, which renders the translation useless. Amy: we really need qualified interpreters. The family member as a translator can have disastrous results, especially when the patient needs to discuss private matters. Sahra: Being bilingual and being an interpreter are two different things. One is knowing two languages, but to translate you need a different set of skills.

Distributed Families

Catherine Solheim and Polina Levchenko talk about spouses and others in dispersed relationships who must mediate both technology-enhanced communication and intercultural communication.

Catherine explains circumstances that create dispersed families: opportunities, need to leave for economic survival, becoming refugees. She talked with Mexican families. Mexican men talked about their efforts to maintain their role in the family at a distance.

Polina talks with her family almost every day via Skype, and sometimes finds they have nothing to talk about when they see each other.

Catherine: women workers maintain ties and relationships at a distance. Distributed families represent latest of many changes in families, and they are now part of the emerging global order. Bernadette adds that we will now reflect on how technologies are personal in our lives.

Catherine: in the 70s, aerograms the preferred medium of communication. In contrast, when her daughter went to study abroad in Spain, the first thing she did upon arrival was to carry her computer around so she could show her family what it was like.

Catherine: families adapt their communication differently. Some are more instrumental, others are more intimate.

Polina: her mother says that "everything is there [Skype]," i.e., presence

Catherine: with international marriages, chance to get to know each other over the Internet, though it's startling to see them in person, not speaking the others' language.

Rick: Facebook, other technologies "revillaging" us. And perhaps sometimes we're too closely connected?

Catherine: "emerging adulthood" a relatively recent development in Western countries. How does technology complicate that process?

Distributed Families and Technologies that connect them

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Catherine Solheim and Polina Levchenko introduce the topic by discussing their personal reasons for an interest in the subject - they both have families that live in other countries. Polina begins by discussing international marriages. Technology can facilitate potential spouses getting to know one another. Technology can also interfere with relationship. Mentioned "stranger effect" since they lack face to face communication. Problems also arise due to cultural differences.

Catherine discusses her research with Mexican immigrants who worked in agriculture. They all cited economic reasons for coming to Minnesota. Some workers came with their families, some alone. All remitted money to Mexico. All spoke, by phone, almost daily with their families in Mexico.

Discussed women from the global south who comes to the north to care for children. They keep in touch with their own children using technology.

Panel discussion
Asked Polina if the constant communication with her family via technology augments reverse culture shock.
Polina felt that communication with her family and her country actually helped prevent culture shock.

Discussed topics of communication - personal information vs more general topics

Video of the Oppressed

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Discussing the road as a divide - the beach side display lavish hotels, beautiful beaches. Across the road is a different story. Small shops with dirt floors are the norm. Mariposa foundation works with those on this side of the road. Works with young, adolescent girls.Wanted to embed technology into the curriculum. This did not work out. Instead, worked with 3 girls after class.

The video shows one of the girls in her home introducing her family. The second girl Donna worked with had a brother who served as a translator.Each of the three girls wrote a story to be created digitally. Used Google translator to facilitate discussion when no translator was available.

Interesting video of the girls working on their project using the laptop.Donna felt that she was a second mother of Rosa and Rosa and her sisters feel the same.

The discussion involved the use of the video (it is available on Donna's website)

[Again, I'll start with my notes on the presentation. My thoughts and comments, and less-than sure summaries are in square brackets.]

Multi-institutional Collaboration to understand the impacts of earthquakes on universities. Why study natural disasters from a place like Vienna, which is not prone to Earthquakes? Because with climate change, places that have been immune from natural disasters may need this kind of research in the coming decades.

Second Video presentation by "Don't call me an Earthquake"
[Due to technological difficulties, we watched this amazing video without sound. But I believe the full version will eventually be available online, and I really hope you'll check it out.]

Question and Answer

Professor Duque explains that their research involves understanding how Universities respond to crises. Generally speaking universities are fairly well-resourced, but in times of natural and social disasters, they can be disconnected from their communities. So part of the goal of his work is to create a knowledge base to help cushion against future shocks.

Q: What are your early results?
Sonja: In many cases, the University provides the only source of Internet connections for the immediate weeks after the disaster. Cell phones might not work, other Internet connections might not work. Also the universities have helped set up websites to help communication during the crisis.
Prof. Duque: In other cases, the University has acted as a clearinghouse for information.

Q: Do you find that different disasters require different kinds of resilience strategies?
Prof. Duque: That's exactly what we're trying to do. For example, during Hurricane Katrina, people used a kind of google map to identify where they were. Also, during a social crisis in Kenya people sought refuge at the University. Likewise in Concepción, the university structure and infrastructure proved very resilient. The University also didn't suffer from any vandalism, in contrast to the rest of the community.

Q: What kinds of stories have you heard from scientists about how they have adapted during disasters?
Prof. Duque: Again, in Concepción, although much of the infrastructure was untouched, they did lose power, which set back research, since 20 years worth of samples were lost when laps did not have refrigeration. Contrast this with UC Berkley, which would perhaps be able to back up the energy and survive the loss of power more readily.
Sonya: Other small University towns depend on having the students come back. After a disaster, if the students don't come back, some of these communities will really struggle.

Q: So much of the resources on campus are looking inwards in case of disaster, how can we build redundancies, etc. Are you finding cases where efforts are being made to look outwards at the community?
Prof. Duque: They are starting to see this, but it's a lot like putting the oxygen mask on yourself in an airplane before you help your neighbor. [I missed the last section of this...]

Q: What about the economics behind this? How do we have redundancies but still have efficient economics? Do you have resistance to what you do?
Prof: Duque: We do run into resistance, but we also see that not having redundancies can be much more expensive.

Q: What about the government response? Do they see this "Maybe we should sit back and let them solve their own problems?"
Sonja: It Italy, yes. They feel that the government has left them alone and to their own devices.
Prof Duque: Yes, especially in places like Concepción, which is already isolated and seen as a draw on resources. In some cases, the government was questioned in terms of whether they government was giving good advice.
Sonya: The brings up the question of crowdsourcing and social media. We see the use of social media is growing, but it's shaky as to what can be done with that.
Q: Especially if cell phone networks go down. Do people go back to old technologies to communicate?
Sonya: It goes both ways. Ancient methods of communication seem to go right along with modern technologies. In Chile they went back to transistor radios to communicate when needed.
Prof. Duque: This is a question of redundancy, but in some cases you have to leave an old technology behind in order to adapt a new one. It brings up questions about what kinds of technologies are appropriate in general, and then what is appropriate in terms of providing redundancies.


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