From June 28th to July 1st, I had the opportunity to attend my first Allied Media Conference in Detroit, Michigan. The conference is put on by the Allied Media Projects (AMP), an organization dedicated to developing media strategies ‘for a more just and creative world’ by drawing on disciplines such as technology, education, and communications. AMP is also one of the founding members of Detroit Digital Justice Coalition, which is comprised of organizations dedicated to ‘activities that are grounded in the digital justice principles of: access, participation, common ownership, and healthy communities’.

This year, the Allied Media conference drew around 2,000 attendees. While the overall framework for the conference was social justice, the organizers divided the sessions into tracks, such as Web making, Analog Media, and Imagining Better Futures Through Game Design and Play. The conference also featured practice spaces, such as the Media-A-Go-Go Hands-on Technology space, where attendees had the chance to learn about how to use technology to create social change. One word: Awesome!

One of the sections that I followed during the conference was the ‘Research Justice for Movements and Community Voice’ track. The objective of this track was to encourage discussion about participatory research strategies and ways to use them to aid community social justice movements. One of the most enjoyable events I attended was a social networking dinner that brought together academics and non-academics interested in research justice. This meeting also called attention to empowering community members to take an active role when dealing with researchers rejecting the label of ‘research subjects’. There, I was able to discuss ways to incorporating social justice frameworks into my own work as an academic. However, the meeting was also used to discuss cultivating strategies to empower the community and community based organizations through increasing access to data that will help serve their needs as well. Questions I had after the meetings were: What kinds of data would they be looking for? What would a qualitative researcher, like myself, be able to offer anything useful or would they just be looking for numbers? In what ways, could digital platforms, such as a repository, help with this initiative?

One of the key observations that I made during the conference was the significant role data played for social justice movements when helping move their agendas forward. While I do believe it is important to recognize the tension that sometimes exists between academics and non-academics, I also believe that digital platforms have enormous potential in making this pertinent information more freely available. I think that honest conversations and collaborations between academics and non-academics will help continue the spread of research justice in different settings.