When I applied to be part of CHI for this year I did so with a very specific project in mind. As part of my dissertation research, I co-conducted a photovoice project that tackled what it is like to live with lead in your environment on a daily basis. One of the deliverables from that project was a digital exhibit that could be used by my community partner, COLE Parents Lead, in their education and advocacy efforts.

What is a photovoice project , you ask? Well, let me tell you!

Photovoice is a method often used in collaborative and community-based participatory research that allows the community to have ownership and control within the research process. The basic elements are the collection of photos that respond to a specific question, relevant to the issue being studied, interviews or workshops where the participants are asked to title their photos and explain why they took each one. Then narratives are created from those interviews and paired with the photos. The group then works together to identify themes and choose photos for the public exhibit. There is more to the process but this is supposed to be a blog about digital scholarship, not methodology and I don’t want to bore those of you who aren’t here for it. If you want to know more, leave a comment with your email address! The key thing of importance here, is that this type of project allows community members to share their stories in their own words, take control of the narrative, and reach audiences beyond their immediate community. This would be much less achievable with only a single, physical exhibit, which is why I want to make digitizing the exhibit my CHI Fellowship project. The community partner organization will be able to link to the specific project page from their own website and easily access the exhibit when they need to give presentations or educate policymakers.

Originally, I was only planning on digitizing the Milwaukee research, but I also was part of a photovoice project in Flint, and I hope to encourage others to consider using this method to document environmental injustice. Thus, my idea has grown to include digitizing both projects as photo essays and creating an interactive map that shows where the projects took place. It’s going to look a little silly right now, with only two points, but it’s my hope that this will someday turn into a dual community-academy project documenting multiple types of urban environmental toxicity projects across the US.

The exhibits are going to be pretty straightforward- a landing page that introduces the context of each project and the community partners, sub-pages for each theme in the exhibit where the photos will be displayed as a gallery, along with their narratives. I would like to work in small, interactive elements in the essays, where appropriate. The map will have pins for each location that, when clicked, take you to that project’s landing page. As more pins are added (I’m being optimistic and assuming that there will be others who want to participate/contribute) I will work out a color-coding system for the pins and layer the map so that you can sort by the type of environmental issue- e.g. water insecurity/contamination, air pollution, infrastructural degradation, etc.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten- this description and a hand-drawn wire-frame, but I am excited to work out the particulars and bring this project to life!