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Day 3 did not let up at all – Digital Redlines – #DigPed 2017

Going into it I thought day 3 may let up a little bit. After the breadth of conversations and activities of the first two days I needed some chill time. Sean encouraged us to take this time in his opening remarks, but I’m pretty stubborn. Although it is a long week, it is but a week, and I want to squeeze every possible thing out of this. I want to do everything longer – to listen, to think, to share, to build, to watch, to hug, to write. I have waited so long to be here at UMW during a DPLI that I just want all the things! ALL THE THINGS!

It may be overwhelming (and I become overwhelmed very quickly), but I feel that I need to take as much in as I can and document as much as I can in my idiosyncratic way. However, during our pair coding sessions (we’re mostly just working our way through this free online text) my coding partner Theresa and I mostly just slowly really try to understand what we are doing over plowing through it. 

Meeting so many smart and critical people for the first time inspires me. Seeing people I’ve only met virtually in the flesh for the first time inspires me. Listening to people talk about the challenges we all face in so many complex systems inspires me. My goal in sharing my experience here is to reach out to others and find a way to work together to help. My goal is to find ways that I can help and to meet others who can look at me and say: “Hey that Daniel may be able to help us/me/him/her/them with …”

Over the past 3 days I sure have listened a lot and it has been wonderful. Sitting in a room this morning listening to Chris Gilliard outline the many interweaving narratives that are digital redlining was amazing. Beginning in the 1920s and 1930s in his native Detroit, banks decided which neighbourhoods were worthy of investment and which were not. They drew lines based and the neighbourhoods within the red lines were those least worthy of development. There was absolutely no coincidence that those neighbourhoods were people of colour. This approach was not limited to Detroit of course – the whole country had its redlined districts. In many places you can still see this clear distinction – on a street divided by one of these lines the disparity is obvious. One side may have a million dollar house while the other side has abandoned townhouses.

As Chris described the physical spaces where zoning lines are clear because of the conditions of roads and buildings directly across the street from one another, my mind moved again to how physical and virtual worlds are intimately intertwined. How spaces on the internet look so different depending on why/how/when you enter them. If you can even enter them at all. We talked about firewalls limiting access and how prestigious schools have more open access than not. We talked about how many people making decisions about access don’t even understand how the internet works. And Chris asked this question, which I think opens up so many interesting conversations:

What is legal that you shouldn’t have access to on campus?

We talked about all the things. After all of these challenging and rewarding ideas, we all smiled as I grabbed my selfie stick and we took our first #DataLit group selfie:

(I’m leaving out a whole bunch of awesome that Bill Fitzgerald brought in the afternoon. His work and approach to data is just wonderful. And he is by turns hilarious and touching.)

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