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Workshop Themes

From community gardens, street art and neighborhood watch campaigns, to rallies, protests and large-scale revolutions, bottom-up initiatives enable stakeholders to voice their concerns and enact change.

Vancouver has a rich history of bottom-up political movements. Our workshop will facilitate a dialogue around the practical and active engagement of HCI research with grassroots communities. We hope to bring together a diverse group of HCI researchers and practitioners, as well as activists and public artists to explore the unique challenges, goals, materials, and practices that underlie grassroots movements. We will focus on issues associated with designing for—and with—urban grassroots communities, including the following themes:

  • Grassroots tools and expressions
    What technological and non-technological tools are used to achieve grassroots community goals? How is technology used to coordinate collective social action? What barriers hinder these processes?
  • Constraints
    How do factors such as lack of funding, changing physical environments and resources affect the role researchers play in helping communities achieve their goals? How can technology enable communities to adapt to changing conditions? What are appropriate methods to engage community members in design processes in the face of changing circumstances?

  • Failures and risks
    At times, grassroots movements face direct opposition from broader political structures, cultural practices and forces in the city. What are the practices through which communities overcome such challenges to enact change? How do groups recover from technical and organizational breakdowns?

  • Autonomy
    What methods are appropriate for designing with activist communities as collaborators? How can researchers establish rapport and trust with grassroots communities? How might technology be designed to strengthen group solidarity— and potentially help recruit new community members?

  • Security and surveillance
    How can researchers reconcile the ethical issues associated with technologies that can be used to violate local or federal laws? What are the underlying privacy and security implications for protecting grassroots participants? How does a post 9-11 world, marked by a culture of suspicion, surveillance and fear impact activist strategies, particularly in regard to publically-placed technical artifacts?

  • Power structures
    What methods or approaches support decentralized power structures in social change communities? How should designers approach partnering with groups to empower the change they seek while holistically taking into account community members’ perspectives? Could researchers’ involvement with groups—and particular members—unsettle or subvert power structures and community relations?

  • Evaluation
    What are appropriate metrics for evaluation of technologies designed to support grassroots communities? What role should action research play as a productive outcome of political computing research? Should evidence of social change from design interventions be an additional metric of evaluation?
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