In the Digital Data Stories project, we spend a lot of time thinking about people. This may seem odd, as our current work involves a lot of numbers and a lot of cow bones, but at the heart of it, our work is fundamentally about people. This is because literacy is fundamentally about people.
My favorite definition of literacy comes out of UNESCO. I think about it often when we’re discussing our current prototype and our future plans.
Literacy is the ability to identify, understand, interpret, create, communicate and compute, using printed and written materials associated with varying contexts.
Literacy involves a continuum of learning in enabling individuals to achieve their goals, to develop their knowledge and potential, and to participate fully in their community and wider society.UNESCO, The Plurality of Literacy and its implications for Policies and Programs, Education Sector Position Paper, 2004.
This definition really resonates because while the first part is what we aim to do — develop tools, tutorials, and exercises that increase digital literacy, the second part is what we aim to enable. More personal development, more community participation, and more knowledge shared throughout a wider society. Again, this is because literacy is fundamentally about people.
As mentioned in a previous post, we’re using values centered design principles (VCD) in our development process. Values centered design, especially VCD concerning participatory design and design justice, aims to ensure that as systems and products are designed, they’re designed to pay attention to human value. This is an aspirational ideal for design, it’s not just trying to make something that works, it’s trying to make something that helps people achieve their goals, while minimizing harm and promoting equity.
So day-to-day, what does that look like?
Currently, on my desktop I have a few files and papers that I refer back to frequently. These are what I call my ‘toolkit of care’. I use these resources to remind myself to make sure that what we’re doing fulfills the following values (listed in no particular order) that we want embedded in our design work:
- Our work is backed by peer-reviewed research.
- Our work puts the needs of the user first.
- Our work is intersectional and interdisciplinary.
- Our work adheres to current best practices and ethical standards.
- Our work is grounded in empathy and care.
As I go about my daily tasks, I refer to the items in my ‘toolkit of care’ to make sure that the decisions I’m making reflect our values. For example, one of my main tasks this week was revising a video introduction to sit within our first Data Story. A lot of the edits were audio related. This meant re-recording so that I spoke more slowly, more clearly, and with fewer colloquialisms (points 2 and 3). It meant making sure that the video was properly closed captioned (points 2, 3, and 5). It meant making sure that the audio content reflected current research on audiences and attention span (point 1) and finally, it meant making sure that the backing track and resources I used were properly credited (point 4).
For those who are curious, these are a few of the items in my current toolkit. None of these on their own are enough to meet the standards set in our value points, but together, they help keep me on track. If you have other suggested resources I should look at, please get in touch! I’m always interested in expanding my toolkit.
Articles (for making sure I’m keeping up with related research)
Dolcetti F, Boardman C, Opitz R, Perry S. Values-Led Design Cards: Building Ethically Engaged Archaeology and Heritage Experiences. Sustainability. 2021; 13(7):3659. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13073659
Perry, S. (2019). The Enchantment of the Archaeological Record. European Journal of Archaeology, 22(3), 354-371. doi:10.1017/eaa.2019.24