CINQ 396 Week 6

 

 

  • What does my design process look like?

 

I would say that my design process is actually not having a formalized process. Let me explain. I have found that when I try to sit down and follow a pre-planned set of procedures I often get bogged down in semantics and have little motivation to proceed. While, on the other hand, if I let myself just get immersed in “the process” and let my ideas flow free I am able to be much more productive and stay motivated longer. OI have also found that this sort of free-reign design process makes the failures and starting over a lot easier. If I have the mindset that the specific way I get to my desired result doesn’t matter than I am much more likely to take risks and not be disappointed when something doesn’t pan out how I expected and am able to feel better about starting all over.

 

 

  • How will we validate our project/concept?

 

Our project is a lot more difficult to validate than many of the other projects. Not only are we less than one year into a projected three year plan, but we will also have less tangible results because of the nature of our project. We will not simply have statistics to show whether or not people have taken a liking to the mushrooms we introduce or the test strips we try and sell. Instead, the results of our project are much more nuanced. We hope to crate a better understanding of an ignored reality and hope to raise the collective consciousness of society around issues of maternal health very generally. In order to even be able to get to this point we must first be able to validate the project for now and the following years.

I think the best way to validate this project is to demonstrate how there is a lacuna in the work done on the topic of maternal health in Sierra Leone, especially in popular culture. With there being so little done in the way of projects with our focus we are filing an uncontested space and are thus one of the frontrunner in this area with the potential to strike up a broader conversation around the issue. Our greatest asset for the project is the fact that we are taking a unique approach to filling this gap in knowledge. If we are successful then the way people educate themselves around this issue and spread this knowledge will become much more accessible to a larger group of people. With this asset our impact will be much greater and more readily available, and I think the validity of our project comes from how much easier we will be making understanding this complex issue.

 

 

  • Philosophy of Engagement with community/partners/etc.

 

How we engage with the surrounding community once we are in Sierra Leone will be of the utmost importance and has the potential to make or break our project and could make all the work we are doing to prepare pointless. If we attempt to go in with a sort of savior complex and are condescending to the people we meet, even unintentionally, then our credibility and their willingness to work with us will be shot. In order to have the best outcomes for both us and the people we work with and around a few guidelines will need to be established so we do not overstep our grounds. In order to establish what those guidelines are I believe it is best to begin by examining what our philosophy of engagement will be on the ground. For starters, the most important principal in my eyes is making sure we stay oriented toward listening to community voice. This means not superimposing our preconceived notions of the problem onto the population and instead listening to see what they believe the problem is and why it’s a problem. This will allow us to have a much better view of the situation from the perspective of the people living through it and will ultimately improve our final product as it will be able to more truly reflect the reality on the ground.

Another key principal to our philosophy of engagement is to emphasize inclusion and diversity while doing our work. This comes in to play both internally and externally through the process of creating the documentary. For instance, internally we must be open to listening to the other people on the project team and ensuring we do not get bogged down into one way of thinking that might not really be leading anywhere. Externally, while we’re on the ground we have to be conscious of the diversity of the populations we hope to work with. There is an incredible difference between perceptions and understanding of the problem in the urban and rural areas. Knowing this, we must be able to create a plan that incorporates both understandings into the final product.

CINQ 396 Week 5

  1. Give three examples of how you can use nature as a model / mentor / measure for your own designs (and life).

Janine Benyus talks about how nature was and still is the original master of design. We have much we can learn and apply to our own designs, and even lives, by simply looking at the natural world with a critical eye. For starters, Benyus uses the example of the bullet train problem. When engineers were trying to reduce the noise of the bullet train they hit a wall, they had no idea how to approach the problem. Luckily, however, one of them was a conscious observer of birds and he realized that the Kingfisher is already doing what the engineers hoped the train would do. So, they borrowed the beak shape of the bird and used it for the train, leading to great improvements in efficiency and greatly reduced noise. Another way for how we can use nature as a mentor for our own lives is by looking at birds during migration. Very simply, the birds fly in groups (typically a V shape) because the coordination helps reduce effort and makes every bird better off in the long run. Taking this example as a guide, we should seek to do the same when we as people have to work together. Birds show how effective working together toward a common goal and how one person temporarily taking the brunt of a problem, only to be relieved later, can help improve efficiency in large projects. Finally, the last way nature can act as a measure for our own designs can be seen in art. Not everything nature teaches us has to necessarily be “practical”. In fact we have learned a great deal about symmetry and beauty from examining flowers and natural geometric forms in crystals to the patterns found on butterflies wings, the possibilities are endless. Natural beauty is all around us and has influenced artistic expression from the very beginning.  

 

  1. Pick one of Life’s Principles. Explain how you might apply it to your work and life (could be unrelated to your GSIF projects).

The Principal of Life I choose was resilient/resilience. I chose this principal because it applies to everything I might do and am doing. If I am unable to remain strong in the face of adversity, or bounce back when I fail, I won’t have a hope of accomplishing anything great in life. For instance, an example of how I need to better apply this principle to my life and also hits really close to home right now is the stress of being overworked in school at the moment. I know I like to be busy, but sometimes I feel as though it’s all too much and I panic, sacrificing some work in the process. This happened recently and I lost a great deal of progress and fell behind in a couple classes. However, I was able to remind myself of the importance of remaining resilient and have (for the most part) gotten back to a good spot. I need to also keep this principal in kind throughout the rest of my life because I know what can happen if I allow myself to slip up. I just need to stay focused.

 

  1. How do you envision integrating the Cradle to Cradle Design concept into your project (and life)? Give one compelling example.

Cradle to cradle design is going to be something incredibly difficult to integrate into our project as we are producing a less tangible final product. So, instead of thinking about how our literal documentary could integrate the cradle to cradle design concept, we should instead think both about the longevity of the film and the impact of its message. I believe that if the film is able to be viewed for years after its release (possibly in classrooms here for instance) that would allow the film itself to live on and spread its influence to multiple generations. On the other hand though what’s more important is how long the impact of the film and research lasts. If we go in with a cradle to cradle design concept about the information itself then hopefully we can make it so that the information we present is saved in the communities we visit for years to come. If this were done with just a few of the people we came across that could have a small ripple effect where more people learn of solid methods of safe childbearing, passing that information on to future generations.

 

  1. Give three examples of something very interesting you learned from a friend that was a completely alien concept to you.

The first thing I learned from a friend that was completely alien to me was, in retrospect, something that definitely should not have been alien to me at all but I never realized just how much of a bubble I was in until I met my friend. What he taught me about was his Jewish faith. I know it sounds bad, but I had never met anyone who was Jewish back home. Everyone was either Catholic or nothing. When he first started explaining the tenants and various sects of the Jewish faith I was incredibly confused, but also intrigued. How could something so prominent in many people’s lives go unseen by me for years? Another example of being taught an alien concept is the language of Latin and its application to understanding other languages. I decided to take Latin in high school and had no idea what I was getting myself into when I started. I only decided to take it because my friend who was a year older told me too. I’m glad I did because now I have a much better appreciation of both my own and foreign languages and am able to understand the development of language better.

Finally, the last thing a friend taught me that I thought was alien was how to talk about feelings and open up to other men about my emotions. I know this is less culturally based but I was raised in an environment where men were discouraged from showing emotion to each other. Being open towards my mother was fine, but I would never have dreamt of being sad in front of my dad. One day though, I saw my friend do exactly that. It was after practice and they were driving me home. We had an erg test (rowing machine; would do 2k for best possible time) that day and my friend had not done very well. He did miserably actually. I expected us to just have a quiet ride home because if I were in his shoes I would have just said nothing and avoided telling my dad I was upset. But he did the opposite. He opened up and expressed how bad he felt about his failure and how sad it made him. His dad meanwhile was warm and receptive, saying that there will always be another chance and to not get too down. I had never really thought of trying to do this before, I assumed it wasn’t allowed. Thankfully, being introduced to this kind of family dynamic turned out to be very beneficial as I am now able to be more open with people than I was previously.

CINQ 396 week 4

  • 5 major stakeholders and their motivations

This documentary project has several key stakeholders at play throughout the duration of the project. The first major stakeholder is the university administration and faculty. As members of the Lehigh community they will be associated with this documentary whether they like it or not and, I would assume, do not want to be embarrassed or have their university tied to a project that ends up flopping. Thus, we as a team have the obligation to remember that we represent the university throughout this project and do our best to ensure things get done up to a standard anyone would be proud of. Another Stakeholder that is also tied to the university is the Creative Inquiry department and program. Just like the university in general, but albeit on a much more personal level, the department wants to see the projects they sponsor succede. It looks good for the department and the faculty who voluntarily take part if their work and drive pays off and produces incredible results at the end of each project cycle.

Now, we move into those who are directly affected by our project and the work we will be doing on the ground. Another major stakeholder is the expecting mother population in Sierra Leone, especially those we end up working directly with. This is their personal struggle after all and we are simply there as storytellers. The women who are experiencing this issue firsthand most likely want what any expecting mother wants: to be safe, secure, and not have to worry about any repercussions from assisting some random documentary workers. We have a job to do what we can to grant this to the mothers and protect their information and identities so that no one could use our work to try and hurt them. Another on the ground stakeholder is the medical workers on the ground. Whether we are talking to TBAs or conventional medical workers they have a vested interest in spreading the word about the crisis and making sure people understand exactly what is at stake and what they need to improve conditions.

Finally, the last shareholder is also the most obvious; us. We, as the team working on the project have arguably the largest direct stake in the project. We will be dedicating inordinate amounts of time toward the project and desire to create the best possible end product we can. The impact of the project rests in large part on our ability to deliver what we promise and we have a desire to make sure we do exactly that

  • 3 ways we will validate our project and build credibility

With a project like ours, establishing and maintaining credibility is going to be much more of a challenge than many of the others. After all, we will not have a completed project for about three years and even then the results will not be as tangible as a muffin to fight childhood malnutrition or a greenhouse. The only tangible results we might see could be awards or mentions at film festivals. But I think that is okay. I am of the firm belief that the humanities carry their weight, and in turn merit, by the consciousness they cause and the insights they bring. I think the main thing we are hoping to achieve, and what will be the value of our project, is the fact that it will hopefully shine a light on and bring attention to an issue that has been largely ignored around the world.

Of course, I can say we will be raising this awareness and blazing a trail along a greatly unexplored avenue, but whos to say I’m right? Why should my grand ideas for the film’s impact carry any weight? Well, they shouldn’t and they don’t. The only way this vision can be realized, and how well we can sway others to coming to our side is by citing specific ways we will achieve the desired level of credibility. With this in mind the first way I believe we can validate our project is by explaining to the board and those who have a vested interest that Lehigh has an established history producing incredible documentaries that have seen immense success. Take, for instance, the Bethlehem Steel documentary from years ago. That has played on the History Channel and brought a better understanding of the region we all share. And yes, while this is on a larger scale, the sentiment is still the same and we as an institution have a proven history of delivering solid documentaries.

Additionally, I believe already having a plan as to what we are going to do with the documentary once it is completed is another way we can validate our project. The goal is currently to submit the documentary to film festivals. With this desired result in mind we have a solid framework to build off of and can chart our course going forward with the intent of reaching this end. Simply knowing what the goal is for the project is a major plus and allows us to know exactly what needs to be done to get it up to specs.

Finally, our project is focusing on a drastically underrepresented area in popular media. The fact that the average person knows next to nothing about Sierra Leone, let alone that it’s a country, is unfortunate. Yet we have been given the opportunity to help raise awareness around not just the maternal health crisis but about life in the country as a whole. If we are able to inform anyone who views our documentary about what life is like in Sierra Leone then we might be able to also raise consciousness and understanding about West Africa as a whole. The region is greatly misunderstood and there are many stigmas against the culture already in place. If we are able to do our part in bringing light to the reality while still highlighting the issues I think that is more than enough validation.

CINQ 396 weeks 2-3

 

  • In regard to the your ventures, how does the African context present different challenges than the american context. Give three examples.

 

In venturing Sierra Leone my group will be faced with an entirely different culture and will be forced to understand and adapt to those differences in order to be effective. The first major challenge I forsee is the struggle of learning to gain the trust of the people we encounter and wish to interview or film. I imagine this being a problem because in Sierra Leone, from my current understanding, the climate around pregnancy and women’s issues is still one shrouded in secrecy and often willfully ignored. If we were to simply come in and treat the culture like the streets of New York then we would likely not get far. Another problem I see could be the lack of medical professionals and the overworked schedules of the ones still there post civil war. Unlike in America where you can simply make a call to your local hospital and ask to talk with a doctor the situation in Sierra Leone has rendered access to doctors increasingly challenging. We would need to plan far in advance to make contact with medical professionals on the ground and work with them finding time to give us a boots on the ground perspective. Finally, the last major challenge we might face in Sierra Leone that differs from any problem we could face in America is learning to adapt to the local concept of time. In the United States we view punctuality with the utmost reverence, while in Sierra Leone the use of time as an indicator to meet or do something is often much looser. We would need to adjust to the difference and accept the cultural difference in order to best see the country through more objective eyes and not alienate people we meet along the way.

 

 

  • In regard to the your ventures, how does the African context offer different resources than the American context. Give three examples.

 

We will face vast differences in what material support we can expect to receive or bring to Sierra Leone. For starters, we must be much more cautious with camera equipment and other technical devices. This is because, unlike in America, we will not have easy access to replacement parts or repairs and a mistake could set us back weeks or even threaten the trip entirely. Another difference in resources could be the aforementioned lack of doctors again. If any of us get sick or injured we would be in a much more precarious situation and would have to scramble to receive medical care on an already overburdened system. Finally, the last potential major resources problem we might encounter might be making sure we keep a close count of our cash and spending. I am not entirely sure how accessible funds are in Sierra Leone but i imagining it being much more difficult to acquire new cash if our initial funds run out. I know Liberia has a problem providing hard cash to citizens and am curious if Sierra Leone is the same way.

 

  1. Along a similar vein of question one, the issues of cultural differences and struggles can have a strong impact on our project. The first problem, which was referenced in question one is the cultural stigma around women’s health and pregnancy. This will make it much harder to interview and connect with future mothers and will make gathering first hand accounts, which are essential to our documentary, more challenging. Another cultural issue that could affect our project is specifically the focus of the child during the birth and the cultural stigma that places on caring about the women’s health. This could make it so finding people who understand the concerns we wish to raise and bring light to are harder to find because the principal focus of the child has penetrated so deep into the culture. Finally, the divide between rural and urban cultures in itself will be a challenge because they are so drastically different and we must understand both, while also figuring out how to present both perspectives.

 

  1. In fact, we still face many of the same problems that I listed above here in America. For starters, the idea of women’s liberation and focusing on women’s issues is still lagging behind here. This can be seen in both how women’s issues, like sexual harassment and assault recently, have been attacked and called out as “fake news” and America still lags greatly behind the rest of the developed world in regards to maternal mortality rates. Misogyny also plays into the second point I made before regarding the focus on the child during pregnancy. America is still wearing a great war over abortion and contraceptive use. These issues are also very pronounced in Sierra Leone where few people use protection and abortion is illegal everywhere. The similarity is clear and both here and in Sierra Leone the focus on “saving the child” prevents women from getting the care and attention they need. Finally, the urban/rural divide seen in Sierra Leone, while less pronounced here, is still a stark issue and seems to make itself seen every election cycle. America has many different subcultures and depending on if you live in rural nebraska or NYC you will most likely have drastically different belief systems and lifestyles. If we understand all these issues and how they relate back to problems in the contemporary US we will have a much better chance of overcoming the situations once we are in country.

 

5.Despite all the cultural situations that might be a hindrances to us conducting our fieldwork, there remain several key cultural practices that might end up being advantageous to our research if we can harness them in the right way. The first of these practices is the long meal times with a focus on community. Through this we could form stronger bonds with the people in country than we ever could by just talking to them in a professional setting. We could also take advantage of the more relaxed perception of time to better fit into the culture and use the time to get our bearing at a particular situation/event before going in so we have a better chance of performing well and doing the research we need to do. Finally, while it is less common in America, the use of grease payments in certain situations might give us fast access to more exclusive sources and places we might otherwise not be able to gain expose to.

CINQ 396 Week 1

  • Why am I taking the course?

I love learning about and researching women’s, gender, and sexuality studies and political theory. In fact, for the longest time I simply had to do it on my own. While I did enjoy the process and felt a sense of accomplishment I knew I was missing praxis. What’s the point of studying how to create a better, more just world if you don’t have a way to enact those changes? I tired to do my part in smaller ways by volunteering and getting involved with some grassroots political organizations, but wanted to try something else. This desire to enact greater change led me to taking WGSS 001 last semester, and it was there where I started to learn more about the different, larger scale opportunities to do meaningful work and to make in impact, with GSIF being the most interesting to me. I saw in GSIF the opportunity to combine my twin passions: research/academic work and real, tangible social impact.

On top of the desire to study general women’s gender/health issues I thought this course, and specifically the safe motherhood project, would give me the opportunity to explore an area I find critically important to understanding our global situation, yet strikingly underrepresented. By this I am referring to the intersection of the political, historical, and environmental factors at play in building up of former European colonies in Africa. Neocolonialism comes into play much more than could be thought, and its influence on countries like Sierra Leone can be seen all the way from the political systems in place to (as we are focusing on for my project) the health of a nation’s citizens. By taking this course and working on my specific project I see a way to bring light to these issues, to examine their impact, and hopefully to create a new perspective and approach to tackling the problems presented.

 

  • How will the course make me a better student?

I have limited experience working on large, research based projects with groups. I have even less of an idea what I want to major in and do after college. Therefore, I’m hoping the GSIF is able to help me become a better student in these two principle areas. To begin, I’d like to quickly touch on the group work point. I don’t mean to say I have no experience working with groups; I did have to do some smaller projects and assignments in groups while in high school, but in most of those experiences the word “group” can be used very flexibly. I was one of those “I’ll do most of the work, you all check it over, and we’ll all write our names on it” kind of people. While this worked in high school, I know how foolish it would be to go about college projects, especially GSIF, with this same attitude. Furthermore, I know I can work in groups well and have already demonstrated that to myself in Bus 001, but that is much less applicable to the real world and more advanced projects than a GSIF project. Hopefully, through this course, I will be able to hone my group skills and learn the most effective way for me to work with others on more serious projects.

Now, arguably the best reason I lose sleep at night despite the relatively insignificant gravity of it compared with other issues, if the question of my major and career. While hoping to find an answer to this question might not seem like being related to making me a better student, I see no way to become a better student if I have no idea what I fundamentally want to do. I have been trying to narrow it down all the previous semester and i’m no closer to reaching an answer than when I started. I am at the point where I could go down two radically different paths and don’t even know where to start. But then GSIF came along and I saw an opportunity to explore a potential field of interest before I make any definitive choice. I also hope that taking the course will open up new paths for me to explore and give me the best view of what I could potentially do. Of course, knowing what I want to dop doesn’t immediately mean I will be a good student while studying it, but it does mean that when I eventually do come to a decision I will have much more off a drive to excel because I know it’s for me.

 

  • Eyeglasses problem

To address this issue I would first try to understand the true need for eyeglasses and to see if the population is capable of making them themselves. If they had the capacity to produce their own glasses then finding out how to get them the equipment would be the solution. If they would be unable to produce their own then I believe a solid short term option would be to provide them with reusable contacts. Contacts would be much more durable than glasses, easier to store, and would be resistant to ware. On top of all that, they are relatively cheap and easy to replace.