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Session Overview
#SD2: Designing Inclusive Information Systems Roundtable
Wednesday, 24/Jul/2019:
4:45pm - 6:15pm

Session Chair: Cara Marta Messina
Location: Salons 4 & 5, Grand Ballroom, Marriott City Center

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Designing Inclusive Information Systems: From Theory to Change

Amanda Rust1, Cara Marta Messina2, Dorothy Berry3, Emily Drabinski4, Karen Li-Lun Hwang5, Raffaele Viglianti6, Scott Young7

1Northeastern University Libraries, United States of America; 2Northeastern University, United States of America; 3Harvard University, Houghton Library, United States of America; 4Long Island University-Brooklyn, United States of America; 5Metropolitan New York Library Council (METRO), United States of America; 6Maryland Institute for Technology in the Humanities (MITH), United States of America; 7Montana State University Library, United States of America

Most current systems for the acquisition, housing, and care of cultural objects have deeply colonial implications. Technology tends to embody existing inequities and enforce differential hierarchies based on power. In addition, digital information workers across many areas increasingly seek to preserve and provide access to the voices of disenfranchised and marginalized communities -- communities that have been at best ignored by the cultural heritage and higher education fields and, more likely, actively harmed.

Providing digital access to the collections of these groups foremost requires genuine, responsive partnership. It also requires that the technical and information systems through which we engage community contributors and participants be equally responsive to diverse cultural circumstances and needs. To fulfill the promise of community archives partnerships, cultural heritage practitioners -- be they solo librarians at a historical society, scholars focusing on recuperative digital history, archivists in a large public library, or digital exhibit curators at a museum -- must also work towards more inclusive information systems.

This roundtable will facilitate a lively discussion on the nuts and bolts of developing of inclusive information systems, with a particular focus on partnerships with underrepresented groups. By centering information systems, we focus on issues such as the harm caused by cataloging standards that classify living, breathing people as “illegal aliens”, or data models that enforce strict gender binaries such as “woman or man” when human experience is much broader. The roundtable moderators have explored the strategies and resources needed to create more inclusive information systems through a two-year project focused on technical systems in libraries, archives, and museums. Moderators will first frame the discussion by sharing the results of that project, including areas for future research.

One of the core outcomes of that project was a series of case studies focused on real-world scenarios in the use and design of information systems. A group of these case study authors will then dig into the concrete details of developing inclusive systems by presenting and analyzing their case studies, which cover topics such as metadata creation and aggregation for African American archives, user experience design with Native American Youth, marked and unmarked knowledge in library catalogs, linked open data for Asian American art history, and minimal computing for sustainability and expanded access.

Through these case studies, we will map out areas of commonality in both what makes creating more inclusive systems possible, and what makes it difficult, leading us to a better understanding of the potential points of impact in cultural heritage practice. Attendees will leave with a greater understanding of theoretical work across disciplines such as library and information science, digital humanities, archival science, and computer science. Attendees will also leave with a greater understanding of the design decisions that are made in the everyday practice of creating inclusive information systems, and how they might create more inclusive information systems in their own work.

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