Amplifying the Griot: Technology for Preserving, Retelling, and Supporting Underrepresented Stories


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Virginia Tech


As we develop intelligent systems to handle online interactions and digital stories, how do we address those stories that are unwritten and invisible? How do ensure that communities who value oral histories are not left behind, and their voices also inform the design of these systems? How do we determine that the technology we design respect the agency and ownership of the stories, without imposing our own biases? To answer these questions, I rely on accounts from different underrepresented communities, as avenues to examine how digital technology affect their stories, and the agency they have over them. From these stories, I elicit guidelines for the design of equitable and resilient tools and technologies. I sought wisdom from griots who are master storytellers and story-keepers on the craft of handling both written and unwritten stories, which instructed the development of the Respectful Space for technology typology, a framework that informs our understanding and interaction with underrepresented stories. The framework guided the approach to understand technology use by inhabitants of rural spaces in the United States--particularly long-distance hikers who traverse these spaces. I further discuss the framework's extensibility, by considering its use for community self-reflection, and for researchers to query the ethical implications of their research, the technology they develop, and the consideration for the voices that the technology amplifies or suppresses. The intention is to highlight the vast resources that exist in domains we do not consider, and the importance of the underrepresented voices to also inform the future of technology.



Respectful Technology, Storytelling, Representation, Social Network Analysis, Communities, Postcolonial Computing, Human Computer Interaction