This year, the second and last of the Open Lab fellowship program, has been a fantastic and inspiring exploration of participation, voices, and conversation. I love the thought provoking ways that each fellowship project intersects and diverges from the next, and look forward to seeing each of these projects grow and evolve as the Open Lab Fellows head off to their next projects.
Logan Williams and Cathy Deng each took very different approaches to exploring conversational interfaces, and while their results are distinct, they've both produced interactions that are engaging and warm. Jamica El's projects are nominally about hardware, but at the heart her work is about who gets a voice and whose story matters. Her work overlaps beautifully with Cathy's exploration of ways to amplify – and hear to – quiet voices. Lam Thuy Vo’s look at the tone and language we encounter online, added vital perspective.
Logan and Caroline Sinders each brought wonderful creativity to the project of inviting machine learning algorithms into photographic narratives, using personal snapshots as a starting place. Reflection, public and private, shaped many of our projects. Where Logan’s work asks participants to craft personal narratives and reflections, Lam looked for a reflection of our selves in the data trails we leave online, while Jamica’s study of sousveillance pulled privacy back into the frame.
For me, this year has been a chance to think about the stories and data we don’t want to share and how to help more people keep their private records private.
Each project tackles a central question about who gets heard. Not by "giving voice to the voiceless" but starting with the premise that no one needs to be “given” a voice, and that the challenge is in finding better ways to hear and new ways to listen.
Logan Williams is building technology that encourages people to transform personal photographs into reflective stories.
Jamica El is prototyping wearable surveillance gear by embedding cameras into textiles and accessories for news gathering.
Caroline Sinders is building a deep body of research and artifacts on the alt-right and hate speech in digital spaces.
Cathy Deng is engineering playful, serendipitous encounters to break people out of their echo chambers.
The Open Lab has wrapped up our two year experiment. If you're interested in a fellowship at BuzzFeed or BuzzFeed News, we've got some great ones, so check our jobs page! And if you're an artist who works in code, you should definitely connect with Eyebeam.