Associate Professor Krista Harper (anthropology and public policy) has been named a 2013 UMass Service-Learning Faculty Fellow. As such, she receives training and support from the university’s Community Engagement and Service-Learning program to develop a new course with a service-learning component.
Harper is creating the course in collaboration with Gretchen Gano, a lecturer with the Center for Public Policy and Administration. The course, called “Participatory Digital and Visual Research,” will be offered for the first time in fall 2013. While its theme will vary each semester, the graduate course will train students to use participatory digital and visual research methods. Students will learn these innovative skills while working on a community-based participatory research project in the local area.
Next fall Harper and Gano plan to have students work with community organizations in Holyoke and Springfield in order to engage everyday people in discussions about how science and technology could be used to improve their local communities. The efforts of this class will be part of a nationwide program wherein citizens of and stakeholders in six different U.S. cities will deliberate together the possible role of nanotechnology in future urban environments.
While Harper is excited about developing the new course, she is thrilled about the ways in which technology is democratizing research. “Digital and visual approaches to participatory research offer opportunities to open up the ethnographic research process and to share research with a diverse array of audiences beyond the academy,” she said. “These methodologies produce rich visual and narrative data guided by participant interests and priorities, putting the methods literally in the hands of the participants themselves.”