Ella and Kim Discuss Digital Equity as Design - Building for Digital Equity Podcast Episode 4

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Emma Gautier interviews Kim Ilinon and Ella Silvas, two Interactive Media Design students from the University of Washington-Bothell, after they presented their lightning talk at Net Inclusion. Ella and Kim discuss their path into digital equity from a design background, including the Dear Digital Equity web site, and what they have learned about who is doing digital equity work in Washington state.

You can watch their 3 minute lightning talk here:

This show is 12 minutes long and can be played on this page or using the podcast app of your choice with this feed.

Transcript below. 

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Listen to other episodes here or see other podcasts from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance here.

Thanks to Joseph McDade for the music. The song is On the Verge and is used per his Free-Use terms.


Sean Gonsalves (00:06):

Hey, this is the Building for Digital Equity Podcast where we talk to people working to expand internet access, address affordability, teach digital skills, or distribute affordable devices. We talk with those working on the front lines of giving everyone everywhere the opportunity to participate fully in the digital world, whether in rural areas or cities. Our guests here are doing the often unglamorous jobs in places that have been left behind. This show comes to you from the Community Broadband Networks team at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, where we have long produced the Community Broadband Bits podcast, and the Connect This Show Building for Digital Equity features. Short interviews from Emma Guttier, Christopher Mitchell, and me, Sean Gonzales, talking to people at the events we are attending to highlight the interesting work and inspirational stories to get internet access to everyone. Now let's see who we have today.

Emma Gautier (01:09):

All right, I'm here with Ella Silvas and Kim at Net Inclusion. Could you both just introduce yourselves tell us where you're from and then we'll get into it?

Ella Silvas (01:22):

Yeah. Hi, I'm Ella.

Kim Ilinon (01:24):

And I'm Kim.

Ella Silvas (01:26):

And we are Interactive Media Design students from the University of Washington Bothell.

Emma Gautier (01:32):

Great. And you both just gave an excellent lightning round speech was really enjoyable. could you give a quick recap of that speech?

Ella Silvas (01:42):

Yeah, so last quarter we worked on a project called Dear Digital Equity and created our website dear digital equity.org, where we worked with our community advisor, Sabrina Roach and Nancy Chang, to learn about digital equity for one, and then create a website where we can just raise awareness on the work that's being done in Washington State as well as the practitioners who were working in Washington.

Kim Ilinon (02:09):

And just adding to that Ella and I first met back in September of 2022 along with 21 other students, and we're currently in this cohort learning environment. And when we started working on the, the website, we quickly had to learn to adapt and collaborate effectively. so yeah, that was a very interesting experience for us, <laugh>.

Emma Gautier (02:39):

Great. Could you talk a tiny bit more about the process of making that website, what that was like, what you had to learn and go through to do that?

Kim Ilinon (02:47):

So September was when we started working on the website and at that point pretty much none of us knew anything about the digital equity world, and so we really had to rely on our educators and as well as our stakeholders, Sabrina Roach and Nancy Chang, to educate us and guide us and give us all the support we need in just gathering all the information about digital equity, especially in Washington state. And we had to define our problem and what we are trying to solve with the Dear Digital Equity website. It was a lot of collaboration with educators, stakeholders as well as the practitioners in our state.

Emma Gautier (03:48):

And could you name like one big memorable, memorable thing that's going on with digital inclusion in Washington state? I'm also from Seattle, so I'm really interested in y'all's work.

Kim Ilinon (04:01):

Sorry, could you repeat the question?

Emma Gautier (04:03):

Yeah, of course. So something that's big or memorable about something that's happening in Washington state related to digital inclusion, like digital inclusion efforts that are going on there. Is that what you, that's what you researched for making the site? Yeah.

Kim Ilinon (04:17):

Yes. if I'm being completely honest there's still a lot for us to learn about. but I think for me, just learning where digital equity is happening, you know and in Washington state that's in like the libraries, Goodwill, Evergreen is doing a lot of digital equity work. and yeah, so it was just eye-opening learning the people who are doing digital equity work. so yeah, I don't know if I can give like a specific thing.

Emma Gautier (05:01):

No, that's okay. That's the libraries in different, like different institutions. That's, that's just super interesting. Yeah,

Ella Silvas (05:07):

Yeah. And we were able to interview a bunch of different practitioners and learn about all of the work that they're doing from the Goodwill or from the libraries and all of that. So it was very helpful for us to be able to actually talk to the people that are doing the work.

Emma Gautier (05:24):

Very cool. and could you just quickly say what Interactive Media Design is

Ella Silvas (05:31):

It is a super broad <laugh> and vague major. so last quarter we were working on this website. This quarter we're doing video prototyping and video game design. So it's really just any kind of design that you will interact with. So a lot of our classmates are hoping to get into UX or user experience design or just graphic design. Any, anything like that.

Kim Ilinon (06:01):

Yeah, a lot of what we've worked on so far have been digital products, but yeah, interactive media design really touches pretty much anything and everything that us users will, will interact with. Like, for example, like designing the flow of an airport, right? Like that's, that's something that we are definitely learning. But so far we've only worked on designing a website to solve a specific issue. And this quarter we've been learning about game design. So yeah, it's been all over the place, which is really exciting. <laugh>

Emma Gautier (06:46):

Great. Yeah. And how do you see interactive media design connecting to digital equity and why is digital equity important to you both?

Ella Silvas (06:57):

Yeah, so we actually have a whole section about this on our website called digital Equity as design because it was a big focus of ours to see like what is the connection there. and we saw it a lot in the processes. I'll talk about my blog post that I wrote for that which is about empathy and how important empathy is in both design, researching and in digital equity. We went to digital equity 1 0 1 yesterday here at the conference and that was one of the main talking points and we realized, yeah, okay, we were on the right track there, <laugh>. Yeah. cuz as researchers, you know, we were talking about how, and learning about how when you get in there you need to be empathetic and be able to approach the problem and not have, make assumptions, which is something that we are hearing over and over again here as well.

Kim Ilinon (07:49):

Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. yeah, it was definitely surprising to see all that overlap with design and digital equity work. and for me that's been the, just the topic of doing a need space assessment. I learned that that's something many digital equity practitioners are trying to prioritize when trying to come up with solutions. And that's definitely the same thing for us design students is when we're trying to design for someone we try to understand first what they need and what's missing and, and we pretty much base our design process on the problem that we're trying to solve.

Emma Gautier (08:40):

Great. is there anything specific that inspires you to do this work or anything that sticks out that keeps you going and doing digital equity work?

Kim Ilinon (08:53):

Yeah I mean, I hope I get to work on a project or for someone that's doing digital equity work in the future, but I think the main thing that is really motivating is just the idea of the work being centered on empathy. And that's something that I would love to always be able to incorporate in like my design process.

Ella Silvas (09:26):

Yeah, and again, as interactive media design students we're always working digitally and so of course and having that being user focused. And so we want, we really care about the people that we're creating for and we're really being able to see like a different perspective I think by exploring digital equity that I think is not always explored with other designers.

Emma Gautier (09:54):

Great. Really cool stuff. My last question is about n inclusion itself. Is there anything specific that you're getting out of this event, or how has it been for you both so far?

Ella Silvas (10:05):

I'll say again it, it's so good to come here and actually know a little bit of what we're doing and seeing that we were on the right track again with what we've made. Cuz yeah, we really did start not knowing what digital equity was. That was the first day of class just learning what that was and we continued to learn about it that entire quarter. So it's been great to come here and understand what it's like. This is both of our first net inclusion. It's also our, like, our first conferences ever and we're just students, so yeah.

Kim Ilinon (10:37):

For me it's definitely just like meeting people that are doing digital equity work. it's really awesome to see just, I don't know, literally everyone's here, you know, from like all over the country and so it's really just amazing to see how, just how big the digital equity community is.

Emma Gautier (11:02):

Great. Thank you both so much. I hope you Thank you. Have a great rest of your conference. All right.

Sean Gonsalves (11:10):

We thank you for listening. You can find a bunch of our other podcast at i lsr.org/podcast. Since this is a new show, I'd like to ask a favor, please give us a rating wherever you found it, especially at Apple Podcast. Share it with friends. You can even embed episodes on your own site. Please let us know what you think by writing us@podcastcommunitynets.org. Finally, we'd like to thank joseph mcca.com for the song on the Verge.