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Human Computer Interaction Final Research Project | 2021

My Role: Qualitative Researcher

Context: 14 weeks, team of three

Tools: MAXQDA

Methodologies: User Interviews, Grounded Coding

BACKGROUND

In this study, our participants are members of two of the most notoriously discriminated groups in modern society.  They are persons of color and they are a part of the LGBTQ+ community.  Their doubly marginalized identity makes them a target for bigots and more susceptible to economic troubles, abuse and unemployment.  They often seek refuge with like-minded people online in order to cope with their daily struggles.  However, being online has increasingly been shown to be an unsafe space for marginalized groups due to the loose internet laws and racist algorithms.  We seek to understand how these Queer People of Color (QPoC) utilize various Information Communication

 

PROBLEM FRAMING

Our main research question is: How do Queer People of Color mitigate or balance the risk and benefits of using Information Communication Technologies?

The HCI community will learn the various reasons why QPoCs enter and become a part of specific online communities while also understanding why they decide to leave them. It will provide insight into how online communities put a spotlight on QPoC communities they didn’t ask for while also giving them a small space to be who they are unapologetically. 

 We hypothesize that QPoC have learned how to navigate the ICTs they use to reduce risk and maximize benefits by doing the following: staying on platforms that offer the most community, meaningful interactions, and privacy of identity, utilize platforms that give them the freedom to block or mute unwanted content as they see fit and staying engaged with media that have access to updated and current news/communication about their doubly marginalized group.  

 

METHODS

RECRUITMENT

A flyer was made and distributed through email list-serves as well as being posted on online social media for communities of color. Participant eligibility criteria were loose, only seeking participants who use technology fairly frequently and identified as both a LGBTQ+ person and a person of color. A total of 5 participants were recruited and interviewed.

INTERVIEWS

An interview protocol was created and subsequently was split into three sections, the usability of online technology, stigma experiences, and the risks/benefits of online technology. These sections were built into this order so that previous questions had the participants think of a prior experience and how it related to the risks and benefits, which were discussed at the end. There were two non-traditional interview questions that involved participants role playing as an QPoC elder, giving advice to younger QPoC.

 

ANALYSIS 

After conducting interviews, the recorded sessions were uploaded and transcribed through Otter.ai. These transcripts were then uploaded to a MAXQDA file, where the research team used grounded coding to analyze themes.

 

Researchers met to agree over the codes and came up with a final set that included codes such as: "where community is found", "value of online experiences," and "negative online experiences".

 

Throughout the five interviews, a total of nine different ICTs were found to be used. The most common five were Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok. Honorable mentions include Slack and Discord.

 

RESULTS

BENEFITS

  • Certain platforms offered community, with community defined as people with shared interests, hobbies, or identities. These platforms include Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.

  • Participants felt meaningful interactions online, such as having the ability to discover new places to find like minded people. 

  • All of our participants utilized various sources to communicate and keep up with their communities including content creators and location based social media. 

RISKS

  • Due to the nature of the content online including discrimination and prejudice, participants felt the need to have the ability to block or mute unwanted content. 

  • Privacy of identity became an issue, especially on websites such as Facebook that do not allow individuals to change their name.