NANO: What cultural frames and dispositions enable or deflect qualitative data work and capacity in this setting?


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Angela Okune's picture
September 23, 2020

This New York Times article quoted a 22-year-old engineering student and coder in Nairobi, Wilfred Mworia, as saying: “Even if I don’t have an iPhone, I can still have a world market for my work.” Mworia had written an application program for the iPhone using a phone simulator because he doesn't have an iPhone. This quote and his actions reflect an interest in taking advantage and connecting with economic opportunities beyond the immediate nation-state boundaries, an opportunity afforded by digital technologies. This kind of sentiment seems to align with the "hussler" mindset of many entrepreneurial Kenyans who are on constant look-out for new economic opportunities.

Angela Okune's picture
September 22, 2020

I find it interesting that in the entire article, which includes descriptions about tech helping to fill voids on the "dark continent", race is not mentioned once. In the closing paragraph of the article, co-founder of Ushahidi, Juliana Rotich mentions her gender and "Africanness" but does not identify herself as a Black woman. Compared to the current moment in 2020 when race and privilege are part of ongoing discussions and contentious debates in Nairobi tech worlds, in 2011, race and specifically Blackness was not yet something being articulated.


Paragraph 16: "It is surprises like that — a politician entering a presidential race via social media — that reveal the true significance of Africa's rapid entrance into the technology business. It defies stereotypes, overturns perceptions. Says Ushahidi's Rotich: "When I speak in Europe or the U.S., people are shocked. I'm a woman, I'm not begging for money, and I'm not showing them pictures of abject poverty. Ushahidi is jarring for people. It complicates their view of Africa. Ushahidi is cool. I think that's good. I think maybe through tech, people are just beginning to work out just how cool Africans really are."

Angela Okune's picture
March 13, 2020

AO: The interlocutor indicates lack of time or being busy as a key determining factor for whether or not data would be uploaded and shared by others in the organization. She notes that currently, there is little consistency in how people share existing data within the org, noting the multiple technical platforms being used. Later in the interview, she also mentions that limited time might also impact on how much the actual transcripts are in fact used, noting: "I have a feeling that they wouldn't necessarily use the transcripts because people struggle with using our own transcripts. So I think the instruments may be the initial style can see these instruments and the transcripts are there, if you want but I just have a feeling that people wouldn't necessarily read through all of them."


"BC-MW-F-S-02 15:31 

I'm also wondering whether, depending on how easy it is to upload this, if the person is doing the transcription in the first place can upload it to this platform. So the researcher isn't looking in internal folders for these transcripts, or through things like Slack, but instead they go into a centralized place. And that forces people to use a centralized place. But otherwise, you're just going to have the same problem with knowledge management, where people use their own channels. They have Google Docs floating around and they're not... they're not going to really upload things onto this. So that could be one way of skipping that loop... by having the transcriber do it. And then if that's the case, then I'm thinking who would tag this then? So it's either the researcher tags it, but that's kind of looking at a more thematic analysis where they're going through it in each paragraph and thinking through what's the key themes and then making note of that, I don't know someone's...unless they're thinking of doing that in their own research, they're not going to do that as an tag things...unless you really buy them into the fact that this is a useful resource. So you may need someone externally to do read through the transcripts and tag it themselves. But I think if you had the researchers doing this, I've think it's not going to happen in terms of uploading it. Unless you make it compulsory, a compulsory component of a project.

Because right now people don't upload things onto Box which is our internal one. So if you can't get them to do that, and then you're adding another one, it's not going to happen. So what I see if you're showing them, "this is where they get the transcripts from," and it makes it easier to find transcripts, and then find other ones that's related, then they would utilize it but I don't think they're going to upload it themselves."


"Angela Okune 1:17:00 

...How do you feel your thoughts reflect across the organization? Like, do you think that your colleagues here would share a lot of the sentiments you've expressed in this interview or do you feel like you're an outlier?

BC-MW-F-S-02 1:17:28
I think people would share the sentiment that it's useful, in terms of...often especially...So useful in two ways. One, internal resource. I think it would be very easy to get buy-in in that sense. "Here's the place where you can find this information." Because we struggle with it right now. So definitely there. In terms of externally, I think there will be some apprehension on who's seeing this and client perception and then whether things can or can't be shared. And apprehension almost lies in the fact that it's not explicit with many clients on what their wants are. So we may share some things based on our own value judgment but if you're sharing a lot of information then it requires further conversations and depending on where you are in the organization, you have a different level of comfort with that because you may not be the person that has direct access to the client to ask them and those details. So I think there would be some apprehension there. I also think there would be some apprehension in managing it so who's the person that's uploading the much work do they have to do? Generally wouldn't want to do more work so unless they are really bought into this as something that I see a lot of value in they're not going to do it. I could see some people being like yes, I think this is great...I really think we need to expand the knowledge but other people are more like, "this is my project. I don't want anymore work, I'm already overrun with things." So there's kind of two...two groups but I think most people would say it's a really good idea, especially for internal management and I think people would also want to access it for external resources to help them with the literature review and thinking through...

Angela Okune 1:19:05
...And then I think when they would see that value...would then incentivize them to do it now, because it needs to be supported...

BC-MW-F-S-02 1:19:12
But I also don't know whether people would use the transcripts. I have a feeling that they wouldn't necessarily use the transcripts because people struggle with using our own transcripts. So I think the instruments may be the initial style can see these instruments and the transcripts are there, if you want but I just have a feeling that people wouldn't necessarily read through all of them.

Angela Okune 1:19:29

BC-MW-F-S-02 1:19:29
If the format we're reading through them right now, there are not even transcripts there in the stripped format...then yeah..."

Angela Okune's picture
March 13, 2020

AO: This interlocutor perceived "good quality" qualitative data to be signaled through "thick" documentation which would include background context on the interpersonal relationship between the researcher and the person being researched as well as details that go beyond what is said (e.g. laughter, stuttering, etc.). They indicate that close attention and capture of such details would increase their confidence in the data.

"Angela Okune 30:07 

So if you were let's say to assess this data set to determine whether this was quote unquote good quality or bad quality, what things would you look out for?

BC-MW-F-S-02 30:16
Oh gosh. Good quality, bad quality? In what way?

Angela Okune 30:27
I mean, even and this can be outside of this particular platform, but like what kinds of qualitative data ... like if you're looking at a transcript, you're reviewing someone's work from the field or whatever...what would make you feel confident in?

BC-MW-F-S-02 30:42
In interpreting it. Um. So usually, for me, it's written. So this is gonna sound strange unless I give an example. But for example, here, you've got "aahhh... noooo... mmmhh...ummmm..."... So I'm seeing it as this person is transcribing exactly what they hear. I've seen other transcriptions here where you can tell that that's not what the person said they've summarized it in their own words, or they've tried to make it grammatically correct. And so it doesn't match up, you don't capture some of those details of this person is unsure at this point, and then they go on to it. Other ones were liker the dot, dot, dot, etc. But there's other ones where sometimes you'll have in brackets "pause" and how long that pause is for. So if someone's sharing [pause] verbal things that you wouldn't necessarily want to record because they are not correct English, or they're also indicating pauses or laughter or other things then I trust that more than one that looks perfect, because I'm thinking they're summarizing it in their own words, and it's not real transcript. Then the other thing I mean, this one is good because you have the respondent talking a lot, and the questions seem pretty open ended. So that's another thing that I will look out for is it one where the moderator seems to be taking up most of the the written work or is it the respondent, if it's the moderator, then I'm assuming that's really just a quantitative interview, and they're controlling it. And there's probably some other dynamic going on then. Then also in terms of your summary at the beginning, ideally, and this has not happened here. But in an ideal world, if there was more information on the person conducting it, or if there was some kind of reflective notes, where they may say, I am from this particular region, and I was interviewing this person from another region, and there's conflict between our regions, having that context would be really useful or we're from the same region so this person would feel more comfortable with me, that would be useful because especially in the Kenyan context, that is often something that could be quite [inaudible]. So if I conduct an interview, the response that I am going to get is going to be very different from a Kenyan conducting the interview. So even having that like if you just have anonymous female, you're not going to know that this is a... like where I'm from etc, of the age, my age whether this person does or doesn't match me. So I think that information would be really useful as well. Yeah."

November 27, 2019

TM: In Panel 2, there was a mention of how data even within the McMillan library is patriarchal, so bearing this in mind, in matters qualitative data, one cannot fail to consider the cultural influence of patriarchy in shaping data based on what data is included and who gets to decide what way it is kept. Despite existing freedoms, because of these factors, data will be shaped in a particular way, be it patriarchal or be it from the basis of a global north looking down on a global south in matters surrounding the discussion on repatriation.

November 27, 2019

PC: One dominant frame/concern is that of Western/foreign intrusion-- “data colonialism.” Though I didn’t hear that term per se, the core idea was being tossed around… Do Kenyan’s own the data or do outsiders? And even more generally, I heard people leveraging their African identity with respect to data and research… I may be reading too much into this, but that seems to signal Africa in opposition to… what? Perhaps in opposition to current (US/European) centers of data gathering and analysis.

Angela Okune's picture
November 12, 2019

AO: Lots of debate on this issue - sentiments that “Kenyan society doesn’t value research” which was pushed back against: “Academics don’t write things that society wants to read!” Reminds me of both sides of the “Kenyans don’t like reading” discussion - I’ve heard opinions on both sides. More broadly, I see the heavily commercialised, individualisation of Kenyan capitalism heavily influencing legislation and how people are describing their personal data (esp. on panel 3). There were also a few unexplicit paternalistic Development sentiments about the “ignorant”  who don’t fully “get it” - esp. when we are talking about those in informal settlements, etc. there are vulnerable populations that might be prone to manipulation.