Quick Note on Storytelling, Security and Privacy

In a post from Nov 17, I tried to give an update on what happened after my Ignite Talk at #2016DML. As I mentioned then, I joined Cornelia and Anna to co-facilitate a small group of students and refugees who started working on storytelling in teams of German students and refugees. Over the last couple of weeks, teams and tandems were formed and some were split up again. Usually, this happened when some of the refugees could not attend the class anymore for various reasons: some moved, one found a job, one decided to attend more German language classes.

However, some were able to stick to coming to the seminar and it is great to see how they come up with ideas, weave in feedback and continue the work. The first couple of sessions were pretty much devoted to finding common ground within the teams. Topics and ideas were negotiated, refined and then tried out. Team constellations changed (and, accordingly, the topics). Over the past 2-4 weeks, this has stabilized and, now that the teams have been working together, we see what their work might amount to. During our last working session, we discussed modes of publication in more detail than before. One of the teams will tell stories about the journey from Syria to Germany and, during their process of mapping out the stories, they brought up questions around privacy and safety. Questions emerged especially for the refugee in the team: will I be confronted, harassed and subject to hate speech when we publish this? Might this text have negative implications for my relatives in Syria and Germany or the people who helped me make it here? If so, do I want to protect my identity? Which measures can I take? These questions emerged during our session and it was great to see the emphatic reactions to these questions in the group. During the discussion, others became more aware of issues around privacy and security and it became clear that there is no absolute state of privacy or safety but that you can take some measures to move towards a safer space (which, in itself, is a great outcome of a seminar session to my mind). In our cases these measures can be the creation of an alter ego, the anonymization or altering of story details, names of relatives, of villages, of towns along the route from Syria to Germany. But apart from the mere facts of a story, we also talked about technology-driven solutions like VPN tunnels, encryption, messaging apps, browsers and the existence of geo data in a photo you take with a digital camera or a phone. As I pointed out in my last post, the group is quite diverse in its experience and knowledge regarding online communication. Some were able to explain the difference between HTTPS and HTTP better than me, same goes for VPN or TOR. Others thought their emails were protected and safe because their account has a password. So I decided to give them some homework and sent them this article called “How to encrypt your entire life in less than an hour” to have a common ground to start from. We’ll have our next session tomorrow and I look forward to see what changes (if any) they have made to their habits.

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