Monday 13 june 2022
Fenna: 'Ana, we've known each other for a while now, but for those who don't know you: explain what you do at UT.'
Ana: 'At ITC, its staff and researchers can contact me for support and advice in the field of ethical, integer, and just research. I try to support them by further reflecting together on the ethical implications of the research they have in mind – from research proposal through methods and techniques to the execution and sharing of results. What’s the relevance of the research? For whom is it relevant? Is there a risk that the results will be misinterpreted or misused? How do you guarantee the privacy of data? Of course, I don't have all the answers.’
Fenna: ‘Let's go back to the beginning. You studied architecture in Colombia. What drew you in?'
Ana: I’ve always been fascinated by how architecture influences people, what effect it has on their movements and perceptions. A space can make someone happy or sad, encourage reflection or invite meditation. For example, some people, even if not religious, might be overwhelmed in a Gothic church by the monumentality of the place, the light, the large arches and the serenity of the space. The building does something to them. For a moment, due to the scale, people might feel a bit tiny or start to move more thoughtfully. I’m very fascinated by that interaction.'
Fenna: ‘Interesting! You continued to research that relationship between people, buildings, and their context after your studies, didn't you?'
Ana: 'Yes, I’m interested in the places that people use, live and occupy. I also wonder, who does or does not have a say in what’s being built and where? During and after my studies, I immersed myself in projects about that in Colombia, Spain, and Indonesia. In the course of my PhD research on participatory design of geotechnology in the context of open, smart cities at the University of Münster, a technological angle was added. The ‘smart city’, in the general discourse, is promoted as an approach to cities where resources can be optimally used by means of technology and digitisation. However, despite some advantages, there are also several disadvantages and limitations. Think of the privacy of citizens or of people's unequal access to resources. While doing my PhD, I researched how participatory approaches could be used to design geotechnologies that support and represent the needs of diverse – and often underserved – population groups.'
Fenna: 'We first met when you started your postdoc at UT. You did research on informal economies and creative industries in Indonesia, and I researched the way in which urban infrastructure includes and excludes people in Peru. We were both unfamiliar with the country and culture and were very conscious of our position as researchers. Many of our conversations revolved around the question: How do we do this properly? How can we do justice to the people concerned?'
Ana: 'Over the years, I have become totally fascinated by ethical questions like these. Like you, I think it’s super important to think about the different perspectives and interests of the people involved in research. What is good for one person is not necessarily good for another one.’
Fenna: 'Have you gained new perspectives yourself in your role as Research Support Officer?'
Ana: ‘Certainly! As a researcher, I was mainly focused on the ‘what’ and ‘how’ of my research. I wasn’t aware of the overarching questions that the faculty deals with, for example, about the path we’re taking. I was completely unaware of the discussions that are held about this and how complex the decision-making is. Where I spoke to maybe thirty or forty people in my studies, the decisions of the ITC Faculty must represent the vision, intentions, and expectations of all students, researchers, support staff, lecturers, and professors – hundreds of people with their own focus area, all of whom are at different stages of their career. That makes it very complex and very interesting.’
Fenna: ‘This also ties into the ‘Dialogical Spaces’ project that we worked on together.'
Ana: ‘Yes! Shall I describe briefly what this project is about?’
Fenna: ‘The floor is yours.’
Ana: 'Dialogical Spaces is a series of conversations that we started at the beginning of 2021, funded by the UT Incentive Fund. We wanted to create a safe, inviting space to discuss diversity and inclusion with the UT community and inspiring guests from the Netherlands, and abroad. How does an inclusive learning environment look like? How do we shape a gender-inclusive university? How can people be really welcomed, included, and represented? We've had the most amazing conversations and released them as a podcast series. I’m surely allowed pitch: the seven episodes of Dialogical Spaces are available on Spotify and other podcast platforms.'
Fenna: ‘You did good, haha. And you’re right. I find that because of the discussions we've had, I'm much more focused on justice. I strive for an equal collaboration with participants in my research and want their voices to be heard.’
Ana: ‘Yes, together we have also thought on whose story are we telling? Who owns the data we collect? I think it’s very important that we recognize people who provide us with input as knowledge owners and research partners; and, that we ask them: what is relevant to you?'
Fenna: 'What do you do to put all these questions aside every now and then and clear your head?'
Ana: 'I actually enjoy delving into these questions, but I also like reading, hiking, and kickboxing. That quiets my mind. It’s very meditative.’
Fenna: 'And how about a cup of coffee with friends? The time is about up, shall we look for the canteen to talk further?'