“It was all worth it. I want to be a part of this creation because I need it, and I know other people do too.” – Aysun Demirdogen, TechCamp Istanbul participant and co-founder of The Datalogists
In the summer of 2019, the TechCamp Team, the U.S. Mission in Turkey, IMECE, and ImpactHub Istanbul brought Turkish and Syrian journalists, bloggers, and content creators together to solve media-centered issues in their own communities. For one participant, it proved to be a life changing experience.
When Aysun Demirdogen, a graduate student working in the technical transfer office at Ege University, received her invitation to TechCamp Istanbul, she knew she had to go. What attracted her most to the TechCamp was a session called “Data Problems” in which participants were given the opportunity to network and brainstorm tools they could use to solve data problems in their own communities. Her team began to form soon after Aysun started interacting with the other participants. “The idea just popped up in the workshop,” she said. The team was so excited that they “didn’t even initially think of funding,” Aysun added, “then some of the people organizing the TechCamp encouraged us to apply and continue our work using the funds.”
During TechCamp Istanbul, Aysun’s team, The Datalogists, realized three common problems during a brainstorming session: mistakes in data visualization can cause misinformation, data visualization can be difficult and requires expertise, and that there are not specialized online platforms for journalists. They then created designs for a data visualization kit that is meant for everyone,“not just journalists,” Aysun said. The Datalogists have created versions of the kit in Turkish, Arabic, and English, but manufacturing these kits in each of the three languages is expensive. Now, over a year later, the team’s small grant helps to offset the cost of making and distributing the kits.
Because of the pandemic, the Datalogists have paused the distribution of the kits and postponed the in-person workshops they had planned to showcase and educate people on how to use the kit. However, the team was able to host one virtual workshop in Turkish, and Asyun hopes to host more virtual workshops in the future in both Arabic and English as well. Team meetings are also taking place virtually, but they “are just not as effective as physical meetings,” Aysun said, “especially when having to demo new parts of the toolkit.” Despite the challenges of moving workshops and meetings online, going virtual has not been the team’s biggest obstacle.
Working on this project has been eye opening for Aysun in more ways than one. Some of her teammates are Syrian refugees, and Syrian refugees in Turkey are unable to travel freely. New laws passed in the second week of her team working together prohibited these teammates from traveling from Istanbul to Izmir. “When my teammates wanted to travel through the airport, they were sent back to their houses,” Aysun said, “This makes it hard.” This has led one of her team’s biggest learning points to become acknowledging and learning about challenges faced by refugees.
Aysun remains hopeful and has embraced her role as her team’s self-described “poke person,” consistently “poking” and prodding her teammates for new ideas and innovative ways to achieve their goals. Currently, The Datalogists are planning new workshops, developing their online platform and mobile app, and improving pieces of their kit.