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Not Leaving Data in the Dark: Participatory Archiving and Visual Data to Address HIV and AIDS

This study is premised on the idea that Social Science research in a South Africa- ravaged by various socio-economic ills, but in particular by HIV and AIDS- should be pushing innovation in search of ways in which research could make a difference. One key way of doing this is by fully engaging participants themselves throughout the research process in new ways as knowledge producers, knowledge users and disseminators of new knowledge. Keeping in mind that research data has a limited life, that published research findings have a limited audience (mostly academic) and seldom reach the community, this project is organized around the idea of “not leaving data in the dark," but rather making it accessible to communities. It explores this in two ways: one, through extending the data in an already existing digital archive by linking it to other data sets to make "big data" (social science researchers often hear that large scale studies are more important than smaller studies); and two, through extending community engagement with an already existing digital archive through such practices as participatory archiving, participatory analysis and the re-use and re-mix of data, in addressing HIV and AIDS. Key questions:

  1. How might a digital archive be extended to include multiple digital archives by linking it to collections of visual data generated by other research teams to enable “big data” in the age of AIDS, enabling analysis across data sets?
  2. How might teachers, youth and community health workers become agents in the construction of knowledge through participatory archiving and participatory analysis in a community-based digital archive? And how might this help towards making participants agents of community empowerment in the age of AIDS?
  3. How might youth as a particularly critical group in the AIDS pandemic become engaged in a media approach (through re-mixing and re-using) to visual data within a participatory cultures framework in order to contribute to knowledge production and youth empowerment?

This project is funded by the National Research Foundation.

Research Team: Naydene De Lange (Faculty of Education, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University), Claudia Mitchell (Faculty of Education, McGill University), Relebohile Moletsane (Faculty of Education, University of KwaZulu Natal) and Myra Taylor (School of Public Health, University of KwaZulu Natal).

This research project is organized through the Participatory Cultures Lab (PCL). The PCL was established in 2010 by Claudia Mitchell, a James McGill Professor in the Department of Integrated Studies in the Faculty of Education of McGill University, Montreal, Canada. The PCL brings Master’s and Doctoral students together around the study and use of visual tools such as digital storytelling, photovoice, participatory video, participatory archiving, cellphilms, objects and things, collage, and other arts-based approaches in the process of collecting, analyzing, and working with research data. The PCL is located on the top floor of the Coach House at McGill University, 3715 Peel.

Claudia Mitchell, PhD
(514) 398-4527 Ext. 09990
Department of Integrated Studies in Education
3700 McTavish, Room 244
McGill University
Montreal, Quebec H3A 1Y2



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