Two Cultures, One Heart
by Claudia Amaro, Host and Producer
I have been wanting to start my podcast for the last few years but “never” found the time to start. Joining the Data-Driven Storytelling: Making Civic Data Accessible with Audio program was just what I needed to focus. I already produced audio for my radio station Planeta Venus Online, but it serves Spanish Speaking only audiences. My dream was to bring different audiences together with more inclusive audio, but I was just thinking about English and Spanish languages.
I set out to explore New Americans…. through a different storytelling approach – including the use of data sonification – the use of non-speech audio to convey information. During this process, I was able to test new approaches for communicating data with sound, receive hands-on training from experts in sonification and intensive listening sessions with the blind and visually impaired community.
New Americans: A Journey into a Healthy Mind or Latinos: El camino hacia el Bienestar Mental, (English and Spanish versions) was the title of a conference I organized in Wichita in the spring of 2019 when I invited two well-known psychologists from Mexico city to talk to professionals and community about mental health in immigrants.That same year I collaborated with Alissa Bey, a former PhD student on a research on mental health in the immigrant community in Wichita Kansas, gathering information that I felt, needed to be shared.
Having the opportunity to work with Sonify and learning to tell a story turning data into sound was very interesting to me and I chose to work with the information I already had, except that most of the data I had was qualitative. Because of that, I started to read more and gather statistical and demographic data about the Hispanic community to enhance the understanding and to highlight the importance of the issue in our communities. For each episode of my podcast, I selected datasets from my research to complement the story and created data sonifications, turning data into sound, using TwoTone, a free and open source web application. I used data from the U.S. Census, Mental Health America and the National Alliance of Mental Illness. Having advisors from the visually impaired and blind community was great during the whole process. Many of my advisors identified with the stories I was sharing: the isolation, the struggles because of language or accessibility, every piece of advice they gave me was full of emotions and learning. It really took some time for me to understand how music or sound was representing data in different ways, but now that I get it I do not think I will ever stop using data sonification in my future projects, I just want to learn more and more.
Thanks to the opportunity with the Data-Driven Storytelling program, I have not only been able to produce audio for English and Spanish audiences, but also to be able to consider other audiences I never thought about by working with advisors from the blind and visually impaired community, experts in sonification – turning data into sound – and feedback from partnering newsrooms.
Meeting with the BVI advisors was eye opener for me and I discovered that the blind/vision impaired community share a lot of experiences with the immigrant community. I was always eager to meet with them and listen to their opinion and advice. I can’t wait to share about some of the tools they use with the immigrant community like text-to-speech tools, some mobile apps and even connect them with some local resources!
Choosing the subject for my project was not hard since I have been working on the topic for a while, it became challenging when I had to learn and understand data sonification and finding the right data for my episodes. I have produced 3 episodes. In episode 1, I interviewed two professionals on mental health, they talked about how racism and other issues impact the mental health of immigrant communities. To add data sonification I chose to present the percentage of U.S. Hispanic or Latino adults who received mental health treatment or counseling in the past year from 2002 to 2019. In episode 2, I interviewed 3 women from the immigrant community in Wichita who have dealt with mental health issues. Here I chose to present data sonification about the growth of the Hispanic population in Sedgwick county where Wichita Kansas sits. In episode 3, Alissa Bey shared important information about her 2019-2020 research on mental health in immigrants in Wichita Kansas. In this episode I chose to feature data sonification about Depression rates in Kansas from 2011 to 2019. As the project progressed, I felt more comfortable and excited to widen my perspective of inclusion.
I felt supported through the whole process by Hugh and Debra McGrory of Sonify, and the advisor teams. I really enjoyed the in-person meetings at Envision in Wichita and all the sessions we had. This was a great experience for me, and my hope is to make a bigger difference in my community because of it.
New Americans: A Journey into a Healthy Mind – Episode 1 – English
Latinos: El camino hacia el Bienestar Mental- Episode 1 – Spanish
New Americans: A Journey into a Healthy Mind – Episode 2 – English
Latinos: El camino hacia el Bienestar Mental – Episode 2 – Spanish
New Americans: A Journey into a Healthy Mind – Episode 3 – English
Latinos: El camino hacia el Bienestar Mental – Episode 3 – Spanish
This podcast was created as part of ‘Data-Driven Storytelling: Making Civic Data Accessible with Audio’; a production, training and research program delivered by Sonify, Wichita Community Foundation and Envision. For this year-long initiative, three hyperlocal newsroom teams in Wichita Kansas worked with fifteen advisors from the blind and visually impaired community to create audio podcasts featuring data sonification. The project was supported by the Knight Foundation as one of seven national winners of their ‘Data For Civic Engagement Challenge’. To learn more, visit https://www.wichita.sonify.site/.