Quantifying The Effects Of Microaggressions
mood & emotion | social life & social media
Jordan Clark used his heart rate variability (HRV) data to measure psychological effects of microaggressions as part of his research quantifying the Black experience.
Apple Watch | Twitter
Quantifying the Effects of Microaggression
Today I’m talking about quantifying microaggression and to quote interesting to talk about agency. And really that’s what this whole thing is about is using your imagination, and kind of understanding that oftentimes we suffer more imagination than we do in reality.
So, why should I have to explain to a campus officer that I’m a student here. I want Northeastern to acknowledge that this is wrong. I want a sort of justice. I want to be able to confront the people involved, and I want Northeastern to adopt new policies in training to prevent what happened to me to happing to other students. I want more steps taken to address institutionalized racism at Northeastern.
Hi, my name is Jordan, and this is my metacognitive of dialectical paradigm of my emotions. This is an example of how I use Twitter to emotionally regulate in times that are hard. To sort of self-talk therapy where I make sense of my current reality, and then share it with the world and hope that I’m heard.
Often, I’m inspired by one of my idols Kanye West. If you’re familiar with Kanye West that’ll make a little more sense, but I really admire his confidence and being his unapologetic-self in sharing his emotions. And as an emotional person who struggles to be heard by the world around me, I found it really validating when he said that you can say anything as long as you put an emoji next to it. Because that’s what I was doing for a really long time and I really didn’t understand it until that moment that I was really trying to explain to people that I have a gentimental as he says or a sensitive brain where every time something happens, people have a tendency to blame me or think that I’m being irrational, when in my mind it’s a very rational thing.
And I discovered this when I was on medical leave from a job that I love. I actually was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, PTSD at the age of 27, so I didn’t know this had been affecting me my whole life, but once I started to understand it the more it made sense.
Unfortunately, I was fired from my job because they weren’t willing to accommodate somebody with my disability, and we’re working on that court case. But, I was fortunate enough to go back to my undergraduate institution, Northeastern University where the president Aoun wrote a book called Robot-Proof, Higher Education In the Age of Artificial Intelligence.
What really stuck out to me was this notion of cultural agility and human literacy, that as we increase in our technological revolutions and innovations, we’re actually going to need to be able to work better together as humans and be able to connect on deeper levels than we have before.
And it introduced this topic called Humanitcs which is this notion of humans working with brilliant machines, which is perfect for Quantify Self and perfect for me because I was trying to explain to people something that was in my head that they just couldn’t accept.
You know, I’m sensitive and I’ve got this gentle mental in the age of humantics we can use technology to quantify how our environment and passionate performance. I’m going to talk about how well the story I create data that doesn’t lie. It tells a story, and when you look at your story you think about well what is it telling you.
And then ultimately I want to ask like how reflective or you, how robot proof are you? Are you self-aware of yourself to understand how your environment impacts around you?
So how did I get here? How did I get in a situation where I’m telling the world that I want Northeastern to hear me? Well, my microaggression happened. What happened was that I tweeted this to the president of the University and I told him that what happened was that I went to financial aid to get help, and my former financial aid officer called the police on me because she was threatened by my close proximity and word choice.
And it really affected me because I’m not a violent person. I’m not a threatening person, and I used to teach fourth grade. And actually, my trauma is rooted in years of exposure to childhood trauma around violence, sexual violence, domestic violence. And so, there was a lot to unpack there, but I wasn’t given the opportunity to provide context.
As soon as she found out in the report, the police went on to treat me like a criminal, sent me harassing emails and ultimately put me in an interrogation room, trying to get me to admit to something that I didn’t do.
Fortunately for me, I was inspired by Kanye and believe that context matters. And so, I put it all on Twitter, and I explained that from my perspective I was actually the one who had a mental breakdown and was crying in the hallway. I didn’t understand how this individual act of microaggression could lead to this institutionalized bias that ultimately affected my ability to remain in school.
I didn’t get what was needed done which was my loans consolidated, so I had to withdraw from classes. I didn’t get financial aid. I ended up you know dealing with homelessness, dealing with a lot of issues that I developed as a child.
And so, I continued to use Twitter to remind the university that this is an ongoing issue for me that PTSD, when I’m walking around campus and I see a police officer often times results in a disassociated moment where I relive the trauma, and then my day is shot.
And so, my goal is to try to get to university to create an inclusive environment where I was talking about with robot proof and cultural agility and creating an environment where people can be their authentic selves and were able to see each other.
And so for me, and my relationship with the police, this is only one incident, there were several others. My goal is to be able to get them to record them, because when we talked about microaggression, we’re talking about small social acts of bias that often times go unnoticed. They are what I call unintended consequences that have perceived reality. And so, they come in the forms of racial microaggression, sexual orientation microaggression, disability, gender microaggression.
And so, when I think about myself, I think about well, as a racial ambiguous person, I oftentimes have people come up to me and be like, what are you, and I get what they mean but they don’t understand that’s offensive. There are actually better words to use to ask somebody what’s their cultural ethnicity is or their background.
And so, these get upset with me when I say I’m a human. And so, if I want to talk to people, I have to change myself or find ways for people to hear me. You add that I’m openly gay, and so you have another lens of marginalization where I’m seeing things differently.
And then you add my disability, there are emoji’s that match up with my twitter where they talk about the intersectionality of my marginalized groups. So, as I’m tweeting moments on campus and moments as I navigate through the world, I am trying to create a data trail so people understand where I’m coming from. So when incidences like this where I question a new PDs video, where they had a lot of inappropriate suggestive language around you know a white police officer trying to do a cool dialect that was really rooted in racial bigotry.
I got a little message on my Apple watch saying that Northeastern University police does not spend any time caring about the objects of what they post, but they can and will continue to use light-heartedness to convey messages. So much so that they went back to re-read it, realized that they wrote light-headedness instead of light-heartedness and reminded of that again.
So as I look at these moments there’s a lot going on. There’s context, there’s time, there’s language, there’s words. These are people with guns who have perceived positions of power, and how can I get them to understand that that was like a threatening incidence for me of that microaggression of trying to silence me.
So what I did was I started collecting data. I got really involved in Quantified Self and started collecting all these data points, understanding that in order to pinpoint how microaggression affected my physiological state I need to prove to people what my productivity or my sleep pattern or things of those nature.
And so what Welltory is, is an app on your iPhone that uses PPG, measures with your camera to measure heart rate variability. And your heart rate variability is associated with your stress levels and microaggression cause stress.
And so, it’s very early on in my journey but I was starting to notice that procrastination comes when I’m stressed, and then I spend more time on social media because I’m actually emotionally regulating. I’m trying to process these events that are happening to me that seem very small for some but are very magnified for me.
And so, what did I discover? Well, I found that Twitter was a great way to emotionally regulate, even although I haven’t resolved the issue. I have a sense of agency that when I share when I’m sitting in training, and I find it ironic that NUPD is telling me about psychological violence, I can take a picture of it, add context and say well this ironic event really does bother me because what they’re doing to me is what I view as psychological violence.
You can add tags to Welltory to make it easier to track what events are happening. The hard part is that I usually don’t know someone is going to do a micro-aggressive act. And so, I’m trying to figure out ways to constantly monitor my HRV.
An example of this is from Gyroscope. It doesn’t use the advanced Welltory HRV (technics? 10:02). It only uses one part of your heart rate variability, but I did start to notice trends around when I was happier, higher heart rate variability than when I wasn’t here. And that mood score is determined by flashcards of just emotions, and it takes into account the time that it takes you to process how you’re feeling.
Ultimately, I’m hoping this leads to a PhD in network science, where I’m able to take this objective data points – subject data points to make it more objective by adding context, and ultimately using virtual reality so that people can go into VR to practice their own bias on their own time. And build empathy so that they can learn how to speak with people who are emotional.
As I continue this journey I’m reminded constantly by President Aoun’s words that I’m the type of person who will hold them accountable for them. So, he says we want to create and include a diverse environment that is a journey. Well I hope along this journey they hear my story.
This is how you can contact me. This is an example of a more updated tweet, where it’s actually from Steve when I was actually practicing for this conference, I was really nervous. So, I would do tracking measurements before and after. And, I was really stressed before my first talk with Steve and then afterward I was actually not stressed. I felt really great. I was really inspired, and it really shows that there is art to giving feedback and there’s art to communicating. And I’m hoping that my story will help people evolve in their understanding of how to communicate with each other.