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NCSA Faculty Fellow examines effects of gun violence in Chicago stress study exhibit

Every year, the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (NCSA) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign sponsors faculty members from the Urbana-Champaign campus through its NCSA Faculty Fellowship Program. Professor Ruby Mendenhall, Assistant Dean for Diversity and Democratization of Health Innovation at the Carle Illinois College of Medicine, and Associate Professor in African American Studies and Sociology, used her 2017-2018 NCSA Faculty Fellowship to examine how the exposure to nearby gun crimes impacted African American mothers living in Englewood, Chicago.

Mendenhall and NCSA visiting research programmer Kiel Gilleade developed a mobile health study which used wearable biosensors to document 12 women’s lived experiences for one month last fall. Gilleade contributed expertise on mobile health, wearable sensors, and data visualization. As part of their research, Mendenhall, Gilleade and team have worked tirelessly to create an exhibit based on the study data they collected in order to bring the unheard, day-to-day stories of these mothers to life.

This exhibit features a variety of installations all centered around exploring gun violence in and around the Englewood community. It was recently shown this past August at the ACCESS Center for Learning and Discovery in Chicago. With unique, visual representations, the exhibit details the women’s stories in the wider context of Black inequality and racial trauma.

Shots Fired installation

This installation uses suspended metal objects to represent the number of 911 calls made during the study relating to reports of gun crimes made by residents in police districts 7 and 18. The 7th district, which is predominantly Black, covers Englewood, West Englewood and Greater Grand Crossing. The 18th district covers Near North Side and Lincoln Park. The context of this is that while it may look very beautiful, what it represents is a very dangerous problem in Englewood.

Gun related 911 calls for the 18th district are displayed on the left and on the right for the 7th district.

A close-up of the 7th district.

Sensing Englewood: Crime and Stress

A virtual reality experience which uses crime and sensor data collected during the study to subversively animate a street corner modeled on Englewood. This installation features personal diary entries written by each of the mothers detailing their lived experiences. This piece was developed in collaboration with students from CS 498 VR as a sponsored project.

The butterflies represent personal stories from the women that when you click on them you can read a mother’s quote about her lived experience in her neighborhood.

The flower beds represent the biodata collected from the women. The changing colors of the flowers represent the varying heart rates of the women, collected by wearable sensors. When the flowers are green, it generally means this is an active time for the mothers. Red flowers can represent stress or high levels of activity.

Crime Exposure Reports

A series of personalized crime exposure reports describing the potential crimes the women were exposed to during the course of the study. These reports were created from the women’s GPS location (collected by their smartphones) and the received 911 service calls for Chicago.

Personalized crime exposure reports.

The Chicago Stress Study exhibit will be featured locally in Urbana as part of the Pygmalion Festival on Thursday, September 27 from 5:30 p.m – 9:30 p.m. at the Krannert Center. This event is free and open to the public.

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