Getting to know the refugee populations of Massachusetts

Team: Michelle Thomas, Phillip Graham, Argyro Nicolaou

The data says that 16,214 out of more than 670,000 refugees resettled in the US since 2005 are hosted in Massachusetts. We want to tell the story of resettled refugees because the integration challenges that refugee populations face is something that should involve the entire host community.

For this project, our intended audience is native Massachusetts residents. The aim of the project is to make native MA residents get to know the refugee populations in their communities. We chose to focus on the state’s top three host cities for refugees, using data from the BuzzFeed US Refugee Relocation Dataset. We decided to use the total refugee population of cities, because upon looking at the data we were surprised to see that Boston wasn’t the top city, and felt that native MA residents would also share this reaction about the largest city in their state. We also used information from the US Department of State.

To contextualize our project, we provided information about the number of refugees relocated in the US and gave some background information on the relocation process. This information points to the length of the process, the effort required to actually be relocated to the US and the extent of the vetting process in order to give an idea of how hard it is to get to the USA as a refugee. While not part of our main message, this information was important for us to include because it humanizes the refugee population and helps combat some of the common misconceptions that refugees are a threat.   

We chose the map structure because it is an image that every MA resident can relate to. We ‘physicalized’ the data in 3D bars that represent each of the top-3 refugee populations in each city. We chose the bar shape both because it is very legible and because it resembles a building, an image that situates our project within the urban and/or social context of each city. By adding the interactive element of having a sample card in the highest bar, we hope to engage our audience in a physical action intending to reveal more information about refugee population in that city. It was important for us to include a call to action as part of our project. For this reason, each card includes information about a community initiative that helps refugees, together with ways in which people can volunteer/contribute to that initiative’s efforts. The image on the backs of each card quite literally gives a glimpse into the lives of refugee populations in MA, featuring some cultural symbols from the top refugee populations in Springfield, Boston and Worcester. These images come together to reveal a larger image of the side of an apartment building. This intends to bring across our message for the need of of integration of refugee and native communities and to show how we are already all living side-by-side.



data sculpture