Building a Safe Community
Throughout CultureBrew.Art’s creation, ensuring the privacy and safety of its users has been a top priority. Part of this means working with a certified privacy professional and a lawyer who has a human rights background—an expensive but vital way to ensure the artists are protected. Technical updates are regularly maintained, and they refuse to sell their users’ data to third parties.
“[Selling user’s data] is something that really concerns us, because our constituency are Indigenous [and] racialized artists. And it’s already well known that Black and Indigenous women suffer the highest rates of online harassment, as well as ongoing violence. So we have been coming from that perspective about online safety and security and privacy,” says Turner.
This is largely why funding has been so key. While sourcing support, potential funders have questioned why the site can’t simply be made with a WordPress template. The answer is that CultureBrew.Art is not just a website: it’s a host to two separate portals that require their own messaging and notification services, both among artists, and between artists and engagers. With so many moving parts, creating this technology is no small task—and security must be considered at every turn.
Overcoming Barriers in Tech
CultureBrew.Art’s artist portal launched in late 2019, but it wasn’t without challenges. “If we thought it was really hard in the arts, try dealing with the tech industry,” says Turner. On top of CultureBrew.Art’s technical complexity, Turner and Singh have continually fought to be heard as “two racialized women saying this is what we want.”
Part of this has been due to the inherent tension in the differing goals of nonprofits and tech companies. More than once Turner and Singh have reminded those helping to build the website that they’re not interested in selling a product: “We’re trying to build connections. And we want to build something that takes into consideration the needs of racialized and Indigenous peoples who are often dealing with trauma. We need to approach things in a different way,” says Turner.
It’s also been a challenge for CultureBrew.Art to find tech professionals who reflect the community that they’re serving. The tech industry is still predominantly white and male, which has often led to a disconnect in the development process. They’ve found that while collaborators believe in the project and appreciate CultureBrew.Art’s importance on an intellectual level, there is a profound difference when someone understands a concept through firsthand experience.
This disconnect is costly: the added time spent explaining the importance of the project and asserting their needs eats up funding and delays progress, and there’s also the toll of emotional labour. “We’re educating them, basically, about race and about gender politics. And it’s a slow process that has so many additional steps.”
Turner says Singh has been an incredible resource with her previous experience working in the tech industry, and advanced coding skills. “The initiative wouldn’t have gotten very far without Anju’s expertise, dedication, and ability to come up with solutions when we felt stymied by our tech developers,” says Turner.
Eventually, they hope to hire an in-house developer—one who shares their level of understanding and passion for anti-oppression.
Expanding CultureBrew.Art’s Reach