Blog Post

Torn Apart/Separados Hackathon & HASTAC Meet-up Recap

map of the U.S. and Mexico with markers locating allies

Map of allies

Post by Alex Gil and Roopika Risam

Torn Apart / Separados, which launched on July 25th, is a set of rapid response data visualizations created by a small team of researchers using data they collected on immigrant detention over a 7-day period. The team behind the project is Manan Ahmed, Maira Alvarez, Sylvia Fernandez, Alex Gil, Merisa Martinez, Moacir de Sa Pereira, Roopika Risam, and Linda Rodriguez.

Torn Apart map with orange ICE detention centers scattered throughout

Torn Apart/Separados homepage and map 

Invested in mobilizing new teams of researchers, Gil and Risam held a design sprint and hackathon at the Digital Humanities 2018 conference in Mexico City, thanks to the generous support of HASTAC.

The design sprint brought more than 20 participants together to dig into the data on ICE detention aggregated by Torn Apart / Separados. Team members introduced the project and its ethical imperatives to the designers, then split the group into teams to imagine new directions and projects based on the original team’s work.

The result was a compelling list of short- and long-term project ideas. These included: aggregating immigration laws to track the criminalization of immigrants over time, outreach to activists and lawyers to better understand how the team might help them, developing pedagogical modules to encourage scholars to begin working with data, exploring the boom in job ads associated with immigrant detention, adding a page to the Nimble Tents toolkit on data visualization in a crisis, visualizing local media coverage and gaps on family separation, and identifying the role of military bases in immigration enforcement.

Using the results of the design sprint, Risam and Gil held a hackathon and HASTAC meetup on the last night of the conference. More than 25 participants set to work on rapid prototypes from the design sprint. One team set to work identifying sources demonstrating readiness of military bases for detention, while another created a survey for activists and began mapping the list of allies. A third team began scraping job advertisements, as another drafted a document on mobilizing researchers to respond quickly to a developing crisis. Still another team of intrepid coders began digging into local news sources, working past 1am to put all the wheels in motion to continue the project after the hackathon was over.

The Torn Apart / Separados project is looking forward to sharing the outcomes of the hackathon. For those who are asking how to contribute, we have several ways. You can learn more about them in this call by Sylvia Fernández right here on HASTAC. We are grateful to all of the México participants, who came out on a Friday night, after a rich and intense conference to join us in our efforts.

Explore Torn Apart/Separados and read Emily Dreyfuss’ coverage in Wired.

México Design Sprint

Elizabeth Grumbach

Jacqueline Wermimont

Isis Campos

Annette Zapata

Gabriela Baeza

Carolina Villarroel

Lorena Gauthereau

Purdom Lindblad

Brandon Locke

Alex Galarza

Rachel Hendery

Isis Campos

Sylvia Fernández

Annette Zapata

Vika Zafrin

Roopika Risam

Alex Gil

Hannah Alper-Abrams


México Hackathon

Rachel Hendery

Kristen Mapes

Emily Esten

Megan Senseney

Patrick Juola

Christina Bell

Danica Savonick

Angelika Strohmayer

Brandon Locke

Kathi inman Berens

Christina Boyles

Andrew Petersen

Erin Glass

Greg Palermo

Isis Campos

Annette Zapata

Zachariah Stern

Brian Rosemblum

Lisa Tagliaferri

Jodi Mikesell

Alex Galarza

Hannah Alper-Abrams

Vika Zafrin

Vinicius Marquet


We apologize if this list is incomplete or overcomplete. If you were here and did not make it to the roster, or if for any reason you would like to remain anonymous, please send us a line to


Tweet by Alex Gil of map with allies

Tweet from Alex Gil (@elotroalex) with map of allies


working group of five sits on bed

Pedagogy toolkit module group




No comments