SocialTech @ CCCamp19

Birds eye view on a desk. A stack of worksheets with instructions for the workshop are on the table, 3 stacks of colourful notecards are on top. Each coloured stack of cards contains the workshop attendees responses to one of the 3 questions we have asked them to reflect on during the workshop.

Typing up responses from the workshop.

Today I finished typing out the responses Victoria Neumann and I collected during our workshops at the Chaos Communication Camp 2019.

The workshops were part of our SocialTech project. This one specifically was tailored for an open-air tech event: “Accessibility and Inclusion – Hacking everyday communication practices to change the world.”

Among other things, we were reflecting about our own access needs and potential responses to them. It was particularly interesting to do this at a week-long camping event since a lot of needs (and also opportunities) are heavily depending on the context they are happening in. Since conference-type events are usually held indoors, the contrast between the usual conference space and an open field in late August was striking. Together we identified and discussed both event-specific and more universal questions surrounding the topics of accessibility and inclusion.

A tent that's a makeshift kitchen. 3 illuminated black and purple signs spell out "food hacking base"

The one thing everyone agrees on: everything can be hacked.

I’m confident to say everyone went home with many new ideas to think about. A handful of participants even left the workshop together. In response to one of the most frequently mentioned access issues, they decided to try and write an app for the camp’s card10 badge. I’m really curious to see where that goes!

Campsite from above. A lot of tents in different sizes on a nice day, it is very dusty

The overall mood of the event.

DIRPC 2019

A cup of coffee sits on top of a stack of papers, a laptop and the programme for the DIPRC conference on Angela's lap.

But first: coffee.

It’s real now! We held the first presentation about the the SocialTech project at the Digital Inclusion Policy and Research Conference at the University of Liverpool in London.

It was a great conference, and an amazing opportunity to connect with other researchers, professionals from both the third sector and industry, government officials and students working on the intersections of society and new communication and (emerging) internet technologies.

We got some interesting feedback after our presentation.
The slides and annotations can be found on the project website, but I also want to give a short summary of the current state of the project itself:

The main points we talked about

Text slide. Text reads: Tech Support for Social Issues. Accessibility is a social issue, but often defined in technical terms. Thinking diversity, inclusion, and accessibility together. Communication is creating response-ability Goal: Reach (a broad range of) people.

We explained the project itself, and the question-response format of the resource we are working on.

Text slide. Text reads: Finding Useful Questions: We have been dealing with accessibility and inclusion on an academic level for a while. How to make these topics approachable? Our project that aims to bridge the gap between academia and everyday organizational practice. We want to provide a starting point for those interested in reaching more people with whatever they do.

Text slide that shows 3 stages: Set Up, Play and Rewind. They are connected in a cycle made of arrows, but in a twisted and wonky not at all straightforward way.

This wonky knot is supposed to show how adapting communication practices and having inbuilt feedback loops both internally and with your audience make it easier to react to one’s audience/users/visitors and their needs easily.

We are excited to start incorporating the feedback we got and continue working on this project!

SocialTech

When I was a full-time master’s student, I used to co-organize the Changing Worlds Conference, a transdisciplinary student-led conference. We spent 3 years exploring the possibilities to bring together artists, scientist, engineers, activists, students and teachers interested in science, technology and society within the framework of an academic conference.

For me personally, the most interesting aspect of the project was experimenting with the format of the conference itself. We were trying (and mostly succeeding) to create an accessible, inclusive environment in which people from different backgrounds feel welcome and can productively work together.

The experiment is growing up

After giving a few workshops on the topic, me and my colleague Victoria Neumann have decided to use the knowledge we were able to collect and make it available to others. We want to provide a starting point for learning to those who want to adopt more inclusive communication practices, both in their private and professional lives.

Title page of a document called "Finding useful questions" That is supposed to be a resource for people to learn about accessibility and inclusion

The first version of the “Finding useful questions” document.

This new project is called SocialTech, and it aims to provide a resource to learn about access needs, and more inclusive communication- and organizing strategies. Updates as the project unfolds can also be found on this project website.

The idea behind the project:

Rather than giving a specific set of instructions, the resource is built in a question-and-response format. There are no “one size fits all” solutions to dealing with people’s needs, but in this list we tried to provide a range of questions you could use as a starting point to consider your audience and how to make your space as accomodating and comfortable as possible.

We have published the first version of the document we are working on. It is a work in progress. For this first version, we have focused on a few topics that come up often. At the moment it is only available in English, but we are planning to translate it into German soon.

Art and Technology

I got to attend a wonderful conference in Vienna, and I have to say it was the perfect start into 2019.

“Das Kunstmuseum im Digitalen Zeitalter” (The Art Museum in the Digital Age) was organized by the Belvedere and held in the museum’s beautiful Blickle Cinema.

Welcome slide on the screen in the vintage Belvedere Blickle Cinema. A laptop on a speakers desk, the stage is empty.

The vintage Blickle Cinema in the Belvedere museum is an amazing venue for a conference.

The two conference days were packed with interesting talks and discussions. While Art Education/Outreach doesn’t seem to fit in with my work, it was a great conference for me. My research is, at its core, exploring how people creatively use new technologies to communicate, build communities and structure their everyday lives – and this is exactly what this conference was about.

Topics like representation, accessibility and inclusion were also discussed throughout the whole conference. It was a joy to see how museums incorporate the internet and digital tools with the traditional visitor experience.

Conference Presentation, the slide shows a tumblr site dedicated to "Ugly Renaissance Babies", it is presented as a museum hack.

New Technologies also means new ways of playing and interacting with a space.

This second picture made me smile, it came from a presentation about visitors “hacking” the museum.

The overall message in the talks was clear: While it is important to implement stable long-term plans and tools for, it never hurts to get creative in order to engage with visitors and perhaps even a virtual audience.