A few months ago I was talking to a (white, male) friend about the current political situation in Bangladesh. I was explaining how there had been crackdowns on freedom of expression, and that I knew of people who weren't being as forthright with their opinions as they would otherwise be.
He said: "Wow- self-censorship. That's terrible, that's the first sign of an authoritarian state."
I agreed. It is a bad sign - but what I didn't say then, is that in reality I know of lots of people working in the sector I do, who regularly self-censor. People of colour, and women. Not for fear of a government or a politically restrictive state, but for fear of their future career development. The irony doesn't escape me - we're all for freedom of information, equality, social justice - but here we are.
It's been just over two weeks since the US Presidential election, and like many around me, I'm still gathering my thoughts. At some point, I think I'd like to think more carefully about some of the things running around my head - but for now, here are some main thoughts, in no particular order.
“You cannot take what you have not given, and you must give yourself. You cannot buy the revolution. You cannot make the revolution. You can only be the revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed
One of our great strengths is our ability to adapt to almost any situation, no matter how unusual it might seem at the start.
I'm coming up to two months in my fellowship at Data & Society, and I'm trying my best to appreciate it, and not take any of it for granted. The fact that I'm getting paid to read, learn, discuss and debate is still a little bit surreal!
One thing that I have been thinking a lot about is the privileges and the opportunities that the fellowship grants me. Along with the fantastic Data & Society network and community, it's been such a nice break to be assigned reading lists and books in preparation for discussion groups, debates and seminars.
With that in mind - and as someone who thoroughly appreciates when others make curricula public - here's everything that I've been assigned to read over the past two months.
I'm almost 2 months into my stint here in the US, which means I've spent a lot of time on subways over the past few weeks, and I've been listening to a lot of podcast episodes. I love reading lists generally, so here's a list of my favourite podcast episodes.
"I thought then: no matter how deep the dung, no matter how long the task, if you just go at it one shovel at a time the day will come when you can see clean earth at the bottom of the pile.
...I know better now. The unit of time that must be taken into account here is not decades but centuries, and tens of centuries. It has meaning only in the context of eternal time... I was a human being; I was ill-prepared to set my mind to plans that must be based upon thousands and thousands of years. Nothing about me was large enough to stretch itself to such a scale. And so, because there was quite literally nothing else to do, I set Time aside. I pretended that there was no such entity as Time; I abandoned it utterly. And then I set my shovel to the pile. I began to do whatever I humanly could. Outside the context of Time.
I've just started my fellowship at Data & Society, and I wanted to write about the feelings I had a few months ago when I found out about it. Long story short, I got the strongest case of 'imposter syndrome' I've ever had. As I've learned from smart friends, vulnerability is strength, so I tried to be open about how I was feeling.
Morning clouds of disbelief have given way to sadness. I'm grieving, as are at least 16 million other people around me. Not only for the EU and for a united stance against the horrors of the world today - but for the country I grew up in.
3 months ago, I started writing a newsletter for the engine room, on the topic of Responsible Data. As a result, I've been thinking a lot about the potential role of newsletters in online communities, and trying to work out what value this particular newsletter could bring.
This NYMag piece on newsletters as online 'safe spaces' made me think a lot about what that means for community building. Sadly, nowadays, 'open' social media platforms which are used to provide channels of communication and discussion can be dangerous places for feminist activists, women or other marginalised communities, or simply people talking about topics like social justice or social change. Despite this, lots of online community gathering still happens on social media platforms - tweeting with a certain hashtag, participating in online discussion forums, or joining a specific Facebook group, for example. What other options are there for bringing together a community, without venturing into increasingly uncomfortable social media spaces?
A couple of weeks ago, I had the honour of giving my very first keynote, at CSVConf in Berlin. It was a lovely, community-run conference "for data makers everywhere", and I appreciated a lot about the way it was set up.