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.
Over the past year or so, I’ve been trying out a couple of informal event styles to bring people together around a certain topic, and enable a deeper style of discussion than often happens at bigger conferences.
Warning: really long post. For a reading list of books, blogs and more which take a critical perspective on tech/data and are written by women, scroll to the bottom, or check out this Twitter list of the women mentioned below!
If we think long enough through the ‘theories of change’ of many of the organisations and movements I find myself around, we should eventually come to the step of making ourselves redundant. In my previous role with School of Data, we were very clear about this: we even had a workshop session once where we were tasked with drawing up our own project ‘obituary’.
The idea of playing a certain role for a certain time - that is, until others can do it better, and where at some point, that particular role will be unnecessary - appeals greatly to me. It means my job will keep changing, and I’ll have to keep learning new things. It means I’ll have to, by necessity, be flexible, and not become too attached to a function or a role. It also means that other people will step up and at some point, I’ll have to recognise that it’s time for me to step away.