A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a post about how civic tech tools need to be “less shiny, and more useful”. I got some good feedback about this - most people agreeing with the general premise behind it, but some people spoke out in defence of ‘shiny’:
I’ve been trying recently to think about the things I’m most interested in, and I realised that with regards to technology, there are a few terms that come to mind: civic technology, data journalism, and Information Communication Technologies for Development, or ICT4D. The more I think about the three seemingly disparate labels, the more similarities I see between them.
Put simply, I’m most interested in the use of technology to improve people’s lives.
This week, I had the pleasure of joining a group of about 100 people working on topics around ‘following the money’ at a two day workshop in Berlin. There was a mixture of people at this workshop; technologists, activists, journalists, and funders. One of the first ‘spectogram’ questions that was asked was regarding ‘shiny tech tools, and whether they are useful or not.
I found this statement, and the reactions that followed, particularly interesting - for the last year, I’ve been looking closely at how data is put online by international development organisations - normally, through “shiny” data portals, which seem to be used very rarely. The statement, and the rest of the workshop, got me thinking about what we makes an effective and useful technology tool.
The last few weeks have seen growing protests “against Islam” across Germany, which made me feel surprisingly uncomfortable here in Berlin - until I saw how willing and supportive Berliners were against such discriminatory, fascist behaviour.
There are so many talks up online from the Chaos Communication Congress that it can be a little hard to know where to start watching. Here are some of the favourite talks that I had the pleasure of watching, and some others recommended by kind people on Twitter - in the spirit of bringing attention to the great talks held by women, I have prioritised those talks in this list. Included below the embedded videos is a list of all of the other talks that were also recommended.
My head is still spinning a little after returning from my first visit to the Chaos Communication Congress, aka 31C3, with the assigned motto ‘A New Dawn.’ It was four days long, with upwards of 12,000 people, organised by Europe’s largest association of hackers, the Chaos Computer Club who, for more than 30 years, have been - in their words - providing information on:
technical and societal issues, such as surveillance, privacy, freedom of information, hacktivism, data security and many other interesting things around technology and hacking issues.
It wasn’t anything like an event I’d ever been to before, for many reasons. I felt a little like Alice in Wonderland having fallen way, way down the rabbit hole; there were things I didn’t realise were possible, and things that I didn’t understand all around me. The Congress Centre in Hamburg was transformed from a standard conference centre into a thing of beauty; volunteers running the Congress had spent days (weeks?) there building, decorating, and illuminating the entirety of the place.
Full list of books I read at the bottom of this post!
I just reached my 2014 reading challenge target of 50 books this year, all by women! I’m so glad I did it, for a number of reasons. I wrote about some of these when I was halfway through the ReadWomen2014 challenge. As well as reading more this year than I’ve done in a really long time, this year has also been the first year that I’ve written so regularly, and I can’t help but connect the two; maybe putting so many new ideas and perspectives in my head had to result in a bigger “output”, too.
Looking back on the list of books I read revealed a few surprises to me, such as that the majority of authors I read are from the US. I had an inkling that this was happening about halfway through the year, so I tried to avoid books from North American authors in an effort to widen my perspective - but it proved more difficult than I had thought! I found that lots of writers were African-American, living in the US, when I had thought that they wouldn’t be related to the US in any way from a quick scan over their initial biography and writing topic.
Part two of a few of my favourite things from 2014, (see here for Part 1); this time Feminism, Diversity + Inclusivity, Bangladesh, and All-women lists.
Here are a few bits and pieces that I discovered this year and enjoyed especially. In Part 1: Artivism, Coding, Data Visualisation, Language, Journalism, Technology and Women in Tech.
All year, I’ve been keeping a custom Twitter timeline of cool acts of feminism that are happening in the ‘majority world’ - ie. low-income countries. I wrote about why I’ve been doing that here earlier in the year.