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.
Tomorrow is International Women’s Day; in my mind, a day for celebrating, and thanking, inspiring women. When I think of the most inspiring women I know personally, and the most important conversations I’ve had with them, almost all of them have one slightly counterintuitive thread running through them: vulnerability and weakness.
In lots of ways, this is actually the opposite of what many social networks and platforms are trying to do, and this worries me greatly. “You might also like…”, or “Recommended for you” features point us towards things that we’ll like because they are similar to us, rather than things that will make us think.
Unusually for me, I’ve just spent the last two weeks pretty much solidly in the company of people who I’m working closely with; first at the Global Voices Exchange workshop last week, then at the engine room organisation retreat, which brought together our distributed team in one place. Both weeks further reinforced for me the importance of in-person meetings for those of us who interact primarily in the digital space, for a number of reasons, and together have changed the way that I’ll collaborate online in the future.
The more I spend time working with data, the more I’m becoming convinced that the most important tool we have in our advocacy or social change toolbelts, is storytelling. Why? There are countless examples of when “data” has proved a certain thing without a shadow of a doubt - but people’s behaviour has not changed as a consequence. What’s often missing there, is compelling storytelling. “Data” on its own, doesn’t change a thing - not to mention its subjectivity, despite being perceived as “truth”, way too often.
On Friday, a bunch of smart organisations (including the engine room, where I’m spending a lot of time these days) brought together 35 artists, researchers, academics, activists, journalists and more, to talk about Responsible Data Visualisation.
The day’s conversations and brainstorming turned out to be incredibly rich and varied. There will be more write ups and documentation coming soon, but before I forget, below are just some of the themes that got me thinking:
At the end of 2013, I came across a lot of ‘feminist round ups’ of the year that covered only achievements happening in the US and Europe. This frustrated me. So, in 2014, I started collecting tweets that I came across which linked to cool examples of fierce feminists from the majority world - and at the end of the year, I wrote this post - 24 fierce acts of feminism you probably didn’t hear about in 2014.
Last year, I was slightly less attentive to curating my Majority World feminism timeline, but I still managed to get some good ones. So, a little late, but here are my favourite examples of majority world feminism, from 2015.
Tweet with #mwfem if you come across more!
Here are a few of the best talks I had the chance to see, and those that were recommended to me - mostly along the lines of technology and its use among under-represented communities.
In 2014, I followed the #readwomen movement very strictly, and prioritised reading 50 books by women. In 2015, I loosened slightly my resolve of reading only women to reading mostly women, and I set myself the target of reading 25 books. I did that for a number of reasons; it meant I took my time over books more, and I wasn’t so bothered about reaching the target, though it turned out I did quite comfortably, as I read 37 books in the end.
I carried on trying to focus my reading habits around areas I was travelling to, and I also read a lot more non-fiction than in previous years, which I thoroughly enjoyed. I discovered a new sub-genre of books, too: microhistories, the “intensive historical investigation of a well defined smaller unit of research”, as Goodreads puts it. This year, issues around accessibility annoyed me more than in other years - I was trying to do a lot of reading as research for my podcast, but came up against paywalls a lot, unfortunately.