The 2018 g0v Summit concluded on Saturday afternoon after three days of workshops, unconference discussions, panel discussions, and lightning talks. It was an incredibly inspiring conference that brought together people from around the world looking to use tech and innovation to improve the lives of everyone.
While many of the talks were inspiring, one lightning talk speaker struck me in a way that I wasn’t expecting. After chatting about the power of the #metoo movement, and subsequently running out of the allotted five minutes to present their talk, the speaker from China was asked if they could sum up what they had left to say in one sentence. Without skipping a beat they replied:
Use your freedom to fight for our freedom.
It was intense and powerful and moving, and it definitely struck a chord with the audience who cheered their approval.
Beyond this talk, the entire conference has been on my mind since it finished.
Part of this has to do with the incredibly positive response Nic and I received for our workshop on community-engaged computer science (slides posted below). While our workshop was presented during the very first time slot of the very first day, we had people approaching us for the duration of the conference to say how much they wished they had community-engaged courses when they were in school, or how they felt that more students (not just computer science students) should experience community-engaged learning, or how they thought it was simply a lot of fun and a great way to kick off their conference experience. Whatever their reason for approaching us, both of us were blown away by the response, and really so thankful to have had the opportunity to take part.
Of course, the conference has also been on my mind because of the things I learned and because of the things that the speakers led me to question about my own understanding of technology, social justice, and the very real and pressing need to decolonize the internet.
The keynote presentation by Anasuya Sengupta, co-founder of WhoseKnowledge.org, really struck a chord when she highlighted the inequities not just related to internet accessibility, but also to content production, and how this impacts whose knowledge is available at the click of a mouse. The vast majority of content on the internet is produced by a small minority of people who live in North America and Europe. This means that typically the voices and wisdom of women and minorities are glaringly absent.
Further, only a small percentage of the thousands of languages on Earth are represented. As Anasuya states – language is a proxy for different ways of thinking and knowing the world; in short, language is a proxy for knowledge. If we aren’t working to bring the many voices and languages forward, this self proclaimed open tool of modern society known as the internet isn’t really open.
Since then, Nic and I have had numerous conversations borne of the various presentations and discussions we had at the conference: about ethics, diversity, inclusion, and decolonizing the internet and software design, to name a few. I’m not sure where these are going to go, but we’re excited about the idea of beginning with some facilitated discussions with students in the School of Computer Science that brings these issues (and others) to the forefront. We also are mulling about the idea of a local conference that expands on these initial talks. Whatever happens, we have both left feeling an incredible sense of gratitude for having the opportunity to take part in this summit.
Once again – a huge thanks to the folks who organized the 2018 g0v Summit. It truly was an inspiring and moving conference, and I hope to be back whenever and wherever the next summit takes place.