Dune Scholar

Notes from National Digital Forum (NDF) Conference 2019

National Digital Forum (NDF) Conference 2019
November 19-20, 2019
Te Papa Tongarewa (Wellington, New Zealand)

The 2019 NDF conference was another two days full of ideas, inspiration, challenges, and network building. The four keynote presentations were stellar as usual and provided a lot of things to think about, ranging from creating new and beautiful data visualizations, facilitating more diverse perspectives on Wikipedia, cracking the patriarchy by getting men to work with others who don’t look and sound like them on media projects, and empowering people with data about the health of their homes to prevent illness and death. The other sessions offered useful information and ideas for how to educate and engage audiences in the Galleries, Libraries, Archives, and Museums (GLAM) sector. The conference hashtag was #NDFNZ and videos of the sessions are available on NDF’s YouTube channel.

Day 1 – November 19, 2019

Keynote: We Are Here – Chris McDowall and Tim Denee (away)

We Are Here book

We Are Here

The conference began with a keynote by Chris McDowall, co-author of We Are Here, an amazing book of data visualizations using New Zealand data. He completed his PhD on data structure and calls himself a geographer to make it easier to describe to people what he does, and he said he wanted to show us what goes on in his head as a geographer in mediating between technology and observation. In showing the audience some maps, he acknowledged that there are problems with maps, such as that they enable states and corporations to exert power at a distance. Yet there is good in these technologies and some things that can only be said through maps. He showed some examples from a predecessor book, Contemporary Atlas New Zealand: The Shapes of Our Nation by Russell Kirkpatrick, that shows the activities of three women; the one on the left is someone who gets out and moves around town a lot, while the one on the right is a widow who is largely homebound. This is a way of visualizing data that can lead to other analysis and thought about what is occurring in society.


Contemporary Atlas New Zealand: The Shapes of Our Nation

three city women infographic

Three City Women visualization from Contemporary Atlas New Zealand: The Shapes of Our Nation by Russell Kirkpatrick

He showed the visualization of New Zealand music like a river that was very cool. He used Discogs API and built a spider program, and also relied on AudioCulture (“The noisy library of NZ music”) for information. He and Gareth Shute, a music historian, spent many hours reading all the musician biographies on Audioculture, on Wikipedia, on their own websites, and then putting dates and key info in a spreadsheet.

There were various interstitial essays in his book, and he encouraged writers to set their own tone; interestingly, about half looked at drafts of content beforehand but the other half didn’t and had to write just based on conversation about the content in general. At the last minute, a friend told them they should go with a matte page rather than glossy, because too much reflective light would exhaust the reader, and he is glad they went with matte for the book in the end. In terms of gathering feedback throughout the book-making, he discovered that he would receive less and feedback because people were busy, so he worked in isolation for too long before realizing that he needed feedback from people. So he changed his strategy and invited people over for a drink to get feedback without any other commitment needed and found this worked better than relying on emails.

He discussed the debate between having place names on maps or removing them. Getting rid of place names can allow the reader to see coastlines and discover mountains, etc. for themselves and let maps stand more as artistic on their own, so they are not always needed or wanted. What he wanted overall was for maps to be for everyone, so they couldn’t require him to be there to explain them. There’s an emotional dimension to trying to understand something that is opaque or hard, and he said he sometimes forgets how non-cartographers can find a map is ‘not for them’ and turn the page. He didn’t want that to be readers’ experience with this book. Along with that thinking, sometimes putting in something that’s obvious is important, and he gave the example of the icons/silhouettes of birds in one section. They let readers jump into each map without having to decode and avoid the need for legends, which are good for reference maps but not for visualizations like in his book.

secret lives of cats infographic

Secret Lives of Cats visualization from We Are Here

He talked about trying to find the balance in political issues and that putting the pages next to each other on birdlife and then predators like stoats and cats was one of the few minor editorializing instances. The page turning effect doesn’t seem to be able to be replicated in digital, but in print, the reader can proceed from a page on birds to one on rats and then one on the Secret Lives of Cats, which shows where a group of cats in Wellington travelled through tracking devices, and this can create different emotions in the reader as they see the relationship between bird populations, for example, and the number of other animals. He said some people are delighted by the page on the Secret Lives of Cats, and think thought like oh, where’s my cat, but others are disturbed.

He wants the book to be a point of conversation and dialogue and for lots of people to read it.

tools used in We Are Here

Tools used in making We Are Here book

There was another point about with data, not losing the trees for the forest sometimes. His example was when looking at data in Digital NZ API and finding a photo with the tags ‘Maori’, ‘horse’, ‘woman’, trying to visualize that didn’t do the photo or the data justice. Sometimes we need to see the photo for what’s important. They were able to make the book with data that was all open except for two datasets, and they used all open source software except Adobe Illustrator. They released the programming code on Github.

A Pacific Virtual Museum: Connecting device and dispersed people with taonga – Mark Crookston

Crookston discussed the Pacific Virtual Museum multi-year pilot project that is starting now and attempting to make connections via a virtual museum (see also the Pacific Libraries Network). An interesting and relevant fact is that although there are 8% Pacific people in New Zealand, they make up 36% of youth.

Keeping time: Digital dance archive adventures in North America – Rebecca Galloway

Galloway discussed her experience being at the Jacob’s Pillow dance festival in Massachusetts for nine months about a decade ago. In looking to create a website to showcase dance, Director of Preservation Norton Owen thought people would rather see a hint of something that intrigues them than whole videos, so this informed the development of the project. They wanted to consider the joy of use (a la Marie Kondo), not just ease of use. The site can be considered to fall into edutainment and is a type of online museum for the dance world. It has been called “irresistible” by the Washington Post. She liked the quote from an unknown source about how the digital world has thrust us into a world of perpetual migration. Something interesting about user design was that in Canada, everyone knows a French version of something will be 25% longer than English, so UX people know to consider this. This kind of design knowledge needs to be transferred to a NZ context.

Regional ambassador showcase – Jennifer Taylor Moore and Tim Jones

They noted some of the highlights, issues, and questions raised at the NDF regional forums, including things like the issue of a lack of IT support or infrastructure at smaller sites. Questions to consider going forward include: Is NDF a training provider? Could it be? Should it be? What would a business model look like? Are there training needs that are the same over time? Do people get unconferenced out? Is networking valuable in itself?

John Mawurndjul – Jean-Pierre Chabrol and Jazz Money

Chabrol and Money are from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney and discussed the John Mawurndjul exhibit “I am the old and the new”, which came from a quote from the artist himself. There are over 250 independent Aboriginal groups and Torres Strait Islanders in Australia and 600 dialects, so it is not like New Zealand in terms of the ability to have things be bilingual in a straightforward way. There was a challenge in working with a contemporary artist who is internationally known and had two shows in Europe but is not a known name in Australia. The exhibit was bilingual, which was big for Australia, and the linguistic area is one of most linguistically complex places on Earth. They did their best to provide a type of ‘indigenous level of safety’ for the artist by doing specific things like recording him in his language and ensuring that all of the digital resources belong to him and his community. In addition, everything was directed by the artist, which sadly is not common for indigenous artists in Australia.

Bringing archives alive: Using tech to tell the stories of the past – Alison Breese

Breese is an archivist at the Dunedin City Council and recently finished a postgraduate degree on public toilets in Dunedin that has received press coverage (Otago Daily Times article; Stuff article). She wanted to use VR to make a tour of underground toilets, but this process was cumbersome and only one person could do it at a time. 3rd-year IT students from Otago Polytechnic were enlisted to create an app to do a similar thing, and photogrammetry (stitching images together) was used to stitch hundreds of images together to create a virtual model of the space.

Raranga Matihiko – Weaving digital futures – Tara Fagan

This programme at Te Papa with other partners aimed to create an “education innovation” learning environment targeted at youth who don’t go to traditional GLAM sites like a museum. It wasn’t about turning them into coders but showing them how to use tech for meaningful things. There were 16 hours of contact between students and facilitators, and the programme connected young people with museums in a way that they could combine social experiences and technology. Some hadn’t ever been into Wellington city, even if they lived a short distance away, or hadn’t ridden an elevator so found the experience completely novel. There was a principle of ako underpinning it: everyone is a teacher and a learner. The students gained digital citizen and fluency skills as well as learning about digital museums and access (e.g. copyright issues). They also weren’t forced to use tech all the time; they could choose to use pen and paper or different types of tech. Students learned about possible career paths in cultural heritage (“Do you mean I could work here and care for our taonga?” “Yes!”), and everything was open source so students could use elsewhere if they had internet access. It strengthened students’ self-esteem (having the two facilitators helped) and another good result was that students were returning to the museum with their family on the weekends. Fagan showed a video of the virtual whare with a voice-over by Year 9 students, who used Tilt Brush by Google and Kapwing.

CSI: Pukekawa – Digital and natural experiences in the Auckland Domain – Ruby Moore and Tom Rowlands

Moore is Land Fauna Collections Manager at Auckland Museum, and Rowlands is Learning Specialist there. They mentioned projects like Bioblitz, a 24-hour survey of biodiversity that is a big public engagement event; bird studies that have found more tui in the city; and iNaturalist – Auckland Domain Project that is online citizen science that is open and available to anyone with a device. The latter creates another connection between museum staff and the public and teaches people to record important collection information. There is a remnant patch of forest in the Auckland Domain, next to the Auckland Museum, and this was used for the CSI: Pukekawa education programme (CSI standing for Citizen Science Investigations). It enables student agency and has students doing science and engaging with scientists, it complements the new digital curriculum, and it shows the potential for collaboration between nature and digital rather than competition between them. They teach students to be digitally responsible when uploading content to the iNaturalist site, and that people from all over the world can see their photo uploads (e.g. please don’t post a photo of a taxidermied penguin or Kit Harrington from Game of Thrones). An interesting observation from Moore was that her expertise was considered more legitimate by one student after it went online. She explained, “I became more real when I went through a digital medium” and that one student was only half listening to her explanation about a specimen until she uploaded it online and once he saw it there, he lit up and said “Oh, it’s a such-and-such”.

Museum in a box: Curiosity machines – Mandy Herrick and Tom Rowlands

They took as their challenge: how to marry 3-D objects from museums to a story or stories, and their question: how can we blow the minds of these young children? They used three components: NFC stickers, an NFC reader, and a Raspberry Pi computer. NFC uses the same technology as Snapper or transport cards and is increasingly being used in the museum environment (see The Wonderland coming to Te Papa). They interviewed youth to find out what they already know about the collection, and they thought there were 50 to 201 objects in safekeeping (when actually there are 1.5 million natural history objects and 200,000 human history artifacts, i.e. a lot more!). They decided to use the Museum in a Box created by a London-based company that was piloting them with 40 GLAM institutions around the world. This offers a layered self-guided participatory experience, akin to a micro museum. One significant question was: who would be the narrator/voice for the box? Another project in Capetown used Zulu elders to narrate.

One teacher interviewed liked that students had to use a different sense (auditory), had to listen to find out more. She suggested having an object that relates to students’ culture and country that could be really special, which sounded like an advanced version of the classic ‘show and tell’ activity. This project provided more reach than a traditional museum exhibition. Students loved the tech and hearing from experts, and bringing many voices into classroom could reduce the boredom with having just one teacher’s voice all the time. They suggested it can help to prime students beforehand but this is not essential; in a funny case, one teacher just left the box in classroom for a week and an ambitious and curious student emailed the email address on Rowlands’ business card on the box with lots of questions about what the box was, signalling that this was indeed a curiosity machine for youth.

Where are all the spotted shags? – Guy Annan

This project was about the creation of 3D printed spotted shags and fake poo that were put out in the wild to try to encourage birds to create a colony (RNZ article).

So…what’s the easiest way to process these 352 CD-ROMs? – Flora Feltham

This project was part of an R&D idea to compare two different machines that purported to be able to process CDs faster and more efficiently than human workers could (since this is quite manually intensive normally). It raised the question going forward: how are we going to change archival processes to deal with digital material? In the end, it was determined that the Acronova Nimbie USB Plus worked better than other machine though wasn’t perfect.

Bots I have met – Paul Rowe

bot limitations

Possible bot limitations (remembering science fiction)

The simple yet clever title of Rowe’s presentation foreshadowed a quick preview of bots being used in today’s world and the overriding notion that the more accessible and open content is, the more likely it is to be seen. Rowe first made a paper-based analogy, saying that the first ‘bot’ he encountered was actually a choose-your-own-adventure book that takes you to different places based on your choices. Auckland Art Gallery’s chat bot provides users with things like opening hours, what’s on, and access to the online collection if you ask it something like “send me cake”. It was built using the Facebook Messenger app. There are Twitter bots that can share content from a collection, like tweeting artworks several times a day. The Smithsonian’s humanoid robot, Pepper, is a possible worry in that we’re getting closer to uncanny valley. There are out of the box solutions like Chatfuel and Botsify.

The exhibition closes but the digital offspring lives on – Rachel Bush

Bush discussed how reusing exhibitions helps make the large costs for them more worth it. For example, the butterfly exhibit has been reused elsewhere. She said we need to think of new ways to reach audiences and keep exhibitions alive.

What were you using NZ Museums for today? Digging into user survey results – Emma Philpott

A Hotjar pop-up box on NZmuseums asks users “What were you using NZ Museums for today?” and has gathered 1,600 responses so far. They also have information from Google Analytics, but this wasn’t telling them what people were really doing on the site. They have fortunately received few negative responses (‘none of your business’), but some people have used the box to ask questions but haven’t provided contact details so there’s no way to actually respond to them. She encouraged the audience to ask visitors what they’re doing on your website if you’re not already.

The National Library and digital storage – Cynthia Wu

Wu discussed a new storage platform and two data centres in Wellington and Auckland that now provide geographic redundancy.

Creative Commons copyright licensing explained – Victoria Leachman (away) presented by Catriona McPherson

This presentation provided a helpful overview of Creative Commons licenses, which are kind of like a pre-approval. The analogy of a buss pass was used: just as you don’t travel on a bus without your pass, licenses need to travel with the work they belong to. This can take the form of a credit line, icons, or a list at the end of a presentation. The CC0 one means the author is waiving all rights now and in the future, making it for public domain. Note that you can’t put licenses on a public domain work, which some GLAM places are doing. Also, just because you own the physical work, doesn’t mean you own the copyright.

Possible futures from the present margins: Decolonizing knowledge, decolonizing the internet – Adele Vrana and Anasuya Sengupta

statistics on Wikipedia

Statistics on Wikipedia

This keynote by Vrana and Sengupta from Whose Knowledge? really needs to be seen and heard to be fully appreciated, as they wove facts and stories and struggles and highlights to provide a sobering look at the need to decolonize knowledge and the internet, with a focus on Wikipedia. Originally from Brazil and India, they now live in the US and UK and soon discovered what it was like to be present in a room and yet completely invisible. They are now putting technology into feminist organizing and feminist organizing into technology. They had some audience participation, asking us to chat with a neighbor about what we thought of when we saw these words:

  • Printing press
  • University
  • California Gold Rush

As expected, they said what many people think of is just one perspective or even not accurate. The printing press had origins in China, Japan, and Korea; the first university was founded in Morocco in 859 CE by Fatima al-Fihri; and the California Gold Rush involved the systemic genocide of Native Americans. But in the Wikipedia article for the gold rush, for example, there is a white settler perspective that barely mentions Native Americans.

Geographic unevenness on Wikipedia

The Geographically Uneven Coverage of Wikipedia

They gave a disclaimer saying they know there are Wikipedians who are passionate about the potentialities of the site, but that we need to consider whose knowledge does this site hold? It is default, go-to place for information, including things related to cultural heritage, but it prioritizes only certain knowledge. Only a fraction of human knowledge is represented in books; most is embodied, experiential, oral, auditory, etc. They asked, what might oral knowledge mean for Wikipedia? Connecting with McDowall’s earlier caveat about the problematic nature of maps, they talked about how maps are arguments.

types of knowledge

Different Types of Knowledge

They discussed the difference between embodied (tacit) knowledge and disembodied (formal) knowledge; when you make embodied knowledge visible/recorded, it becomes disembodied and formal, e.g. a dancer performing on stage versus being recorded or interviewed talking about their performance. The information on Wikipedia is amplified by Google, as are the gaps and silences, and we are still living in the shadow of the Enlightenment.

Decolonizing Methodologies book

Decolonizing Methodologies

They drew on ideas from Decolonizing Methodologies by Linda Tuhiwai Smith, who says that colonizers are okay with taking knowledge from the colonized but then reject the people who created it. They asked, what might a decolonized internet look like? The conversation is very different with women and people of color in the room than it is when there is a mainly white, mainly male, Silicon Valley crowd. Settler colonialism continues online. They said to look out for the State of the Internet’s Languages Report coming out next year and check out the feminist organization, the Association for Progressive Communications.

In looking at education, they said that instead of their students writing papers, they like to do something that goes in online space, but they are warned that they have to be careful as marginalized people not to marginalize others.

They mentioned radical non-institutional GLAM sites like the People’s Archive of Rural India. They recognize deep knowledges have been brutally extracted and abused so respect the rights for people to hold knowledge and choose to become open. They said they ask these questions as we dream of possible futures from the margins and beyond:

  • How have I benefited from colonization, racims, or the comfort of the status quo?
  • What from my own past do I choose to carry forward, and what should I let die?
  • Whose knowledge is still missing, and how can I support and honor the people who best hold these knowledges?
questions to ask of ourselves

Questions to ask as we dream together of possible futures from the margins

There is talk of the digital divide, but offline and online are not a binary but a continuum. Often being online is seen as a binary – you are or you aren’t, but for many in the world the internet is not Firefox or Chrome, it is a smartphone, Facebook, or messaging apps (e.g. Malaysia has the most messaging apps in the world). Many of the elders feel inadequate with digital technology, while young people are comfortably online.

They said discomfort has to be a second skin. If we are the designers of these technologies, we don’t have to trust others; we need to be at the table and behind the computer, coding and creating. It’s time to stop being the end user and be the producer. Yet in the case of Wikipedia, you need access to resources and a computer and leisure to be a Wikipedian, and who gets leisure? Another issue is that you need skills of argumentation if you get reverted or challenged, and not everyone has these or is able to use them on the site. They advised finding a Wikipedian to have in your pocket if you don’t like arguing but have expertise. There are more articles on Wikipedia on Antarctica than on Africa, and one of their articles was speedy-deleted five minutes after creation despite having 11 references, showing the kind of obstacles that one can face.

They addressed that we live in a world where we’re complicit with capitalism; they said that they’re on Facebook because that’s where their communities are, and Facebook’s language rendering is really good. The difference between tech capitalism and regular financial capitalism seems to be that with tech capitalism, there is a God complex, unlike with financial capitalism, which is focused on profit. Mark Zuckerberg thinks he’s making the world a better place through Facebook.

They said that they speak about Wikipedia with tough love is because if you want to have your small community known about, you have to get it up on Wikipedia. Otherwise, someone would have to visit you to learn about it, which isn’t practical.

They closed the Q&A time by saying that they’d be up for an impromptu edit-a-thon, which was then scheduled to take place the following day during lunchtime for those who were interested.


Day 2 – November 20, 2019

Keynote: Making sense of the unfathomable: Digital Humanities for desperate times – Deb Verhoeven

Verhoeven’s keynote continued the themes of feminist and decolonization criticism of the previous day, taking it to technological infrastructure and the film industry that she studies. Some challenging concepts include: How do we get ourselves out of our heads? How do we make connections based on ideas of people we don’t already know or who aren’t mirrors of ourselves? She discussed how we are living in a world of devastating and widening division; we are living in a closing-down world (examples include: build a wall and incarcerate people on islands, including children). To address this, we need to foster inclusion and connectivity. And these issues impact how we handle data and infrastructure. All infrastructure enables connections—that’s what it does—but it is largely built for us by engineers.

She linked the discussion on infrastructure to the 16th century discovery and navigation era by the Dutch, among others, and the terms and metaphors that we still use that come from imperialism times. The questions they would ask that we can also ask regarding our infrastructure are:

  1. Where am I now?
  2. Where am I going? (in the example of a link, you don’t really know where it is taking you when you click on it)
  3. What is my speed?
  4. What is my depth? What lies beneath my feet? (fathom) (this is not being done very well with digital infrastructure)
Advancing Digital Humanities: Research, Methods, Theory

Advancing Digital Humanities: Research, Methods, Theory

She mentioned the Advancing Digital Humanities: Research, Methods, Theory book and that we want to see traditional values of humanities flow through the Digital Humanities. She spoke of her work with Huni (Humanities Networked Infrastructure) and how the needs of humanities scholars differ from what is traditionally possible in digital infrastructure. For example, one can’t resist or contest in most digital infrastructures; also, the ability to say NOT (this is not related to this other thing) is incredibly valuable to humanities researchers.

She then discussed her work on the Kinomatics Project, which collects and analyzes data on the creative industries. In regards to Big Data, which is often thrown around, she said if your data hasn’t caused you to have an existential crisis, it’s probably not Big Data; if it hasn’t caused you to rethink how you see things, it’s probably not Big Data. For her, Big Data has been a revelation.

Next, she showed an (unfinished) painting by Turner of a shipwreck of female convicts and children who drowned on the way to Australia (A Disaster at Sea c. 1835); Turner is asking us – Are we just spectators? Do we turn away from it or just theorize it? She discussed the plimsoll line, the loading limit line for ships, as a very creative metaphor and asked: Does patriarchy have a plimsoll line? How do we sink the S.S. Patriarchy?

all male research team error

Possible error for those putting together all male research teams

She showed the data on women in the film industry in Australia and said in 30 years the data had gotten worse, and that continuing to show women this data may keep them from believing they can ever be a part of the media industry. She showed network graphs and explained how the problem is that there are so many men who don’t/won’t work with women. When she asked what if we stopped funding these men who don’t work with women, the audience clapped. She said we might think that patriarchy looks like male political leaders like presidents and prime ministers, but it actually looks like a network of men who only work with other men. This visualization is a way of seeing the contours of injustice in a new and different way. Then she brought in some stats on how many Davids/Daves there are in comparison to the number of women and humorously said that we don’t have a ‘diversity’ problem, we have a ‘Daversity’ problem. Then everyone was asked to sing along to the chorus of the song “The Daves I Know”.

the names of people receiving funding

The names of people receiving funding

Even if all of the ‘gender offenders’ were taken out of the network, it wouldn’t solve the issue; one would have to take all men out for it to work. This means the only solution is for people in power to collaborate with people who don’t look or sound like them, and their team has modelled it in the Workplace Inclusion Diversity and Gender Equity Tool (WIDGET).

Keynote: Why ‘why’ matters – Hīria Te Rangi

Hīria Te Rangi gave a stunning keynote on her story and her work with Whare Haurora, which develops sensors for homes to tell family members if their home is making them sick. For example, she said the sensor in the home with elderly people would be registering 9 to 13 degrees when it was almost the same outside, meaning that the house was only adding about 3 degrees of warmth, and the WHO recommendations for kaumatua or an elderly person is 21 degrees. She said we are a developed nation, yet pneumonia/respiratory illnesses are taking out people before it should be their time. A free insulation project was cancelled by the last government, even though it was successful. 60% humidity is a problem, and living in cold, damp housing is linked with anxiety and depression.

Hīria Te Rangi speaking on New Zealand housing problems

Hīria Te Rangi speaking on New Zealand housing problems

She explained how Whare Haurora was created by a bunch of nerdy ladies, who started with a prototype sensor that cost $30 and assembled the parts on kitchen tables. She eventually went to China to get manufacturing sorted. The idea is that their kits can be moved to another home once it is insulated. Every 10 minutes data is sent from the sensors in the home, and they wanted to make it accessible via PWA (Progressive Web App) offline since not all families have enough data to be constantly connected. One issue is that just showing people a jumble of numbers doesn’t work since it doesn’t mean anything to them; you have to tell people what it means for them and their health in an accessible way. You also have to explain how the device works and show them to alleviate concerns. The organization ensures that the whanau owns all the data and it just provides the service. This aspect is an example of the need for indigenous organizations like hers, to get things done with values intact, especially if the government isn’t doing it. The data at the aggregate level can be used for nationwide benchmarking and to predict respiratory disease, but they are careful as to how data is used and have their own ethics committee toward this end. Her determination to do something about a pressing societal issue was very inspiring and illustrated how technology can be used in a very practical way to empower communities without compromising values.

A regional approach to collections: ‘It’s all about the baking’ – David Luoni, Rosemary Jackson-Hunter, Tiffany Jenks

Project Ark in Southland was discussed as an example of how they helped put objects from a dozen of the museums in the region online and guided volunteers to be a part of the process in a meaningful way. One example was Mataura Museum, a small, 50 square-metre museum run by a group of women they affectionately called the grandmothers. They wanted to provide support for aging, volunteer-led teams and those who aren’t ‘digital natives’, and they know that just coming in for a week or providing a user guide is often not enough. This pilot is being helped by the fact that there is a regional heritage rate in Southland ($35 + GST a year) that can fund projects like these. Each organization picked 50 objects to share online via eHive, which made it equal for everyone. When provenance and record-keeping were patchy for an object, this project helped rectify that and show what was in a museum’s collection. They described helping volunteers by starting with tiny baby steps and were happy to find that within a fortnight, people were feeling more confident and had the hang of it and were even teaching others. They believe part of the success was that they were providing real work for people (perhaps versus straight training), the result is that the new standards are now the new way moving forward.

Table top seduction? How a small local library sought to implement an expensive digital tool, and not stuff it up – Reid Perkins and Wendy Horne

Perkins and Horne from Upper Hutt City Libraries used a romance analogy to discuss issues surrounding the decision to get a ‘fancy’ table top digital display to show off their collection. They had set up Recollect, an interactive database, years ago, but acknowledged that digitization has limitations and doesn’t reach all audiences. Other attempts to engage a broader range of people included pop-up museums (e.g. “Upper Hutt in the 1960s”) where images were printed out and put up on walls for people to view. They tried to create feedback loops between digital and analogue. They found that cautionary romance tales are a good metaphor for seduction by new shiny digital technology – you have to ask yourself similar questions such as Are we a good fit? Can I give it the attention it needs? They didn’t want the table top display to just be another iteration of Recollect content or a glorified iPad; they wanted special curated content. They find that the closeness to community is a big advantage of smaller, less-resourced sites like theirs. Unfortunately, due to production delays and some miscommunication, they had only just received the table top display so weren’t able to discuss it up and running. Some lessons learned in this process were that they would have preferred the company making it give them more hand holding and digital templates, especially since they’re librarians and archivists and don’t buy large tech frequently so it’s unfamiliar territory. They also see a need for better project management going forward.

The making of Te Taiao Nature digital labels – Amos Mann et al

This presentation was a behind-the-scenes look at many of the pieces that went into creating the digital labels for the Te Taiao Nature exhibit at Te Papa, which features nine digital label kiosks with over 200 specimen labels and is expected to have at last a 10-year lifespan. At its heart, the digital labels were designed to answer that primary visitor question: What is that? And why is it on display? There was lots of prototyping and testing, and different team members spoke about the areas they were responsible for. For UX, they wondered how they might make it effortless for visitors to view content they don’t know exists but would enjoy (e.g. a kiwi hatching from an egg). They took cues from social media and prioritized scrolling (continuation) over clicks (decision needed). They also chose to auto-load videos so people can stop if they want but don’t have to keep clicking to play. For special design, they had to consider the positioning of the kiosks to be far enough away from the cases for people to be able to take them all in, and also leave a path for people to look at the objects from next to the case. For the video and photography, they used 5,300 pixels wide, high-resolution images that have lots of detail, meaning that you can actually see more detail on the kiosk than in real life because of the ability to zoom in close. For the writing, they found coming up with 60 words and a  limited amount of media a challenge, and they didn’t shy away from stories that were sad. Every label is bilingual; it is not a straight translation but tells the story from a Māori point of view. They positioned what they thought was the most important information at the top, with videos and sounds as you scroll and a map at bottom. The maps are not as popular but some still really like to see them for context. The team used Google Sheets to coordinate and also set up notifications for cells (e.g. the photography team would receive an email when something was ready for imaging). They now have live digital analytics from labels coming from the floor and can analyze what people are clicking on and how long they’re spending on each item.

Invisible Islands: Locative media and its implications for GLAM projects – Sébastien Pierre

Spook Country book

Spook Country

Pierre opened by mentioning Pokemon Go and the phenomenon of mobs of people forming organically at street corners, trying to catch Pikachu and other digitally-created creatures. He finds inspiration in Blast Theory, “A Machine to See With” and William Gibson’s book Spook Country, which has locative art (renditions of fictional and past events only available at certain places with the right hardware).

Use of a definition from Wikipedia was justified by saying that Wikipedia is good for normative definitions. He discussed two iterations of the Invisible Islands project. The first was in Aarhus, Denmark, in 2014. The idea was to have ‘islands’ disconnected from internet across the city that people could access through QR codes in public spaces to act as entry points into digital, offline content. This meant there was no Google search engine to use – people had to use their eyes to find the QR codes. This has potential to be replicated elsewhere, such as putting QR codes on street art so people could see information like they would in an exhibit, or be directed away from one site to a different, interesting location. The second iteration was Les ȋles invisibles in Montreal in 2015. He moved away from the QR codes since they felt awkward to interact with. Seeing how there were layers of information in the city that already existed (e.g. construction lines spraypainted on the ground, duct tape with numbers written on it), he decided to have wavy lines with numbers spraypainted on the ground that related to events in the past and future. The blue paint and the waviness also were intended to remind viewers of rising sea levels. He advised that when space is scarce, you can consider using public space as exhibition space. One example is the Apple [AR]T walkthrough. He mentioned two recent articles of interest: “The Future of VR? Site-specific Art Installations” by Seth Porges, which discusses how technology like this could help reduce loneliness by bringing people out, and “From monologue to dialogue: Towards playable cities” by Dr. Steven Conway.

VR Ye ha! – Scott J. Burgess and Angela Jowitt

Burgess and Jowitt shared some of their journey with VR over the past year at the Puke Ariki Library.  There was an overview of VR tech: Oculus Go and Quest are stand-alone headsets, platforms include Oculus, Steam VR, and Viveport Infinity. The latter has an annual subscription to 700+ titles model that they opted to go with. For Tech Week 2019, they chose three VR experiences to showcase (Dreams of Dali, Singularity, and the Blu). They needed to have ones that were largely intuitive because people would just be coming in and out and so there needed to be a low learning curve. They surveyed people who participated, and there were 102 respondents with demographics: 52% male, 48% female; 40% in age range 15 and under and a good percentage of people in the 25-54 age bracket; 42% had used VR before and 58% hadn’t. Most chose the Blu, but many were able to do the other ones if there were enough time. People said they liked the immersion and interactivity and escapism (VR gives a safe way to make mistakes).

VR experience reactions

Survey responses about VR experience

They mentioned other benefits to using VR. There is the 3D Organon VR Anatomy and Medical Realities Platform that is being used in medical professionals’ training. There are experiences for the deaf and disabled and for migrant women. For example, Google Earth can be used by migrant women to travel back to their home town as well as show others where they came from. It can also be used to visit and scout out places before traveling. They said that content can be created in New Zealand too; New Zealand Geographic is shooting local footage in 8K that can be used for virtual experiences.

Their story of VR being used in a school and facilitating new connections between students was a positive example of the potential of VR in education. One girl who had been in the same class as another girl for a year but never talked to her was suddenly talking to her and laughing with her as they journeyed in the virtual world. In this case, the digital was actually a portal to real-life interactions, rather than closing people off.

He Tohu VR: Taking (virtual) archives to the people – Jared Davidson and Rene Burton

The National Library New Zealand He Tohu exhibit in Wellington is a permanent exhibition with three particularly significant documents: He Whakaputanga (the Declaration of Independence), Te Tiriti o Waitangi  (the Treaty of Waitangi), and Te Petihana Whakamana Pōti Wahine (the 1893 Women’s Suffrage Petition). Since the documents were too fragile to travel, they decided to create a VR experience of the He Tohu exhibition and used the Unreal game engine (the promo video of the VR experience is available on YouTube). This format allows people to get closer to the documents than they could in real life with a glass cabinet in the way. In creating an educational experience for youth, they knew they wanted to contextualize the learning around the documents and have facilitation. A challenge in VR is that it is a very individual, one-on-one activity. The whole experience takes six minutes, which means the other students need to have things to do while taking turns with the VR. It can be very embodied, with students doing things like getting on the ground and trying to reach the top to look at various aspects of the documents.

Future GLAM Panel – Richard Foy, Honiana Love, Deb Verhoeven, Courtney Johnston, David Reeves, Mark Crookston, Migoto Eria

This panel featured people from a range of institutions and contexts. In discussing NDF as an organization and a conference, it was noted that there is a remarkable collegiality and a spirit of sharing that has stayed the same over the years. The inaugural meeting had similar themes to ones now, but that’s because systemic issues need to be worked on over a long time period. One potential issue is that there is less said about collaboration between institutions, who have more resources, than about individuals working with an institution, and it is not fair to always ask for communities to engage with the institutions. It was noted that people care about taonga, not which institution it belongs to, and what is needed is sharing of power and mana. We should be thinking about user-centered strategies and how they view things, rather than what works for the institution. Audiences are institutional omnivores, but meanwhile the government encourages rivalry between organizations via funding models. Interestingly, institutions seem to be able to collaborate on war exhibits (or other collaborations that some people may see as ‘pointless commemoration’) but not anything else! Successful collaboration is work that is better together, not just done separately.

There was discussion around issues of equity and diversity. Although commercial art galleries in Australia have almost achieved gender parity, government-funded ones have not, and the government is not being held accountable for this. Some libraries don’t use the Dewey Decimal System because local people want to find stuff in a way that works for them and their cultural understanding. It wouldn’t make sense to have Dewey’s system there. It was asked, how do we empower communities to speak for themselves and tell stories from their point of view? Even if we digitize materials, that’s still us doing things from our view. It is up to boards to be leading on these kinds of issues, but boards can be weak and represent their institutions’ interests rather than what they are supposed to represent: those of the communities they serve. Lip service isn’t good enough; every university has a mission statement with equity, but how many of them are accountable to taking real action. It was mentioned that funding may end up benefiting individuals over the greater community, meaning the impact of receiving funding is uncertain. For example, if an institution receives funding for someone to take a te reo course, that helps that person, but it doesn’t actually flow on to the community, though the hope is that it will in the long term. Regarding encouraging more Maori into the sector, it was mentioned that training models need to be changed; in one instance, getting iwi interns in has worked well because they can see what it’s like to work with the collections.

Notes from Science Fiction Research Association Conference 2019

Science Fiction Research Association Conference 2019
Chaminade University (Honolulu, Hawaii, USA)
June 21-24, 2019

The Science Fiction Research Association (SFRA)’s 2019 conference was held in the Pacific this year in an attempt to be more accessible to science fiction researchers in this area, and I think it succeeded to some extent. This was the first time I was able to attend (although the New Zealand-US exchange rate was still challenging), and there were several other students and early career researchers I met hailing from Australasia. The conference theme was “Facing the Future, Facing the Past: Colonialism, Indigeneity, and Science Fiction” with the keynote speaker being author and professor Dr. Nalo Hopkinson. The theme was interesting and challenging and presenters engaged with it in a variety of thought-provoking ways. The conference hashtag was #SFRA2019, although there was not a high Twitter engagement. The conference aimed to provide a contained space for people in the parallel sessions to test out ideas and share their research with peers; therefore, I have only mentioned the general topics that were covered and included notes on the broader workshops and panel discussions.

Sidenote: The university was situated on a hill overlooking Waikiki and Diamond Head Mountain, which made for some beautiful views.

Chaminade University 2

Chaminade University 3

Also, a local independent bookshop (da Spot) had a stall one of the evenings and I discovered some exciting finds, and I thought that some of the titles should be more well-known in New Zealand since the collections feature short stories from Aboriginal Australian and Aotearoa New Zealand Māori writers. I look forward to reading them and trying to raise their profile.

indigenous science fiction books

Day 1 – June 21

SF on the Market: Rebooted – Panel Discussion

The first day consisted of professional development sessions aimed at postgraduate students and early career researchers, with plenty of helpful tips about academia and publishing. Some helpful tips to consider if you happen to get a job offer in the elusive world of academia (but also applicable to other job opportunities as well):

  • Talk to your mentor and other people before negotiating your offer.
  • Set up a phone call and gather information but don’t accept anything until you’ve had time to think about it carefully.
  • Gather information about a variety of things related to the job: salary range, ‘start-up’ funds, book or travel funds, office space, moving expenses, whether fellowships are allowed, spousal hire, and whether previous experience will be counted or if you have to start from zero.
  • Research cost of living in the area so you know how far a salary will go in that location.
  • Research institution and find out what promotion or tenure criteria are and what union activity is there

There are other things to consider to prepare, too. Look at service opportunities on committees as a potential way of gaining experience. Remember to think beyond your specialty area since teaching more general undergraduate classes is much more common than small, upper-level courses that can be more specialized. Consider doing book reviews as a way of honing your writing skills and getting experience (also important if you want to become a freelance writer), and look at both science fiction and non-science fiction places to publish as science fiction becomes more mainstream (e.g. Strange Horizons, Locus, Los Angeles Review of Books).

Check out The Professor Is In website and/or book to be more prepared for the realities of the academic job market. Author Karen L. Kelsky, PhD, provides tips on translating teaching activities into ‘business speak’ for your CV/resume. Be aware that #altac is trendy but being an independent scholar is hard to juggle. Consider careers in publishing although these are also increasingly competitive, or grant project management. Have an active Twitter account. Look at the MLA Job List but also follow relevant hashtags for more recent job postings.

Be aware that community engagement can be seen as positive or negative depending on the institution and their focus. ‘Hot’ new things are edtech, science and technology studies, digital literacy, digital humanities, STEM-connected things, and game studies. The Society for Literature, Science and the Arts was recommended for its Configurations journal and a good conference in California.

AcaTech: Reading and Note-taking for Research – Pawel Frelik

Although the title of this professional development session sounded boring, Pawel Frelik’s overview of various digital tools and programs for organizing research and getting things done more quickly and efficiently turned out to be very useful. It also made those of us who still do things the old-school way by organizing info into folders and hoping we remember them feel like it would be worth learning something new. He helpfully created a page with all of the links for future reference (sfra2019.tumblr.com).

He discussed the overall management systems of Evernote (Windows) and Devonthink (Mac) and highly recommended the latter for those with Macs. There are case studies on its website for how to use it in academia. The benefit of these managers is that you can dump everything, all types of content, and it will be fully searchable. You can also email things into Evernote. Frelik suggested using tags instead of relying on folders.

He recommended Instapaper over Pocket for having more features. These create a virtual shelf of things to read later. They also act as an archive in case the original page disappears. Instapaper cleans up the text and backgrounds to make it clean and light.

For PDF management, he said Sonny Software’s Bookends (for Mac) is good because it can change the name of the file according to any pattern you want and can also generate bibliographies. The GoodReader PDF reader app can extract just the highlighted bits into Evernote. Highlights (Mac) is another PDF tool.

For note-taking, he recommended plaint text or markdown for notes rather than Word, Pages, or OpenOffice (in other words, avoid using proprietary software and formats that will come with extra formatting). For backing up, he recommended at least having one copy on-site and one off-site (like Dropbox). He briefly discussed the zettelkasten note-taking process developed by social scientist Niklas Luhmann (1927-1998), which uses sheets or groups of index cards and a system of numbers (like tags) to organize information. With the digital tools now available, it is possible to create a hyperlinked environment.

Other information mentioned was the word processing program designed for writers called Scrivener, that Google Docs works with Zotero now, and that searching for ‘Github for research’ shows helpful information about Github as a tool for researchers.


Day 2 – June 22

Preserving ‘Ike Hawaii’ (Hawaiian Knowledge) in New Technological and Media Formats

Koa Luke discussed and showed samples from ‘Ulu’ulu: The Henry Ku’ualoha Giugni Moving Image Archive of Hawai’i.

Bryan Kamaoli Kuwada put forth some challenges for science fiction. Kuwada said that science fiction is usually either all shiny and steel or apocalyptic and rusty, but this dichotomy is missing a connection and responsibility to the land. He asked, what if our timeframe was not on fiscal years but on the lifespan of our people, 200 years +? He showed a video from KaUmeke.org, the website for Ka ‘Umeke Kā’eo, which is a Hawaiian language immersion school and learning community. He also discussed involvement in putting on a Hawaiian carnival to encourage Hawaiian to be spoken outside the classroom. It included signage and sought to imagine a world where Hawaiian was spoken (see Kāniwala Aupuni Hawai’i). In response to Arista’s talk on the Hawaiian Language Archive, Kuwada noted that there is not a lot of pre-made Hawaiian language curriculum available, so for 30 years people have been making it themselves and others are trying to aggregate it to preserve it.

Noelani Arista’s talk was on “The Mo’olelo in the Machine: Memory Loss and Data Retrieval: Customary Knowledge and the Promise of Digital Futurity”. Arista said that Hawaiians have been using technology all along for transmission of knowledge but also for creation (from using the printing press after the arrival of the missionaries up until digital media now) and discussed the Hawaiian Language Archive. She said, we are overdetermined by images that sell Hawaii (such as the examples of what Google images show when you type ‘aloha’), and asked, how can we use video games to allow kids to connect with native culture? She referenced a co-authored essay called “Making Kin with the Machines” and said one issue is that tech literacy is often privileged over training in language and traditional things, and there are still a privileged few in control of tech.

Solomon Enos got my attention right off the bat by describing how he grew up working in the taro fields and reading Frank Herbert and about the Bene Gesserit and seeing a daughter having a daughter and 37 generations of science experiments producing what the women were searching after. He was so passionate about life and art and making the world better – it was refreshing. He said empathy is the most important tech we will ever have, that and being nice; we are the problem and the solution; and the attitude of no-can is just kindling for can. In other words, we can do it; we can create a win-win-win situation for humanity. Enos created 400 book covers to imagine what the world would look like if a para-Polynesian culture were uninterrupted (i.e., no colonization), with each cover celebrating a centennial (so a 40,000-year timeline). He has worked on the project for 15 years and said it is releasing next month. Each one is an image with a title, and war becomes obsolete after 10,000 years. He challenged the idea that people say people will always kill each other. Maybe not, he said. Maybe we can get over our dirty habits. He said he is very interested in visualizing hope. (See his artist website)

General topics

There were so many topics discussed by people from all around the world at the conference. The ones I heard about included:

  • Dune (my own and another researcher’s)
  • Digital humanities textual analysis projects at the DH Stanford Literary Lab
  • Orientalism
  • Postcolonialism
  • Authors Samuel Delany, Joanna Russ, Cixin Liu, Kōbō Abe, Mamoru Oshii
  • Native Hawaiian leader Bumpy Kanahele
  • Universal translators and alien languages (did you know Klingon is now available on Duolingo?)
  • Mad Max’s Furiosa
  • Astrophilately (space exploration through stamps)
  • Afrofuturism
  • Feminism
  • Sports and surfing
  • Pederasty
  • Representation of killings in fiction
  • Estrangement as a concept
  • Imaginactivism
  • Counterpublic intellectuals
  • Crossovers between artists and science fiction
  • Coding, Raspberry Pi, Python
  • Gaming, Unreal Engine, 3DS Max, Blender, Unity 3D (software programs for video game and 3D development)

It was exciting to hear about the work being done by the Purple Mai’a Foundation, a technology education nonprofit organization that is teaching coding to underrepresented groups of students and using place-based and cultural education. Another thing of note was that Professor Grace Dillon has created a list of indigenous futurisms in books, graphic novels, video games, etc. that she gives out, and she allowed those who wanted to to sign up with an email address to receive when it has been updated. I noted that there were several references throughout the conference made to incidents in Hawaiian history that were assumed to be known to everyone, such as ‘the Overthrow’ (what I gathered to be the takeover of Hawaii by businesspeople). It was a reminder of how much certain pieces of information become so much a part of the fabric of one’s life that one can forget that this knowledge is not known to outsiders. But it also was said in such a way that made me want to know more, like the state that many think of as a vacation destination has a lot more to tell of its history that is important. I also found it interesting not only that Wikipedia seems to be being cited more and more by professionals, but that someone would include it in part of their presentation when the page has warning messages about issues with the content. It would great if researchers would spent the effort to update key pages related to their research to improve the content for everyone else.

Resources to check out

For those who are looking for resources to check out, here are some that were mentioned:

Comparisons between Naomi Alderman’s The Power and the Dune Series

I’ve just finished Naomi Alderman’s novel The Power (2016) Naomi Alderman's The Power novelafter it was recommended by several colleagues. It was a quick-moving, enjoyable read, and potentially a good ‘gateway’ novel to science fiction/speculative fiction, especially for women who don’t see what the genre has to offer them. It felt like an update on the 1970s feminist science fiction stories that turned around sexist norms and gender roles in order to enable the reader to examine them in a new light. It can be considered science fiction rather than fantasy due to the brief explanation of origins of the electro-power that women gain access to – that during WWII a certain chemical was put into the water supply and caused this extra part to grow in their necks. I also noticed several parallels with the characters in the later Dune series books that feature the Honored Matres, and I offer some brief comparisons below.

Power as a Corrupting Force

Heretics of Dune book coverThe Dune series is certainly concerned with power, but in the last two books the series takes an interesting turn to explore how a lust for power might corrupt women. Many readers never get to these last two books of the six-book saga, and they have hardly been touched by academic critics. But they offer a group of women characters that is a clear foil to the Bene Gesserit and worthy of more study. Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse: Dune introduce the characters known as the Honored Matres, some kind of amalgamation-gone-wrong of the Fish Speakers from God Emperor Leto II’s all-female army in God Emperor of Dune and the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood. Unlike the Bene Gesserit – who are powerful yet prefer to work behind the scenes and are not shown killing and torturing others – the Honored Matres are characterized as sadistic and evil, potentially even more so than the Bene Tleilaxu, who up until that point usually occupy that slot. They have perfected a way of turning men into their slaves, ‘bonding’ them so they obey the Honored Matres in everything.

The Honored Matres share similar attributes with the Harkonnens, the villains of the first novel who delight in enslaving, torturing, and killing others. One of the functions of the Honored Matres seems to be showing the reader that it is not one’s gender that makes one more or less violent; that anyone can become corrupt if they give in to a lust for acquiring and maintaining power at any cost.

In The Power, power becomes a corrupting force as women discover how much control they can gain over others by exercising their new-found electric shock abilities. We see women doing a range of behaviors, from merely zapping others all the way to torturing and raping them. Like the Honored Matres, they appear to primarily use their abilities on men, but in a world that resembles Earth, they justify this by remembering how long men have been violent and aggressive toward women. Some of the first women to rise up are those who had been trafficked and had virtually no agency in their own lives. But although some might be after equality, others are after revenge and domination. This raises one of the key questions in feminist thought and in criticism of the feminist movement – are women trying to attain equality, however that’s defined, or do they really want to be elevated over men?

“He will not stop screaming. Two of the women take him by the throat and send a paralysis into his spine. One squats on top of him. She pulls off his trousers. He is not unconscious.” (The Power, pg 280)

We know this scene, but almost always it is the reverse. For those who wonder if a world ruled by women would be different, as long as their socialization remained the same, this book seems to say, there would still be violence and assault and torture.

Acquiring Power

Chapterhouse Dune book coverHow the women in The Power acquire their power is explained as the result of some chemical dumped in the water supply during World War II that caused an extra part to grow on their necks. We first see young girls being able to electrocute others with their hands, twisting something inside them to make their ‘skein’ work. As they learn how to control it, and show other women how to access their power, they are better able to use it as a weapon.

In a similar way, the Honored Matres acquire their power through mainly organic means. This is one of the features of the Dune series that makes it different from other science fiction, which often features a need for external technology to bolster humankind’s abilities. Being some kind of offshoot of the Bene Gesserit, the Honored Matres have similar skills in hand-to-hand combat, notably a deadly lightning-fast kick, and abilities with vocal control over others. They also have knowledge of poisons, although they appear to lack the Bene Gesserit’s ability to neutralize them. The Honored Matres do rely on some external tech — we see them employing the torture device of the T-Probe to try to extract information out of the Bene Gesserit’s military commander, Miles Teg.

The end result for women in all of these novels is that knowing they have this power and can use it whenever they want affords them the security to be able to go where they want and do what they want. In The Power, it is men who end up having a curfew and having to be careful of themselves around women, because they are now the ones who lack power. This reversal of the usual scenario for women—who are told to not go out alone or late at night, or to be careful what they wear—enables the novel to highlight the reality of women’s real everyday lives. What might the world be like, it asks us to consider, if the situation were reversed?

Gender Essentialism

Another feature the Dune series and The Power share is the gender essentialism, that is, the idea that the powerful abilities are linked to women in some way. The Dune series never explicitly states this, and we see a few select men in earlier novels gaining Bene Gesserit abilities as taught to them by their mothers. However, because it does not show any male Honored Matres, we associate their abilities and their corrupted use of them with women. In The Power, there is a more explicit link to genetics, with only a handful of individuals (implied to be intersex) who are men having the extra feature in their neck. They are treated as anomalies. Such gender essentialism appears to be necessary for the novels to achieve the aim of highlighting the effects of power – we may be so used to seeing powerful men exerting their will on others that it takes the reversal of having powerful women doing so to make us think about why this is and what might be done to change the situation.

A Tsunami Change

“In Delhi, he follows behind a pack of women rampaging through Janpath market. There was a time that a woman could not walk alone here, not if she were under seventy, and not with certainty even then. There had been protests for many years, and placards, and shouted slogans. These things rise up and afterwards it is as if it had never been. Now the women are making what they call ‘a show of force’ with those who were killed under the bridge and starved of water.

Tunde interviews a woman in the crowd. She had been here for the protests three years earlier; es, she had held up her banner and shouted and signed her petitions. ‘It was like being part of a wave of water,’ she says. ‘A wave of spray from the ocean feels powerful, but it is only there for a moment, the sun dries the puddles and the water is gone. Then you feel maybe it never happened. That is how it was with us. The only wave that changes anything is a tsunami. You have to tear down the houses and destroy the land if you want to be sure no one will forget you.’” (The Power, pg 133)

This quote alludes to the wave analogy for the feminist movement and implies that a more powerful force is needed than protests and the like to create lasting change. In the Dune series, this is also true in a way, since the planet-destroying, male-enslaving force of the Honored Matres is what changes the dynamics of the universe and forces everyone else to take a new path.

I think The Power would make for an accessible and thought-provoking text in the classroom. Several of its viewpoint characters are relatable young women, and it could offer a new way into the introduction of certain feminist topics.

Notes from Gender and Education Association Conference 2018

Gender and Education Association Conference 2018
University of Newcastle (Newcastle, Australia)
December 9-12, 2018

The Gender and Education Association (GEA)’s 2018 conference was held in Australia this time around, which made it more accessible for those in Australasia, although many people still attended from the UK. The first day consisted of a Feminist Teacher Symposium and was held on a Sunday so that teachers outside of the tertiary sector would be able to attend. The conference officially opened that evening, and then it was three more days packed with presentations on topics relating to gender, education, and feminism. The conference theme was “Gender, Post-truth Populism and Pedagogies: Challenges and Strategies in a Shifting Political Landscape”, and most presenters were able to address it without it seeming overly forced. There were plenty of new ideas, lots of resources to check out, and new friendships with people from all over the globe packed into this week. The conference hashtag was #GEAconf2018.

Day 1 – December 9, 2018
Day 2 – December 10, 2018
Day 3 – December 11, 2018
Day 4 – December 12, 2018

Day 1 – December 9

Ileana Jiménez – #StayWoke: Global Feminist Teachers and Pedagogies

Jiménez began by introducing herself as a Latina teacher from Puerto Rico who teaches English at a New York high school and founded Feminist Teacher in 2009. She envisions her work as a long-range form of justice and emancipation and liberation not just for our students but ourselves as well. She explained how her work partly started because regular teacher conferences and spaces weren’t doing the (feminist) work or allowing it. Remember this is labor; it’s taxing on us; don’t work alone. She finds herself having to be a sex educator, psychologist, etc. for her students when others in those roles aren’t doing enough. An Advanced Placement English teacher taught her James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and she found herself relating to him being bullied. She wondered, why haven’t I read a book that reflects me back to me?! He’s an Irish boy in late 19th century Ireland. She realized that her students may only see themselves reflected in the lunch lady later that day.

Part of the challenge of being overtly feminist is being asked ‘why are you bringing your feminist agenda?’ or ‘why are you on your feminist soapbox?’ She has taught a feminism and activism class for ten years, but she says feminist pedagogy is not about one course but what we do every day. One question to ask is why aren’t white boys showing up in the feminist class, when boys of color are taking it. She explained how white girls will initially think only about reproductive rights and come to realize there are many other issues than that one. On day one, she has them write down their ‘story’ about gender/identity/expression that they have received from family, school, etc. They soon realize that race and class are mixed up in it. She exposes them to bell hooks’ definition of feminism from 1984 and they are able to use it differently by the end of class than when they started; it’s not about equality but dismantling the system. According to Sara Ahmed’s Living a Feminist Life (2017) feminism is homework, an assignment, and housework is rebuilding the [master’s] house.

She said we need to be aware that our students are reading us as a text, too. Intersectionality is mad overused and has become a social media hashtag. This means that students may know of it but aren’t getting the genealogy of it in a meme. We’re leaving our students illiterate if we don’t teach them the history in our classroom. (See Kimberle Crenshaw’s TEDTalk). This is why she teaches about oppression not just rights. She had a great phrase about how our students are malnourished – they need these feminist vitamins! (as in the women of color writers who have gone before). women of color feminismsIntersectionality had been part of the genealogy before Crenshaw coined the term; for example, the Combahee River Collective (Black feminists) were tired of being left out of the civil rights movement’s analysis. She passed out handouts of their manifesto and asked us how students might respond to it today. Various people said students might be bored, wouldn’t understand it, or wouldn’t know why it was important. I said angry, which has been a topic in the media recently. She then discussed how it might seem like she and her students are all at the seminar table in a sense, but they’re not at the same table, as in not all of her students comes from privileged backgrounds.

Students have also heard of white feminism and don’t know the history of it. She had Gloria Steinem come to her class in 2016, and that was interestingly a year that no boys signed up for her class even though there was so much interesting going on with gender in the media and politics. It’s heartening to remember that our students can do feminist work in whatever path they follow, but they need a framework to do so. For example, one of her students said she wanted to go on to study hospitality so she could own her own hotel and have fair labor practices. It was nice to hear that she has her students do blog posts rather than turn in papers because feminist discourse for them is online, so they should be a part of the conversation! She also talked about how some of her male students presented in front of the whole school about texts that circulate in lad culture that objectify women and analyzed that behavior. She recommended not keeping feminist pedagogy contained in the four walls of the classroom but letting it spill out, even if it sometimes means getting ‘in trouble’.

One of the questions was about her opinion on why white boys weren’t taking the feminist class. She replied that we literally socialize boys not to do the work of self-reflection that feminism demands. Boys who do take the class are surprise at the level of self-introspection. For example, the first day she asks them to do a lot of writing as they think about why they’re taking this class and what their definition of feminism is, etc.

Panel of Australian Feminist Teachers – chaired by Ileana Jiménez

Briony O’Keeffe – O’Keeffe teaches two feminist collective classes and noted that it was the first time many of the students had a space to talk about bad things that had happened to them. There is no syllabus, since she didn’t feel like it was her place to set an agenda. Instead, she lets the students direct what they want to know. Alice Elwell – Elwell said she is known as the feminist teacher; this is both good and bad. It means people who don’t know her come and show her memes and stuff because she is relatable, but it also means she gets screamed at and called nasty things at times. Why is the ‘left’ seen as dangerous, but conservatives aren’t and don’t have to explain their politics. Kira Jones – Jones said that students at her school made headlines for leaving school to go to a climate change conference. Baby boomers will wonder why students aren’t protesting like they did ‘back in the day’, yet then get mad when they do over an issue like climate change. She discussed some of the hard times she has faced in school and how she responded.

In the panel discussion, teachers discussed some of their content. Students get to engage with theorists Judith Butler, bell hooks, and Adrienne Rich. They get to rewrite fairy tales, even if this can lead to them unintentionally reinforcing stereotypes. As one teacher said, you have to give constructive feedback even when it’s difficult. The Great Gatsby and its stalker narrative are discussed and why we the readers often hate Daisy but not Tom. The Avengers is analyzed, as is the movie poster: why are women in the brokeback position twisting to show their breasts and butts in an unnatural way, and women and black men at the back so white men can be in the front. Students find this look at a favorite franchise challenging. Everything is political; it’s a luxury to think that something isn’t political, though students may complain at things being ‘made political’. The Hate U Give (2017) by Angie Thomas is about an African-American girl going to a rich white school. One of the projects of feminist teachers is to find ways to intervene, even though this can be getting ‘in trouble’ and us taking up more space than we are supposedly allowed to. There was some discussion of why we still use this term as adults – is it us reverting to our inner child? The Slap is a short film used to introduce gender and sexuality as a spectrum – for some students it was the first time they had seen a man being feminine but also heterosexual. There was a note that sometimes silence is good and indicative of people processing. One of the Q&A was where are the indigenous feminists (beyond Black feminists who are often used). The audience was referred to an Instagram account of @coffinbirth but panelists also acknowledged that this was an ongoing challenge that needed to be addressed. For example, students will be all shiny-eyed when analyzing Black Lives Matter, but then Australia and its media headlines are discussed and a wall goes up. One teacher uses memes and Instagram handles, which students love, and she has them select several and make connections to the texts in the course. Another question was whether there were any primary school resources that could help with these topics, and there is a respectful relationships Victoria curriculum that is available for primary schools too.

Nisha Thapliyal – Learning and Teaching Feminist Solidarity

Thapliyal mentioned Decolonizing Solidarity by Clare Land, and Aboriginal activist Lilla Watson. She said she grounds herself with reference to the Australian feminist movement and finds it comforting that we are not alone; history shows us that we are not the first to walk the path. She mentioned Stree Shakti Woman Power and Annie Zaidi’s Unbound: 2,000 years of Indian Women’s Writing (2015). There is a problem whenever the issue of ‘3rd World Women’ comes up and students who had previously done complex analyzes fall back into Othering and deficit discourse. She had a good statement about how policies, including progressive ones, are only as good as the culture that implements them, and that we know this as feminists. We need to break down the ‘fences of knowledge’ that the elite benefit from and perpetuate. She recommended Zygmunt Bauman’s Wasted Lives: Modernity and Its Outcasts (2003) and Deconstructing Development Discourse: Buzzwords and Fuzzwords (2010). It includes a quote from Ines Smyth about how gender has been mainstreamed in international development but there is no mention of feminism’s work of the last two decades. Arundhati Roy said in 2004 there is no such thing as the voiceless, just those deliberately silenced or preferably unheard. Other writers and resources mentioned were: Nancy A. Naples’ Grassroots Warriors (1998), Women’s Activism and Globalization, Chandra Talpade Mohanty’s Feminism without Borders (2003), and June Jordan, an African-American writer who wrote an essay on domestics. The question of ‘helping’ is so loaded, with colonial overtones. The problem is the impulse to help is individualized, privatized, psychologized, and the structural problems of the 1% are not being addressed (with such things as voluntourism). Learning to read the world through other eyes bookThere is an open access online study program called Learning to Read the World through Other Eyes that is designed to address the underlying assumptions in global citizenship education.

Kathleen Butler, Vanita Sundaram, Emma Renold – Feminist Teacher Panel

Butler thinks about the turbulent space where fresh and salt water meet as an analogy for Indigenous and Western ways of knowledge. Still concerning in stories is that women feature as the reasons for conflict rather than as sovereign actors in their own right. She worries Indigenous Dreaming stories being put in the curriculum are reifying problems. Sundaram discussed how what gets treated as significant is skewed in society. For example, 5-10 stabbings would be taken more seriously compared to 5-10 reports of sexual harassment or assault. Renold mentioned LiveFearFree – This is me series campaign challenging gender stereotypes, the Good Practice Guide: A Whole Education Approach to Violence against Women, Domestic Abuse, and Sexual Violence in Wales, and Agenda: A Young People’s Guide to Making Positive Relationships Matter, which defines activists as “people who do and act and something they believe in that benefits the lives of others around them”. The Agenda is a different way in, different to risk-based approaches that are normally used in education. Renold said that feedback from young people is that they don’t want to be told what to do; they want links to ideas so they can make up their own mind about what to do. A lot of gender education is decontextualized, not place-based; never assume who is sitting in front of you

Conference opening

Prof Sondra Hale – Something Resembling ‘Truth’: Reflections on Critical Pedagogy in the New ‘Post-Truth’ Landscape

Hale mentioned Timothy Snyder’s On Tyranny (2017) and editors Robert H. Haworth and John M. Elmore’s Out of the Ruins (2017) about radical informal learning spaces. The sad reality is that most of our institutions hold us back unless we’re talking about money-making projects. She offered a challenge to people’s thinking about social media and the digital world, saying maybe we need to challenge our own assumptions about social media and our desire to offset it; there’s a lot of resistance to digital pedagogy and e-learning by those traditionally trained. We may be interfering with decolonizing and deconstructionist work going on online. During Q&A someone said that one way of getting girls over math anxiety is by teaching them introductory statistics, then having them go into the field and come back and act as a peer network; it is more powerful if peers challenge each other and learn rather than having a teacher say, this is a good transferable skill. Regarding past feminisms, Hale reflected that we have an enormous archive but we don’t seem to agree on how to instrumentalize that archive. There is still often a big split between feminists of color and white feminists, and the women of the Global South have a lot to offer but often aren’t listened to. One continuing issue is the focus on promotion and metrics, which takes emphasis off activism. For example, if lecturers starting out are told to not sign any petitions for seven years till they get tenure, the problem is that they can lose themselves in those years and leave that person behind, become part of the establishment. She hopes for a seeking of freedom and respect and listening to each other. She said one of the wisest things someone has told her is that “it’s in the room”, meaning the wisdom and experience to make change is already present.

Day 2 – December 10

Prof Raewyn Connell – Truth, Power, Pedagogy: Feminist Knowledge and Educational Practice

Connell began by saying she wanted to locate us in economic and social history first. Big lies in politics are not new – remember Stalin and Goebbels – and someone in the Nazi higher-ups said that what matters is not what is true or false but what is believed. Another example of this is Bismarck carving up Africa on the pretense of civilizing the natives. Lies seem to come from holders of significant global power. But there is a new geometry of power that is transnational, comprised of: oligarchs (e.g. millionaires), transnational corporations and CEOs, dictators and generals, and neoliberal state managers (e.g. at the World Bank). It’s practically a masculine monopoly and any women there have to act like a man. The world economy is heterogeneous, more layered and gendered, but this isn’t factor in classical capitalist formulations. There are real threats like security but also fantasy threats put forward by elites. She showed a picture of a rugby player and cheerleaders in pink, bikini-like clothing and said that rugby’s division of gender roles is reflective of corporate culture, a recuperation of masculinity. She mentioned Mara Viveros Vigoya, a theorist on gender violence in Latin America. Since its inception feminism has had to struggle against big lies about gender (essentialism) and they’re still floating around in contemporary politics. There is the idea that equality is attained, and that problems are in the past.

This is bad because it is so untrue. Half of the world’s population is rural, and Bina Agarwal’s A Field of One’s Own (2010) about land rights in South Asia shows that who owns property is really important. Even if the gender gap in wages (as the media reports it) is not ‘revolutionary-able’ at 13-20%, on global average, women’s income is only 60% of men’s and that is something that calls for a revolution. The attack on gender theory and studies by the right is also concerning. Critique is an essential part of building knowledge rather than just replicating information you hear. We need truthfulness that is concerned with honesty, inclusivity, and corrigibility (ability to be debated and corrected) rather than truth as a fixed pillar. We cannot treat pedagogy as knowledge transfer, i.e. thinking of it as pouring a jug of golden liquid into students. It is not just individuals who learn but collectives and societies they are a part of. She mentioned feminist Jean Blackburn who discussed how education affects men and boys not just women and girls.

During Q&A there was a question about Indigenous knowledge in education, that Indigenous frameworks of knowledge were actually what colonialism denied. Connell said that in higher education, there are examples of Indigenous universities around the world but it’s challenging. Overall, it’s mostly curriculum from the Global North in universities around the world, and any Indigenous content if present is marginalized. Another question was about why there is such a disconnect between education people and feminist and gender studies scholars? Why is feminist pedagogy absent? Connell suggested that education is considered to be at the bottom of totem pole so that could be one issue. Teacher regulation has gotten stricter too. She said to try to convince your colleagues of the value of engaging with the other side. Stefan Collini’s What Are Universities For? (2012) was mentioned, and the idea that there need to be more connections between what goes on at universities and everyday life, that there can be a continuum of science and everyday problem-solving in a “hybrid academic”.

Jessica Butler – Trumpeting the Horn: Dominant Masculinity, Self-Promotion, and Discourses of Success in Neoliberal English Academia

Butler presented a definition of hegemonic masculinity from Connell and Metterschmidt’s “Hegemonic Masculinity: Rethinking the Concept” (2005), and mentioned Liz Morrish’s “The Rise of the Trump Academic” (2016). There is a push back against resilience as individualizing and not addressing problems in the system. What was meant to be a measurement quickly becomes a target (metrics).

Christine Cunningham – What Do Chinese School Leaders think about Gender Equality?

Cunningham was asked to discuss Western educational leadership with Chinese school leaders at a Chinese university that trains teachers. She noted some of the challenges in working in a different country and getting used to using WeChat for her research. Just 4.5% of mainland China’s higher education institution leaders are female, and around the world, women predominate at lower levels like kindergarten but are rare at higher levels. She said that 50% of all women in the world are from China, so it is an important area to look at in this context.

Richard Waller – Degrees of Gendered Distinction: Young Male Undergraduates and Their Complex and Classed Negotiations of Masculinity

Waller discussed The Paired Peers Project, worked on with co-author Nicola Ingram. They followed a cohort of young men for seven years and what capital they brought with them (economic, social, and cultural) to university, what capital they acquired, and how they might mobilize these as they entered the job market. He mentioned Mike Savage’s Social Class in the 21st Century (2016) about class in 21st century Britain. They found that David Beckham, Tim Brabants, Ray Mears, and Ranulph Fiennes embodied working class masculinity for working-class men in the study when they were asked about role models and men they looked up to. These men were perceived to have traits such as self-sufficiency, ‘man against nature’. But middle-class men were likely to point to men like Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Stephen Fry, Johnny Cash, Ryan Reynolds, and Christopher Hitchens, believing they had traits such as being intellectual and good-looking. Waller suggested that there wasn’t actually a crisis in masculinity but rather there were attempts to forge together multiple forms of masculinity; thus, masculinity is not in crisis but in flux, being adapted and reimagined.

Karen Monkman and Lisa Hoffman – ‘Breaking the Cycle’: Metaphors in Girls’ Education Policy Discourse

They paid particular attention to the language in policies around girls’ education and how that shapes decisions, and they specifically looked at metaphors. They examined over 400 publicly available policy documents starting in 1995, deliberately choosing front-facing rather than internal documents. In the Phase 1 documents (1995-2005), examples of metaphors included cycle, the body, and journey. Banking was the most prominent image; all organizations except Oxfam linked girls’ education to economic growth. The Forum for African Women Educationalists had the only non-Western metaphor of a cooking pot. In the Phases 2 & 3 documents (2005-2013), it was harder to find metaphors. The language had shifted from transactional language to empowerment; also, that education is a human right, meaning there was less emphasis on justifying education for other reasons. The term gender was used more often than sex but there was no change in meaning. There were now mentions of not leaving boys behind. They noticed phrases such as ‘girls are vulnerable’ but no mention of boys and men as perpetrators (and use of the passive voice obscured the male role in what ‘happens’ to women). They mentioned USAID’s ‘Girls in the Garage’ video featuring 2 young women in a car repair shop in Morocco as an example of an organization attempting to show women learning something outside of traditionally gendered occupations, although it’s unclear how this video is being perceived. UNESCO Global Education Monitoring ReportThey also discussed the UNESCO Global Education Monitoring Report for 2018, which shows the different definitions of gender as noun, verb, etc, and how these different conceptions lead to different outcomes, such as counting bodies in seats rather than measuring something else.

Alison Twells – Sex and Gender in the Archive: The Creation of History Undergraduates as ‘World-Ready Citizens’

Twells’ presentation was an interesting insight into some ways of being a feminist history teacher in the academy rather than resigning oneself to traditional curricula. She discussed how historians often struggle to connect research with real-life, i.e. find uses of history in the real world. They may try to talk about how students gain transferable skills (cue university mission statements) or the ability to discern and defend the ‘truth’, or something else similarly nebulous about contextualizing history and seeing where we’ve come from. She said that scholars have argued we need to scaffold history to make it more applicable to the real world because that’s not currently happening. She asked, what if we started with social justice and problems and used history to achieve students thinking more about them? She was inspired by Aly Raisman’s work on trying to move the culture (women don’t have to be modest to be respected). She showed us an example of having her students explore real war-time letters between a sailor and airforceperson and a young woman (who was unsure if she should ‘give in’) and see for themselves how women were historically exploited and pressured to have sex – that it’s not something new. There is a concern that women still see sex as something for men, similar to what the woman back then saw as pressure to ‘give in’.primary source collections

Twells discussed how we don’t actually deal with these issues in history anymore. In the last 20 years women and gender as topics have been in retreat in history; students aren’t exposed to gender theory, or gender issues in relation to imperialism. There is a shift to military history, and more boys taking classes (60/40 ratio in class makeup). Women may only be marginalized, such as in ‘a week of women in Germany’ etc. So she kept the existing class which was an introductory history module with a public history theme, but she reworked it to shift away from cutlery and industry. She used existing library collections such as the Mary Anne Rawson Papers, HJ Wilson Collection, Painted Fabrics, and Edward Carpenter Collection to discuss a variety of feminist issues, starting with the concept of what did she want students to go away with? She shared some of the feedback; although some students said they wanted a ‘proper history of Sheffield’ or more on industry, there were others who liked it and even said that studying history had made them more open-minded. takeaways for studentsThe assessment was also a move away from the traditional essay, consisting of a project with a poster and them having to submit a pre-plan and reflection afterward.

Sandra Schmidt – Spatiality as a Feminist Critique of Civic Engagement

Schmidt opened by expressing her interest in ‘critical geography’ and the idea that women are often positioned as vulnerable citizens in the space they inhabit. She mentioned Judith Butler and Athena Athanasiou’s Disposession (2013) – and that there can be dispossession of land and rights but also of the mind. Citizenship is a Western concept. It has to happen somewhere, in some place. So, by manipulating borders, citizenship can be closed off for people. For example, when Department of Motor Vehicle locations were closed in Alabama, making it harder for people to register to vote. She was interested in 1st-time marchers at the Women’s March in Washington, DC, and elsewhere in January 2016, so she interviewed women (mostly white women) over a year about their thoughts and experiences. Many couldn’t articulate exactly what compelled them to participate. The relational aspect was important: the feeling of being one of many, and having a continued sense of responsibility to strangers they met that encouraged them to take further action afterward. The huddles mirrored the consciousness-raising of the 1970s. Some expressed that they felt they had been good citizens before but hadn’t been active citizens until now. One effect of the marches has been that pussy hats still disrupt the landscape (such as in New York), and men wear them too.

#MeToo, Gender, and Pedagogies Symposium

Emily Gray and Mindy Blaise – #MeToo, Gender, and Pedagogies #FEAS

One reason why #MeToo has been a drip rather than a wave in Australia may be that Australia has tough anti-defamation laws. They looked at where are the pedagogical spaces for #MeToo. In discussing the results of the Community Attitudes Survey, they highlighted that it shows 36% believe women don’t appreciate all that men do for them. We were asked to take a minute to think about that (‘alright, that’s long enough!’). The university is still largely based on ‘white Cartesian male’ ways of knowing, which is an obstacle to change.

Sue Jackson – #Metoo: A Critical Digital Education?: Young People, Sexual Harassment Media, and Potential for Change

Jackson discussed Tearaway, a magazine which is 100% created by and for New Zealand youth, and research from her recent article “Young feminists, feminism, and digital media”. (2018). She also discussed digital media as project sharing and digital ethnography using Whatsapp.

Mary Lou Rasmussen – #MeToo and @Australian Universities: Pedagogies of Rape and Sexual Assault

Rasmussen discussed the messiness of conversations with students about #MeToo and consent, but said there can’t be an ‘end result’ because these are inherently complex issues that require ongoing discussion. She mentioned Debra Ferreday’s “Game of Thrones, Rape Culture, and Feminist Fandom” (2015), Saxon Mullins’ “I Am That Girl” Four Corners ABC program, which revealed some of the complexities of consent, and End Rape on Campus Australia’s The Red Zone Report (2018).

Eva Reimers – An Educational Response to #MeToo

Reimers gave us an insight into what the #MeToo movement looked like in Sweden. She said it was a very strong movement in Sweden with lots of hashtags for different industries. She explained the term femonationalism, a concept from Sara R. Farris, which means having feminism and equality as a national trait. Sweden likes to think of itself this way. There is also homonationalism, a concept developed by Jasbir K. Puar, which is the equivalent for LGBT. Because Sweden has focused on equality in terms of representation and equal pay, there has not been as much focus on sexuality and power. This makes it difficult to address sexual harassment against women, but also difficult to silence women in #MeToo.

Reimers discussed what was happening in the education space in response to #MeToo. Research showed that problems were happening in schools as well, meaning that schools are not safe spaces but spaces that make sexual harassment possible. Students don’t learn about consent, gender norms, respect, and sex. And according to students, many teachers are passive – they know it’s happening but do nothing. This presents a challenge for teacher training. Even though sexuality and relationships education has been obligatory since 1955, we have to wonder what have we been doing all this time? Better preparation for teachers is one thing that could address this problem.

Jessica Ringrose – #MeToo – Digital Feminist Activism and Challenging Rape Culture

Ringrose discussed the Digital Feminist Activism book and her work in interviewing activist organizers and everyday participants (digitalfeminism.co.uk). digital feminist consciousness raisingShe discussed digital feminist consciousness-raising and how Twitter can sustain feminist politics, mentioning that 33% of interviewees found learning experiences on Twitter that they weren’t getting at school. Twitter is often seen as safer than being a feminist in real life. The term digilante (digital vigilante) is used to refer to going after trolls.

Carli Rowell – The Myth and Post-truth of Social Mobility through Elite University Education: A Feminist Ethnography

Rowell discussed how social mobility is often not articulated in those terms, instead being discussed as a person wanting economic security or escaping precarious employment. Classism remains largely absent on campus social justice campaigns.

Gail Crimmins – A Case Study of Using Feminist Pedagogy in Policy Negotiation

One reason given for the persistence of gender inequality in the academy is that women fail to formally report or challenge perceived gender discrimination due to the risk involved (e.g. name the problem and become the problem, get iced out of projects, etc.). It is also ‘academic housework’ and takes time. Margaret Heffernan quoteCrimmins mentioned a quote from Margaret Heffernan – that passionate debate is a sign people care; deadly silence is bad. For those who weren’t aware, an Enterprise Bargaining Agreement (EBA) in Australia trumps university policies. It can be helpful to looks at other EBAs for potentially good clauses that appear to be effective. She said it is important that female students see women in top academic positions – they may need to ‘see it to believe it’ – and thus the work is not just for ourselves, but for our students too.

Lisa French – Creating Gender-Sensitive Journalism, Media and ICT Curricula

French mentioned a number of resource and organizations of interest, including the UNESCO Unitwin Network, Gender Media and ICTs: A New Syllabi for Media, Communication and Journalism, which covers 10 countries from 5 regions and is soon to go to press, the Global Alliance on Media and Gender, Gender-Sensitive Indicators for Media (UNESCO resource), and the strategy for gender equality in the European film industry.

A definition for gender sensitivity or gender awareness can be found at the European Institute for Gender Equality (https://eige.europa.eu/rdc/thesaurus/terms/1218). She discussed how leaders being invested is important for change and once you have data, you have more evidence for action. The forthcoming book aims to address the issue that most journalism programs (and advertising) she has seen don’t have a gender unit or component.

Day 3 – December 11

Prof Jane Kenway – Unpopular Truths about Populism and Feminism

Kenway opened by discussing how the rise of the right is a clear and present danger, our current conjuncture. Elected officials in some French districts are getting rid of left-wing books and literature. Hannah Arendt’s term ‘banality of evil’ and Antonio Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks (1971) were mentioned. She said the Guardian ran a series on populism and a quiz: how populist are you? that everyone could take afterward. Oxford University Press has a handbook on populism, but only one chapter on populism and gender. She discussed some of the thinking behind the left and right-wing. The right-wing generally sees itself as the common people versus the elites who are undemocratic. The right-wing thinks the elite are coddling out groups, those the left-wing considers marginalized. Meanwhile, the left-wing thinks oligarchs and wealth inequality are the problem. ‘She may be a woman but she ain’t no sister’ someone had said about Margaret Thatcher. When right-wing populists focus on the elites, they are mostly referring to cultural influencers (filmmakers, actors, lecturers, journalists, scientists, and vegans); these people are responsible for shaping what people can see or hear and limiting what they can say. Feminists are seen as waging war against traditional gender roles and values and winning. In discussing the alt right, she said they have a very reactionary mode of masculinity that at times mobilizes an abject agency (‘let us scum in’). A lot of the leaders are very wealthy, and they are also funded by ‘respectable’ conservatives. only elites make historyThey believe only the elites make history. Kenway discussed how we have a crisis of the human and the humane. Glass ceiling/elite feminism thinks power will trickle down, but as we know, it doesn’t. Questions to ponder include why can’t there be more horizontal links with feminists in the subaltern, and what would feminist pedagogy look like if it addressed right-wing populists? A ‘populist feminist pedagogy’ might seek to find common ground and rebuild the commons, and engage in struggles about meaningfulness and materiality. The so-called sensible center isn’t working for so many people. Books mentioned included Robert Verkaik’s Posh Boys (2018), Angela Nagle’s Kill All Normies (2017), Kate Manne’s DownGirl: The Logic of Misogyny (2017), Nancy Fraser’s The Old is Dying and the New Cannot Be Born (forthcoming), and Cinzia Arruzza, Tithi Bhattacharya, and Nancy Fraser’s Feminism for the 99%: A Manifesto (forthcoming).

Jennifer Fraser – Feminist Killjoys and Queer Failures: Re-thinking (Student) Satisfaction in Higher Education

Fraser argued that we need to think about the non-normative experiences of those for whom the university isn’t designed in all the talk of student experience. Partnership can be thought of as a mode or ethos of working that includes collective collaborative practices. For contemporary students, the need to perform, compete, achieve desired outcomes, and enhance their future labor market profile become key modes of self-discipline (see Macfarlane and Tomlinson’s “Critiques of student engagement” (2017)).

Niamh Ni Shuilleabhain – How can we Enact Pedagogy to be More Responsive to Body Disaffection and Eating Disorders in Schools? Beyond Body Image to New Materialist Inquiry

Shuilleabhain’s research is exploring bodily pedagogy in schools. She held dozens of workshops that trialled different modes of pedagogy around issues of body disaffection. She is taking a socio-critical rather than a psychological approach, which can overestimate individual agency. One issue was the ethics of working with young people and what was appropriate for their context. Looking at how body pedagogies are reinforced in school, it became clear there were various tensions of uncertainty around the content. Teachers seemed to prefer clear certainty that could lead to clear outcomes in order to avoid risk in the school. One interesting finding was that just having something (such as a new student center) or providing more staff hours might not be enough to convince students to get support or might not be the type of support they need. Also, teachers and space make a big difference to students’ affectivities and feelings.

Nehir Gündoğdu – How Possible to be a Feminist Preschool Teacher in Turkey?

Gündoğdu discussed her journey understanding feminist concepts overseas and taking her knowledge back to Turkey to better understand how teachers of young children think about gender roles in the classroom. She asked teachers to think about different scenarios she provided which showed a teacher responding, including staying silent, trying to ensure equality of opportunity, and challenging pre-existing beliefs by talking things through with the children. She discussed the challenges in gathering interview data in that data has agency and can lead you to new places, but that it is also a challenge to be an emergent listener and not direct things where you already think they should go. She found that those who say that boys and girls are equal may not operate as if this is true in practice due to reasons including religion and wanting to maintain traditional ways of doing things.

Session on Gender and Digital Technologies

Akane Kanai – Digital Feminist Citizenship and the Labour of Learning

Kanai discussed her research on how feminists interact in digital spaces and learn about feminist topics, and how they position themselves as feminists within the potentially disciplinary environments of the digital world. For everyday feminist self-education, feminists might engage in immersion, social media customization, doing ‘feminist homework’ beyond the 9-5 (see Sara Ahmed’s Living a Feminist Life (2017)), following high-profile feminists, and not following people you don’t like the content of. One person ‘graduated’ from Tumblr and took an MIT gender course on indigenous content and found it better than her university experience/education. Such self-education is seen as everyday responsible feminist activity, but there is also competition to be ‘in the know’ and keep up. U.S. celebrity culture was used to help feminists understand shifts in feminism, such as explaining white and intersectional feminism and using Lena Dunham and Taylor Swift as examples of white failure. Intersectional may be used as an identity for self (‘I am intersectional’) rather than a framework. There were also private, women-only Facebook groups with a declaration of intersectional feminist identity required for entry. One person felt the discussions in the group had a very shallow attitude of learning and deliberation and discovered an antagonistic side to members when she posted about a TV show she liked and received criticism for days that the show wasn’t intersectional. The hypervigilance to call out in this way has led to people feeling excluded and anxious. Kanai asked what is it actually achieving for feminism.

Jessica Ringrose – Feminist Activism, Anti-Feminism, Queer Positivity, and Digital Defence in Educational Contexts

Ringrose discussed the current period as being one of “popular feminisms and popular misogyny” (see Sarah Banet-Weiser’s work) and mediated misogyny. The expression of feminism and anti-feminism has shifted in the last seven to ten years. She discussed young women doing all their ‘feministing’ in a port-o-cabin. They weren’t allowed to put up feminist posters they wanted to because they were considered too angry and combative; they also had to change the name of their proposed club to equality group and not have feminist in the title. Ringrose also discussed toxic mediated ‘geek masculinity’ (see Anastasia Salter and Bridget Blodgett’s Toxic Geek Masculinity in Media (2017) and Kylie Jarrett’s work) which reproduces elements of MRA ideology and professes new forms of gender expertise (see Debbie Ging’s “Alphas, Betas, and Incels: Theorizing the Masculinities of the Manosphere” (2017)). A belief in false rape allegations is still a huge problem, as is the shaming of any body who performs feminism. As an alternative to the negative content available on social media, some students created an Instagram account called the.queer.cacti which is an LGBTQA+ Safe Zone about queer positivity. It was created when they were 13, and they have had to develop a lot of digital literacy around what to post and what not (i.e. how to curate). The positive response to it has helped them recognize how powerful posts are in shaping how people think.

Kath Albury – Digital Media Literacy in Sexuality Education: Engaging with Professional Practice

Albury discussed the need for teachers to improve their digital literacy and not rely on excuses about not having grown up with the same kind of technology that young people do now. As long as you have a framework for media studies, you can adapt to new media accordingly. There is little consensus in the literature on what is best practice for sexuality education. Many teachers cherry-pick from the curriculum on what they think will work at their school. This means they may avoid sexting or continue to do abstinence-only even though they know it doesn’t work because it’s the default. One issue is that most of them didn’t have any media training, or if they did have it, they only had a half-day in-service, and most training focuses on images and representation, not user practices or other things like platforms. Albury discussed how everyone was talking about sexualisation in 2008; now everyone is talking about screens and mobile phones. They can be worn on the body and taken everywhere, and they offer the ability to share and stream frictionlessly. Unfortunately, having young people simply analyse a Dove ad about representation doesn’t cover this kind of scope. There is a need to move away from thinking about media as something that happens to a young person where they have to make positive or negative decision, because they are creators as well. Media literacy needs to be more than an interpretation of images. It needs to include how images move, what the tacit rules of engagement are (like Akane Kanai discussed), and how the terms of service operate (e.g. one kind of nipple is okay, another is not). There are also considerations of how corporations like Google are creating a world where they are in control, and how nation-states may change things (as in the GDPR).

Deborah Lupton – Vital Materialism and Women’s Use of Digital Health

Lupton discussed how embodied affordances work with technology affordances. She interviewed women in Australia, mostly urban but about a quarter rural, about their use of technology in relation to health. Everyone used Google to look up health information and used it to determine whether or not to go to doctor. Many got a lot out of ‘lurking’ or listening online and not being active; some were really active and started up Facebook support groups for various health issues. One-half used wearables and apps to monitor their bodies. On online groups, mothers knew to avoid topics like vaccination and breast vs. bottle feeding because otherwise others would blow up. Younger women liked menstrual apps and felt like they had better control and could prepare for their cycles. There was sometimes frustration at an app or wearables, including someone who couldn’t use a pain app because of pain in her hands. This study highlighted the affordances of tech but also the downsides of the lack of diversity in design. For example, tech is often not designed for women with babies and may not be able to adjust for a woman’s needs once she has given birth.

Kara Kennedy – My Session

I presented on digital literacy and Digital Humanities, and how these might be used by tertiary teachers to help teach students how to navigate and learn in a post-truth environment.

Caroline Mahoney – Which Girls? Where? Interrogating Populist Images of Girls, Education and Interculturality

Mahoney and co-author Claire Charles found that aspects of exclusion and othering are an everyday occurrence for most girls. Although outsiders might see white girls as the most privileged in a group, that is not necessarily how they see themselves. One participant expressed interest in becoming a doctor but since she saw mainly Asian doctors in her environment, she constructed herself as marginalized/disadvantaged in comparison and was able to blame that as the reason not to strive for her dream, thus not being able to engage in interculturality.

Roberta Thompson – Noticing Teenage Girls’ Friendship Practices in Cybersafety Curriculum

Thompson said this was one of the outcomes of a postdoctoral project, available at www.girlssocialmediaproject.com. The context was the 2003 Australian National Safe Schools Project, and a gamechanger was Web 2.0, iPhones, Instagram, and Snapchat. In 2018 there was a renewal of cyberbullying panics when a girl committed suicide. Research shows that boys and girls are online for the same amount of time but there are gendered differences. For example, girls are on more social sites. This results in some different problems for boys and girls online. She made a point that she uses Erving Goffman’s frame analysis and impression management but not his sexist philosophy. There are really conflicting things going on for girls in terms of how they negotiate the online world alongside their friendships. When we ask them to report, we’re asking them to go against their friendships. There are different terms for this based on class. At a primarily working-class school, anyone who tells parents or teachers about problematic online content is called a ‘snitch’, and at a more middle-class school, it is considered ‘social suicide’ to do this. This shows that there is a need to unpack the affective domain for these girls, such as their worries. Friendship is a powerful influencer that’s not accounted for in cybersafety curriculum.

Day 4 – December 12

Prof Susan Page – Back from Oblivion: Transformative Indigenous Learning Journeys in Australian University Curricula

Page is working on Indigenous graduate attributes at the Centre for Advancement of Indigenous Knowledges (CAIK) at the University of Sydney. She acknowledged that Indigenous studies is a study of discomfort. She discussed NAIDOC Week, wherein Indigenous people celebrate across Australia, and that it stems from 1920s activism. Counter-narratives are part of critical race theory. Many Aboriginal men served in World War I despite not being counted in the census, and they are still not recognized (for example in the local memorial walk in Newcastle funded by a mining company), and this is similar to how women are neglected. In making a comparison to New Zealand, she said to us, a treaty is a very powerful thing, even though New Zealanders may debate about it. The truth for our elders is the antidote to the big lies of Australia (such as that there was no one here, Aboriginals weren’t taking care of children, they couldn’t speak the language). She mentioned how Trevor Noah got in hot water over an old ‘joke’ about Aboriginal women and didn’t seem to realize that it was wrong and offensive. She discussed the concept of Indigenous women trying to cite other women. She asked where are the silences in history? The William Dawes diaries are known and digitized but not Patyegarang, the 15-year-old young woman who appears to have been Dawes’ language teacher (although she has finally been acknowledged on the website). Page expressed her dismay that it is very hard to find any information on another woman, Ipeta, who was the only survivor of Myall Creek Massacre, and that she will make it her mission to change that. Barangaroo is the name of a new Darling Harbor development in Sydney; we can debate using those names for colonizer’s buildings, but at least her name will be on people’s lips. She mentioned the film Rabbit-Proof Fence (2002) which is fairly well-known.

Moving on to discuss the Indigenous graduate attributes in more detail, she said university graduates can and should know about Aboriginal history and cultures in the curriculum. This idea has been floated since 25-30 years ago, then again 10 years ago. Now there is the Universities Australia Indigenous Strategy 2017-2010, which can be used as a powerful tool. It was developed in close consultation with the National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Higher Education Consortium. She indicated that ‘the times they are a’changin’ – it’s pretty exciting to be around at this time. It’s hard work but exciting. She mentioned Gloria Ladson-Billings’ (1998) ground-breaking work on critical race theory and education and her quote that the official curriculum is a “culturally specific artifact designed to maintain a White supremacist master script” (p. 18). This is confronting to hear but important. Page discussed how disciplines cannot, will not, and should not exclude us, and that’s the work she’s doing along with other Indigenous scholars. Then, there is the constant tension/challenge that their knowledge will get co-opted. The Deconstruction Exercise can be used to help create safe spaces for teaching in relation to the Indigenous graduate attributes. Students can write questions on paper to avoid unproductive ‘blaming and shaming’ (ex. why do they drink so much? why are they so uneducated?). Page acknowledged that there’s risk for us in telling our own stories, but they’re important in giving students a transformative learning journey and letting them see the iceberg underneath the Aboriginal world. If the students get upset, they have to learn to work through their emotions. Returning to the subject of the memorial walk in Newcastle, she said because it wasn’t designed by people with a broader awareness of Aboriginal history and cultures, it doesn’t have the voices of others.

I asked a question about how to deal with resistance from faculty to the implementation of graduate attributes related to multi-culturalism/diversity. She said the institution has to be ready with most faculty on board and there need to be senior Indigenous leaders who can champion and drive the work. Sometimes this means asserting authority in the context of the hierarchical structure of the university because that’s what people understand in that context.

Symposium on The International Network on Gender, Social Justice and Praxis (the Network)

Penny Jane Burke (Professor and Global Innovation Chair of Equity and Director of the Centre of Excellence in Equity in Higher Education at the University of Newcastle and one of the conference organizers) introduced The International Network on Gender, Social Justice and Praxis, otherwise known as the Network. International Network on Gender, Social Justice and PraxisIt has a commitment to feminist, Freirean praxis and develops research for critical, feminist pedagogical resources to generate ethical spaces of practice. It defines feminist praxis as making visible the invisible, marginalized dimensions of social life – paying close attention to the (gendered) politics of knowledge and knowing, and understanding how political forces are deeply intersecting to (re)produce inequalities. She mentioned letter writing as a feminist praxis, which is discussed in their Occasional Paper 02. Other members of the network briefly presented on projects they are involved in. Saajidha Sader discussed The South African Project which looks at the collusion between academics and the corporate culture of university, and the need to ask the hard questions of how feminist academics both encourage and resist neoliberalism. There wasn’t time to go over some of the other techniques the project uses, but they have used a timeline and community mapping with participants to get them to think about their journey too. Sondra Hale and Gada Kadoda discussed the formation of social justice spaces, anti-racism workshops, and Sudanese feminists’ resistance. They deal with black vs black racism, not just white vs. black as is often the case. They train potential teachers on diversity issues so they can go out and raise awareness themselves. Laura Ila Misiaszek discussed the Gender-Health-Education Council (GHEC) and working with CircleWays.org. The audience broke out into groups to discuss some of the different projects that the Network is involved in, and then the groups reported back to the main group.

I went with the small group on The South African Project, and we discussed neoliberalism and the university. Rebecca Solnit’s Hope in the Dark (2005) was mentioned as a good resource for activists. Various people discussed how they see activism in relation to teaching: that activism and teaching are discipline-specific, such as how in social work, they have to teach students who will go out into world and interact with clients; that teachers can view teaching as their primary form of activism even though it is not as obvious as protests. In fact, teaching can be quite difficult because it often requires that feminists be vulnerable in the classroom every time they enter it. It was mentioned that we need all forms of activism because we don’t know which will be effective in the long term. When other groups reported back, it was mentioned that people really need to share their stories first before you can work on other things, and you need to make time for this when talking with them.

Hannah Taino-Spick – Veteran Bodies: Feminist Interventions in the Post-Truth, Populist, and Authoritarian Australian Military

Taino-Spick discussed her journey undertaking university studies after being discharged from the Australian military, with her now doing a PhD interviewing veterans and unpacking the complexities of discharge through feminist and poststructural lenses (including Butler’s performativity, Kristeva’s abjection, and Foucault). She acknowledged that she has had to rely on largely American content for the literature review, but that this can fit with how Australia sees itself in terms of its experience of modern warfare (i.e. similar to Global North). One of the issues with discharge is that it is subjective; it’s impossible to just write a policy to manage discharge or an application to discharge. It is an ongoing journey of ‘becoming’ for veterans post-discharge. There can’t be one ‘truth’ about discharge; in reality it contains multiple truths, and she now knows that it is not a simple and linear process but much more complex.

Britney Brinkman – Hate Speech Protected as Free Speech: Barriers to Gender Equity in Schools

Brinkman began by reminding the audience of the context of the recent synagogue killing – that hate speech has real consequences. She mentioned the Rand Corporation’s 2018 report on ‘truth decay’ and George Lakoff’s definition of hate speech as able to be a physical imposition on freedom of others because of a psychological effect being imposed physically. She presented an eye-opening case study of a patriot’s club started at a small Catholic school in the U.S. where she examined girls’ experience of oppression. The club was billed as a ‘veterans’ group club, but in actuality it had a white nationalist agenda and was an alt-right manosphere consisting of white males. Meanwhile, a year before other students were told they couldn’t form a gay-straight alliance club (but they could name it a diversity club) and faced a lot of resistance. The patriot’s club members would dominate class discussions and eventually caused the girls to feel unsafe and even stop speaking out because they were tired of arguing. This effectively amounting to a silencing of girls, with gendered power dynamics at work because they boys were permitted to do what they liked and the girls were expected to just ignore them. The girls were considered feminist killjoys if they didn’t. The message came across that how the adult staff responded was definitely noticed and discussed by the students. Even though the staff might not have condoned the boys’ activity, a lack of response was interpreted by the students in this way. Even though the staff might have quietly supported girls’ efforts to challenge the boys’ behavior, the official response did not match. Essentially, a similar trend in the mainstream was present, that ‘freedom of speech’ was interpreted as being for white males but not for marginalized groups.

Closing Comments

At the end of the conference, several people gave a brief overview of their thoughts and reflections, and this was an encouraging close to several long days of ideas and relationship-building. Penny Jane Burke expressed gratitude for the feminist spaces created by the conference, for the keynotes taking us on a genealogical and theoretical journey, and that there were also signs of hope. Akane Kanai said she would take away wanting to think more about the politics of listening. Gada Kadoda proposed having some way of bringing together the ideas and theories discussed at the conference to be able to build on a repository for future conferences and projects. This would help people from other disciplines too. It was also discussed what a GEA conference might look like in other countries and what different focus areas it could have. Jessica Gagnon, who had been managing the GEA’s Twitter account during the conference, put on screen some screenshots of the many tweets during the conference, which helped illustrate to those not on the platform what people were discussing online. She also discussed that we should think about what each of us individually can do, not just an abstract me, as well as what we can do collectively. It was mentioned that the conference had felt non-hierarchical, which I agree with. It was an engaging and thought-provoking several days, with lots to take back and share with the rest of our networks.

Notes from National Digital Forum (NDF) Conference 2018

National Digital Forum (NDF) Conference 2018

Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand (Wellington, New Zealand)
November 20-21, 2018

The NDF Conference this year was another good, inspirational, and thought-provoking one, with a great line-up of keynote speakers and other presenters. The keynotes offered a range of insights as well as challenges to how to make GLAM more diverse and be more thoughtful about how and why it collects material. The opportunity to check out the Mahuki Labs at Te Papa was also welcomed – everyone was excited to share their projects and see what others thought. The hashtag was #NDFNZ and many of the presentations are available on NDF’s YouTube channel – well worth watching!

Day 1 – November 20, 2018

Official Welcome and Opening Address – Prof Rawinia Higgins

Higgins discussed how the normalization of the Māori language cannot be left just to the schools, universities, etc. The GLAM sector can take a role and find ways of getting people to use digital repositories and tools. We shouldn’t just replicate what we already have in other mediums. There should be gateways where people can connect to their heritage and culture. Although Māori were largely an oral culture, they also have been early adopters, and history shows how they embraced literacy and had a variety of Māori newspapers. Colonization takes a toll – it just takes a generation to lose a language. She challenged the sector to not just protect knowledge but connect ancestors to our communities so it becomes their vernacular today. The Crown’s Māori Language Strategy has its efforts being led by the Māori Language Commission. Digital tools are still just tools – it is people and connectivity at forums like this that are important for discussing issues.

Keynote: Michael Edson

Edson began with a story about a pottery class where the teacher said half the room would get a grade based on one pot, and half the room would get a grade based on weight (e.g. making 200 pounds will get you an A, 50 pounds a C, etc.); the ones who made the most pots actually were more creative because they weren’t stuck on perfection and just got on with it. He provided several observations for thought: that cultural organizations must seek new ways to share (leverage, scale) their vitality and power, much of that vitality/power will come from outside our institutions, and that the lives of individuals and community are far more dynamic, creative, and amazing than we give them credit for. He said we must ‘cut the knot’ and achieve more direct paths to action, including finding ways to think outside of the institutions (cut the Gordion knot).

Then he had us play a Rock Paper Scissors game with each other, making the whole auditorium erupt into sound and liveliness. He showed us the super-fast Rock Paper Scissors robot that wins every time because it can see the movements of a human’s hand. Edson said that groups that face each other far outperform in creative, cognitive tasks, innovation, problem-solving than groups that don’t. This includes groups like surgeons. He discussed ‘leaning in’ activities and play, and how you can get 10x more human interaction at a farmer’s market than a grocery store [something that is likely to continue with increasingly automated check-outs].

He asked us to reflect on the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals and the one we like the most for a minute. Then he moved on to discussing UN Live: The Museum for the United Nations. It’s about connecting – they intentionally made the beginning of the mission statement a verb – it’s also about catalyzing global effort toward its goals. He said it helps clarify what you’re doing when you’re planning. They call themselves a museum on three platforms: Building, Network, Online, with a physical building in Copenhagen, a network of other institutions, and a digital presence to bring it all together.

People tend to be interested and involved when it’s in their local community (e.g. best pizza pies on the block gains more interest than best pizza in the city). People tend to care about climate change when it affects their garden, and research backs this up. Many of us think that if people have an emotional reaction to a problem, they are more likely to take action. But there is not a lot of evidence of this. Also, we think that if people know or learn about something, they will change the way they act in the world. But there are not a lot of stories about this happening. In fact, actually the opposite can be true, especially if it contrasts with their ideas, or if they think they are doing something about it by just knowing. Doing something (maker space) can be a skill in itself. This is why they’ve chosen to design with head, hands, and heart to try to tie all of the above in.

Rather than looking for a target demographic, they are looking for a target ‘psychographic’ (people who are open to change rather than ‘teens who read such and such’). They know online videos with playful element are successful and plan to use vloggers to create videos. They don’t have time or need to create a new audience for UN Live but instead will borrow (like Wikipedia borrowed Slash Dot’s). There are already festival of/for change around the world; they can start with them and then build their own.

Michael Edson slide 2He then discussed one of the ways they went about designing a museum space by getting kids involved. They used Lego and asked kids in Denmark to design a space to improve the world without telling them it was a museum until afterward. Then when he told them it was a UN Museum, their faces fell, indicating that the word museum held a negative impression for kids. He asked them what they thought about museums and they said ‘Eck…’ And he asked them what they thought about libraries and all said ‘shh’ and motioned with their fingers. But then he asked them where they went to hang out, and it ended up being the public library. And the same with the children’s museum. Despite this issue with terms, he said some framing is necessary. When he tried the design experiment without using that term they were lost.

Michael Edson slide 1He explained that using a game scenario is another way to solve problems. Science fiction can be a good way to level the playing field in that people don’t feel like they have to be an expert to solve problems on a hypothetical ‘Earth 7’ because it doesn’t exist, unlike something on real Earth. He said he has been in some awful meetings with museum staff where they say they want to change the world but ‘Stan’ here really just wants me to fill in this form.

In the Q&A, someone asked why he had us do the reflective exercise on the UN’s SDGs; his answer was that he wanted to take a risk and have people think about it and get in contact with him. Another question was about whether the push to get people to take action abdicates responsibility from organizations that should be doing stuff, like Occupy doing work of FEMA. His reply involved saying that it seems to be a ‘hack’ on the system and a way to give more people a seat at the table where decisions are being made. He doesn’t think this is a way to necessarily abdicate.

Thomasin Sleigh – DigitalNZ reflects on ten years

Sleigh noted that DigitalNZ points to over 206 institutions and lots of content. She admitted that she at first questioned whether the service was that useful, but she now believes that it is. She said that the big players (GAFA: Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon) actually control a lot of the information now, and people may think of these as the Internet and get all their news from them. But there is a lack of control here. Mark Zuckerberg can turn off a website’s traffic with the switch of an algorithm (ex. Recent Spinoff example). There is the post-truth environment and election tampering. She mentioned Jamie Bartlett’s The People Vs Tech: How the Internet is Killing Democracy (and How We Save It) (2018) and Safiya Umoja Noble’s Algorithms of Oppression: How Search Engines Reinforce Racism (2018). People sometimes ask her, why wouldn’t I just Google to look for information? But Google only has a veneer of neutrality; it is in its best interest to make us forget it’s a business. When you Google things, there is often not a lot of diversity, including a lack of women – 50% of population.

Katie Breckon, Johnny Divilli, Pete O’Connor – Activating collections in remote Western Australia

They discussed having to travel to very remote places only accessible by 4-wheel drive or helicopter, and having to hike for an hour in the long grass where snakes live! Dolord Mindi (the cave) is home to the Mowanjum Community Collection and Media Space. Arts and cultural workers receive on-the-job training and are supported to attend workshops and mentor fellowships. This helps them build local capacity as they care for the collections. They also are helped to develop their digital media skills and do drone training so they can record their cultural sites. Kids are the most frequent users of databases, and they are looking forward to getting more computers in.

They also discussed some of the arts and cultural projects, like the Junba Project (Junba is a form of storytelling through song and dance). O’Connor said he didn’t have a chance to learn the cultural practices and dances when he was young, so he wants to make sure the young men and women have the opportunity to. There is a poster of the different meanings of paint on the body, and they want to have an app where users can touch a part and then read what the meaning is in a more interactive way. Kids use iPads to film themselves dancing and then reflect on their efforts and improve. For example, they might be trying to look like an emu and see that they need to work on their posture more. At the close of the presentation, they showed us the 3-D mapping of a cave that they are working on.

Karyn Brice – NZSL at Te Papa

Brice discussed the journey of having an interpreter at an exhibit at Te Papa, filming them, and having that for New Zealand Sign Language Week. She mentioned ConnexU, which works with GLAM institutions in Australia and now some in New Zealand to provide NZSL and connect with deaf communities. They film a video of an interpreter for you. When the Te Papa team asked for feedback on the NZSL interpretation, they received it. Some preferred presenters who were deaf because they have learned NZSL as a first language and have a different perspective. This also raises the visibility of people who are deaf in the museum. People also indicated they would like to have New Zealand presenters and the option to turn the captions on/off.

A lot of the Gallipoli exhibit relied on audio stories, so one person was disappointed that he wasn’t able to have the full experience. Another woman came with her children and a host started talking to her but didn’t realize she couldn’t hear. She felt like she was missing out on important information that she couldn’t convey to her children. When people were asked to do a thought activity about designing a magic mobile device (if you could design any phone for an exhibit, what would it look like?), they received comments about something that would float because people’s arms get tired, would be able to locate their children, would provide easy directions to toilets and parents’ rooms, and would display what the rules of the museum were. In taking feedback into consideration, how Te Papa hosts receive NZSL training.

Adam Moriarty – Do we still need a Museum collections online?

Moriarty said the best decision they at the Auckland War Memorial Museum made was to partner with DigitalNZ. They get more hits from there in one month than they get in 3-4 months on their site. He once asked a scientist where they got their data and it wasn’t from museum websites. It was from portals like Atlas of Living Australia. People may not know Auckland exists, but they probably know that New Zealand exists and will be more likely to use search portals to find information. The mission isn’t to get people to visit or come back or to click through but to connect with museum content. The museum had a Wikimedian in Residence last year and it started to change the culture. They had some volunteers upload 100,000 images for them and classify and catalogue them. These are now used on 2,000 Wikipedia pages in 83 languages.

Kirsty Farquharson and Elizabeth Jones – Learning resources Aotearoa : How do teachers and students discover, access and use learning resources?

Learning resources Aotearoa 3 They discussed how most young people are overwhelmed and inundated with information and resources. They are a bit like drowning in a digital sea. Their project was not about creating more content or discovering how young people use it but about engagement and learning. Resource channels are very fragmented. Many schools can still have classrooms that never get past the search results of Google. They looked at key opportunities and barriers. They also looked at young people’s emotions (e.g. anxiety, confusion) when searching for information. Learning resources Aotearoa 2 They said don’t think ‘put it out there and they will come’ – people won’t necessarily find your stuff or the great stuff in the sea of the internet. Also, teachers don’t just want digital – they want lots of different types of resources. Teachers can determine when is print the perfect format, when is digital really good, when is the most powerful thing to go outside. Learning resources Aotearoa 1The National Library website has a great resource of curiosity cards with fertile questions that are open-ended and support inquiry learning. There is a danger when students think learning is Googling something and copying and pasting info in their paper. That’s just information transfer.

Digital Creators Panel – Luke Rowell (musician), Nicky Hager (author and investigative journalist), Jem Yoshioka (illustrator and comics artist)

One of the first insights from the panel was that it is much harder to ring-fence what a body of work is, compared to years ago. The first question was: What of your work do you want the future to have access to? Rowell said he wants everything to be available, including his bad sessions if anyone would be interested in listening to those. Hager said he has to be careful about whistleblowers who gave information on condition of anonymity. He discussed the challenge of how to sort through hundreds of files, and the issue that files and computers can become lost over time. Yoshioka said she has a file sorting system but also lots of old hard drives. Her iPad has become her sketchbook as she stopped using physical sketchbooks last year. But this means that she doesn’t go through files in the same way; there’s not the opportunity to have a nostalgia session flipping through physical books.

The second question was: To what extent do terms of use factor into your thought processes? Yoshioka said that you have to think about it as a digital artist, but there’s not a lot of choice in trying to get your work out there. The third question was: Is it important to have your work available to monetize in future? Rowell answered yes, you constantly have to get files and put on different platforms. Others always want higher fidelity and quality.

Another question was: If you could have access to work from creators who influence you, what would that be? Yoshioka is a fan of seeing other people’s sketches and thus tends to put up her own for others to view. Hager said he would like to see others’ original sources but it is usually not possible unless you are close friends with them. He goes to the Internet Archive/Wayback Machine a lot to see material that’s disappeared or has changed, such as a press release. He gets a sense of how impermanent the internet is and tries to save what he can, but he thinks we need to have more of us saving internet material. A related question was: How can New Zealand collections archive material like the Internet Archive? with the response being that we need a version of the Internet Archive that grabs widely (websites) for each country.

A final question was: How do you want people in the future to be able to consume your work? Hager said he would like all of his books to be available in the future but he’s not sure if it will ever be possible to safely make some of the research material available. Yoshioka said she has had success with Creative Commons licenses, and Rowell said he uses Creative Commons noncommercial licenses. Hager added that the thing about archives is that they usually don’t gain value until later, almost by definition. That makes it a challenge for researchers, who may not see the value that others will give to their material.

Amie Mills – Growing great Kiwis: Reaching young New Zealanders online

Amie Mills on storiesMills gave an overview of New Zealand On Air’s Hei Hei initiative for young viewers. NZ On Air exists to fund public access content like Radio NZ. The challenge was that YouTube now rivals TV2 as the biggest single source of media for children. Yet 9 out of 10 parents agreed that kids need NZ content. She said stories are very important. They launched a website and app in May this year. They had to keep it simple and similar to other apps; otherwise it would be a barrier to 5+. They focused on kids ages 5 to 9 because kids 10 and up have more agency over what they watch. She said they have smashed their targets with over 160,000 users. They didn’t aim to compete with Netflix or YouTube but get good weekly views and on weekends. She said the tablet is the golden device for kids and that it is good to see Hei Hei is being used across the regions, not just in the big cities.

Lightning Talks

Tim Sherratt – A GLAM data workbench for reluctant researchers

Tim Sherratt and Jupyter notebookSherratt opened by saying there are carpentries (e.g. Software Carpentry) and the Programming Historian but not everyone wants to go that route into coding. He showed the audience live code using an API from DigitalNZ and the benefits of the Jupyter notebook for Humanities people to use as a starting point to play around with.

Mike Dickison – A Wikipedian at Large

Dickison is being funded by Wikimedia to do a year of being a New Zealand Wikipedian in Residence. The first reaction from organizations is: So you’ll fix our Wiki page? *insert heavy sigh GIF. He said his job is to show organizations how they can use their resources and encourage them to put content on Wikipedia. He said if you’re not aware of Wikidata, get aware of it.

Asaf Barrow – Wiki + Data: Wikidata (and why you should care)

Barrow discussed Wikidata in more detail and called it the nexus allowing one to jump across institutions.

Hannah Benbow and Chantalle Smith – Reflections on a (pilot) D&D oral history project

They said they chose to focus on the game of Dungeons & Dragons because it is 40 years old, people still play it, and it appears in popular culture, such as in the show Stranger Things and The Big Bang Theory. Neither of them had played it before but were walked through it by others. They know oral history is important and uncovered personal and traumatic stuff that they hadn’t expected. They thought gender diversity would be an issue, but actually other types of diversity were more of an issue (e.g. it is mainly privilege, university types who play). Games are meant to be played, and to get that information and the history surrounding them, they said, you have to actually talk to the players.

Rhys Owen and Andrew McGhie – Wrestling with Qilin: The Challenges of Chinese OCR

They discussed ways to deal with the challenges of scanning Chinese characters. They chose to put their content in figshare, an online repository, so it’s public source and out there for others to look at.

Teina Herzer – Breaking content: Taking a design-led approach

Herer challenged the audience to rethink personas, indicating that they can be 90% BS, misleading, and biased. If you rely on them too much, your content can end up being generic. One of their flaws is that they are created by people trying to pretend to be someone else.

Jessica Moran – Preserving our digital lives: Now and for the future

Personal Digital Archive ToolkitMoran sees collecting and archiving born-digital materials as a digital literacy issue that needs to be addressed. Different countries’ people use social media differently. For example, only 9% of New Zealanders use Twitter. So even though we may be good at collecting from that, we aren’t perhaps collecting from a more-used site like Facebook, which has much more content. The Personal Digital Archive Toolkit is one way of teaching people how to take care of their digital content.

Keynote: Tara Robertson – Blah blah blah: Diversity and inclusion

Open source white and maleRobertson described herself as a data-driven feminist storyteller and did a mihi in Māori at the beginning – what a great opening to a keynote presentation. She gave a plug for Mozilla and its new quantum browser. She said Mozilla only has one share-holder: the nonprofit Mozilla Foundation. She asked the audience to share with someone next to them what is something that someone has done to make you feel included, and this led to some good conversations amongst the full auditorium. She also had a collaborative document that she invited us to contribute to with ideas (bit.ly/NDF-2018).

She challenged us to think about whose voices are here, which ones are automatically respected, and which aren’t. Mozilla’s Community Participation Guidelines discuss things you might not have thought of, such as use of the kiss emoji. She mentioned the way that orchestras helped debias their hiring practices, which involved having to put up a curtain to hide the sex of people, but then they also had to have women take off their heels because these would still click on the floor. She said that Mozilla had recently removed meritocracy from its policies. She challenged us to think about the pipeline for future librarians as being very white, whether or not it was necessary to have certain qualifications be mandatory, and that the idea of ‘cultural fit’ can be shorthand for ‘they look and think like us’ and promote a monoculture.

Librarianship ethnicity dataNext she discussed some different consent issues and ways of dealing with them. An idea to promote more consent around photographs at conferences is to use different colored lanyards to easily differentiate who is comfortable being photographed and who isn’t without people having to actively opt out. There are also consent issues with digitization of sensitive materials where people never agreed to have it online on the internet; these shouldn’t be open access.

Day 2 – November 21, 2018

Keynote: Bergis Jules – The community is the archive: Documenting the social justice activism in the age of social media

Jules discussed how people can use social media to discuss an event before the main media gets control of the narrative, and can have their tweets used by mainstream media and help control the narrative and define the terms of the debate. But then this can get away from them as the story gets more popular. The Documenting the Now project began after Michael Brown’s murder in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014. Jules said that as archivists, he and others started thinking about how they could document the event. This one was different – the first time it had played out in the age of social media. It was also the first time people could see the thoughts and feelings of others around the world about the events. They were thinking about how they could better document the history of marginalized communities by looking at social media activists, what solutions they pose, and how they educate the public. Activists are closest to the issues and have solutions to offer (for example, Black Lives Matter on a national level and other initiatives in local communities re voting rights, mass incarceration, etc.).

Jules discussed the Center for Media Justice, which is working on surveillance issues for activists and communities of color, and Madonna Thunderhawk, who co-founded Women of All Red Nations in 1978 and continues to work on issues such as water rights. He asked, what can we learn from social media activism about those traditionally left out of our historical record? Such activism is an increasingly important tool for social justice. It’s a centrepiece of their strategy.

Jules mentioned some examples of archiving of activism. The Interference Archive’s objective is “Exploring relationship between cultural production and social movements”. Occupy Archive is an archive of the Occupy Movements from 2011. He also mentioned Colored Conventions: Bringing 19th century Black Organizing to Digital Life, which examines the collective organizing of African-American people in the U.S.

There was a national forum on ethics and archiving the web in March 22-24, 2018, featuring filmmaker Elizabeth Castle, Madonna Thunderhawk and her daughter, and Jules showed a clip of Thunderhawk speaking at this forum. One of the issues with social media and activism was illustrated in that Facebook brought young people to Standing Rock, but there was also a security firm called TigerSwan documenting protest activity on behalf of local police department, so it is easier for activists and movements to be tracked as well (e.g. #NoDAPL No Dakota Access Pipeline hashtag). The Intercept news organization has a seven-part series of leaked documents on how social media was used in the fight over the Dakota Access Pipeline. Basically, police are finding new ways to use social media to go after protestors and activists and for evidence gathering. Geofeedia was offering a free public safety webinar and saying they can predict, monitor, and prevent risk in/around protests. There are ‘threat actors’ rap sheets from the cyber security company ZeroFox almost labelling them as terrorists. Jules said he shares these because it’s important to understand how activists can be harmed online if archivists are going to work with them to archive events. Prosecution and reputation harm, are real issues. We don’t want to replicate the behavior of the surveillance state and try to ensure we’re not exploitative.

He said in his experience, activists say that archivists should not just watch from afar but come in person and document their whole lives not just activism. Archivists also plan to put on workshops so activists can gain more control of their own narratives, such as learning how to safely gather and store content during protests so it can be later used in courts if needed to show another side of the narrative.

Keynote: Tuaratini Ra’a – Moana Pacific Storytelling: Unlocking Secrets

Tuaratini Ra’a storytellingTuaratini Ra’a is the Project Manager at the Pacifica Arts Centre in Auckland. She is also a Takitua, or storyteller, which comes from Taki (to guide, to lead, to carry) and Tua (story). She treated us to a story of the Pacific as she moved across the stage in her vibrantly colored outfit and had us think about the messages therein.

She said storytelling is an artform, not just about talking a lot. To tell stories with integrity and authenticity to her ancestors, she felt she needed to go back home to the Cook Islands and connect to the land and the people. But going back home and talking to people was a difficult step. She collected stories via video as well as audio with phones, which made it convenient. She went into caves and found skeletal remains and carvings (they were hidden there after Christianity came and people had to hide stuff).

Then she discussed the Pacifica Arts Centre Mamas and showed a YouTube clip of them. She said she did a participatory video project and gave the Mamas cameras, so they were in control of the stories they told. In 2017, she co-founded the Turou Takitua Storytelling Network, which seeks to connect the past and present through storytelling.

She emphasized that each person who holds that story has the right to determine whether or not you can receive it. She questioned the idea of free and easy access, and everything being so easily shared online in mass email, via Twitter, etc. She asked us to think about why we are doing it and whether others might take it out of context. This is why she specifically didn’t have her storytelling streamed today.

Mahuki Labs Tour

Mahuki Labs at Te PapaI went on a tour of the Mahuki Labs, which is an innovation accelerator program at Te Papa Tongarewa. It focuses on solving challenges within the GLAM sector and takes applications form people who want to work on entrepreneurial projects related to the cultural sector. The space was beautiful and inviting, with lots of bright colors and vibrancy. I was particularly interested in Merge Creative Agency’s augmented reality (AR) game idea to help interest young people in libraries or museums by having them play as a character and hunt around the building to find clues. I think having more dynamic experiences is going to become a necessity in the future to engage new audiences.

Adrian Kingston – Beyond foot traffic and vanity metrics: The Audience Impact Model

Kingston opened by stating that not everything is about ‘big dumb numbers’ (such as statistics). He used a modified Lean Canvas to think of a different way to measure impact, and started with David McClure’s Pirate metrics (AARRR) but it wasn’t quite right because it was too focused on money in a way that Te Papa didn’t need to be. There was also Google’s HEART framework, the Kirkpatrick model for assessing the success of organizational thinking, and Ethan Zuckerman’s engagement spectrum. They finally ended up with this sequence: Attention Reaction Connection Insight Action. As an example, looking at the Minecraft simulation featuring an earthquake that Te Papa had, there were kids going home and encouraging their parents to add safety measures at home like they had done in the game. He said that we could be better about longer-term impact, perhaps measuring through asking visitors when they return what they liked last time and why they’re back. Another thing to consider is mapping an organization’s impact onto the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The slides from this presentation are available here: https://t.co/Urxsbvjzt5

Paula Bray and Thomas Wing-Evans – DX Lab + 80Hz // More punk than GLAM

DX Lab projectThey focused on user-led thinking and want to change the way audiences think about what a library can be in the 21st century. They discussed the case study of the State Library NSW in Sydney’s DX Lab turning paintings into sound in an exhibit installed in front of the library. They used data from digitization and turned it into sound values (such as scale, overtones, etc.). Instead of doing live music, they used a computer to generate the music and ended up giving the computer more agency, which meant it had less human bias and avoided the uncanny value of sounding kind of human. Observations of how people encountered the installation is that it seems to have had a global reach. The impact isn’t all about numbers, also about audience engagement and seeing and hearing their own impressions.

Keynote: Tahu Kukutai – Demography, Digitisation and Data Sovereignty

Professor Tahu Kukutai is from the National Institute of Demographic and Economic Analysis, and she quickly put to rest any fear that a presentation on demographic data would be uninteresting. She said as a demographer, her bread and butter is data, so she has to consider issues like whose data, whose control, whose ethics, and whose benefit. She admitted to us that even she has a ‘semi-secure repository’ (i.e. trunk of stuff) in a garage behind some bikes.

She said there’s always a whakapapa (genealogy) ninja in a family, and she is that person in her family. She would ask her dad questions and record info and put it in her trunk to store it. She likes the lens onto a population, the lens onto us as a people that demography gave her, and it’s not just about looking at age ranges. She explained how it was one of the most rapid urbanization movements in the world, when Māori moved into cities in the 1960s. The descriptive picture (e.g. older Māori dying out which correlated with a lower te reo fluency rate) leads demographers to ask further questions and explore the data. She felt mainstream demography was very ill-equipped to why indigenous demographics looked the way they did.Professor Tahu Kukutai data sovereignty

She discussed historical demography and modeling the impacts of colonization on iwi and hapu population health (like mortality). There is the European Fertility Project, PRDH (Quebec), and DDB (Sweden) but nothing in New Zealand except for the Scots in Waipu. She received Marsden funding for a project to reconstruct three generations of tūpuna (ancestors) using mid-19th century census lists as the spine.

It assembles whenua data into a whenua database and correlates changes in mortality with changes in land tenure, use and settler settlement. The database was owned by Ngāti Tiipa, not her as researcher, and the information has to stay with whenua, not be shared on Ancestry.com, etc.. It is important to remember that everything is just fragments if you don’t have local intelligence to weave it all together and make sense of it. A data classification guru helped them classify their data. The goal is clear and transparent tikanga.

She discussed the importance of data sovereignty. Te Mana Raraunga is the Māori Data Sovereignty Network, which advocates for Māori rights and interests in data to be protected. The U.S. has the US Indigenous Data Sovereignty Network. Australia has the Maiam nayri Wingara Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Data Sovereignty Collective.

There was an attempt to take an abstract concept and make it more concrete, and Brief #1 from October 2018 “Principles of Māori Data Sovereignty” is available. Part of the problem with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is it focuses on individual rights, not on collective rights. Data is a national, strategic resource.

Keynote: Shaun Angeles Penangke – Ayeye digital-kenhe arntarntareme: Protecting our digital cultural heritage

map of AustraliaPenangke is the Artwe-kenhe (Men’s) Collection Researcher at the Strehlow Research Centre, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. He first situated himself in Australia and where his ancestors are from as he displayed a map of the country, and he also asked the audience to repeat some of his language.

He said there is a huge tie/bond between the land and the body – children are believed to be a reincarnation of certain totems like a kangaroo or water. You had to take care of the land because you were connected to it and if it weren’t taken care of, this wouldn’t be good for your spirit. He explained that he was raising the issues of his people being in Western hospitals, having a lower life expectancy, and selling land to corporations because they are important context for him being in charge of a large, largely digitized collection of his people’s history.

He said he has noticed lots of similarities in his language and te reo Māori, including terms for things like taonga. At the research center, all research is done face-to-face – no public access. It’s not ours; it’s theirs. Staff are supposed to have an understanding of the culture to be able to work with the collection, including fluency in the language (Arrernte). So it makes sense to have indigenous working there, but he is only the second indigenous person to work there. It has mostly been researchers, which has been problematic. He said it’s imperative to the health of the collection to employ elders.

He discussed a project of cultural mapping and how it was necessary to go on foot to some places inaccessible by car. He is working on adding more meaning to the yellow pins of sacred sites on Google Earth. He discussed what he called a type of indigenous intervention – having an elder add annotations to a map document that had been sitting ‘sick’ for 60 years.

He cautioned that digitalization is important but has large risks, including how to avoid losing USBs with restricted sacred content, and that if not managed properly, it has the potential to remove the need for elders (overreliance on digital domain). A challenge is that elders don’t understand cloud storage and digital stuff, and they don’t yet have terms or protocols around the digital world. For example, is it sacred if it’s on USB? He wants to get young people involved and working in museums.

Keynotes: Ask Me Anything with MC Courtney Johnson

There is a move toward more nuanced, collaborative, complex, and sovereign relationship with objects and what they stand for (away from white, Western approach). Tuaratini Ra’a admitted that NDF sounded like it would be full of dry, boring people and/or robots but was pleasantly surprised that it wasn’t! Tara Robertson said she thinks the cultural protocols are more real here than elsewhere and really likes how it is here at NDF. There was the question of what could the GLAM sector do for Year of Indigenous Languages next year? Tahu Kukutai said it is hard as a second language learner to understand the lifeworld; it is more than grammar rules. Tuaratini discussed the fact that not everyone likes language weeks, one has to know the reasons and tikanga behind it; language is not alone without a culture. Thus, signs during language weeks aren’t a be-all, just a step. Bergis Jules said there is a tension between when you’re making a living as a researcher or employee working with data and ethical issues. Shaun Angeles Penangke said we’re governed by policies, etc. that aren’t ours; he tells people this is yours, come in anytime, don’t worry about checking in with reception, etc. Courtney Johnson agreed that these are challenges and that Te Papa is a bicultural institution but doesn’t yet have bicultural governance. Robertson said there is a theme of ‘not for general consumption’ that the sector is trying to figure out how to do well. Tuaratini said that seeing Robertson get emotional over the Māori whakataukī (proverb/saying) reminded her that we do have it good here in Aotearoa New Zealand, and that although there is heaps to do, we should acknowledge ourselves too. Robertson pointed out what some in the audience must have been thinking, that the stage was all speakers who were people of color/indigenous people. She also pointed out the contrast with the mostly white audience. Kukutai said that for true bicultural governance, we need co-governance, not just letting in people to see their objects and treasures but not being involved in their care.

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