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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.

Notes from Women’s Studies Association / Pae Akoranga Wāhine Conference 2018

Women’s Studies Association/Pae Akoranga Wāhine Conference 2018

Victoria University of Wellington (Wellington, New Zealand)
September 22-23, 2018

The Women’s Studies Association/Pae Akoranga Wāhine’s biennial conference was held at Victoria University of Wellington in association with the Stout Research Centre for New Zealand Studies. The theme was “Feminist Engagements in Aotearoa: 125 Years of Suffrage and Beyond” due to it being the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand. There was no separate hashtag for the conference; instead, the nationwide #suffrage125 one was suggested for participants. This conference had a different feel than the previous one I attended, but it still featured plenty of singing and a bicultural thread throughout.

Day 1 – September 22, 2018

Prof Linda Waimarie Nikora – Keynote / Margot Roth Lecture

Nikora discussed Riperata Kahutia (1838/39 – 1887) and the research she engaged in in order to see how many times Kahutia was in the Maori Land court for both herself and others, using the Maori Land Court Minute Books Index at the University of Auckland. She said something that many people don’t realize is that one had to be well-resourced to attend Native Land Court and had to know something of the law. Genealogy was not just about one’s family line but land in order to prove claims. In addressing the theme of 125 years of women’s suffrage in New Zealand, she used an interesting image, saying that to her, the vote is simply a point in time. It didn’t stop the rain. It still rains.

Anne Else – Women Together Online: Weaving Feminist History into the 21st Century

Else discussed her project as the editor of Women Together: A History of Women’s Organisations in New Zealand. It received funding to digitize this year. She mentioned the cycle of loss and recovery – she hoped 3rd and 4th wave feminists were closer to 2nd wave feminism and wouldn’t go through this cycle, but she said younger feminists say if it’s not online, it doesn’t exist (and info is often only cursory). Sandra Coney’s Standing in the Sunshine is out of print, as is only biography of Kate Sheppard (only one copy available online, selling for $200). The WSA received funding to digitize the Women’s Studies Journal.

In discussing Wikipedia coverage of women, she said 21% of Wikipedia’s New Zealand biographies are on women, so it’s better than the 17.6% of general biographies on Wikipedia, which is up from 15% thanks largely to efforts of the project Women in Red. Other topics mentioned were volunteering and online abuse. Women contributed 1.9 million more hours in volunteer work in 2016 than men and in different areas. She said violence and abuse are the wallpaper of women and girls, and the online abuse is not a new phenomenon but an extension of everyday misogyny (women tried to be prevented from entering the public space). One specific challenge in gathering information about women’s groups online is that groups don’t date stuff on their websites, or their Facebook page/group doesn’t have info about how to contact organizers.

Jennifer Frost – A Digital Project on Colorado Women’s Suffrage

Frost said she is an American History teacher at University of Auckland and found a way to draw a connection between suffragists in Colorado in the U.S.—who gained suffrage the same year as women in New Zealand— and suffragists in New Zealand. Rather than just ask students why suffragists in Colorado succeeded in 1893, her project asked them why they failed in 1877. This acted as a good foil.

Lynette Townsend – Where the Women At?

Townsend said she works at the Ministry for Culture and Heritage and for the Suffrage 125 year helped put up exhibition content on activism on the NZ History site. She said young women are learning about feminism through celebrities like Beyonce, Lorde, and Emma Watson and internet and social media, and mentioned the Ace Lady Network in New Zealand. I was glad to learn how to say Mary Ann Colclough’s last name (pronounced ‘Coke-ley’) after doing my own research on her. Towsend discussed Simmonds’ (2011) definition of mana wahine: “exciting theoretical development that enables Māori women to (re)present and (re)claim our knowledges, experiences and practices”. She mentioned Coco Solid, an artist and illustrator, and that she was interested in perspectives that have been neglected. Her hope is that knowing our history, we can strategically build on the experiences of others. One comment was that this type of narrative neglects that second-wavers are still active, and it’s not just younger people doing stuff now. It also leaves out the activism of the 1930s and women like Elsie Locke.

Kara Kennedy – No Woman Left Behind: Digital Literacy as a Pressing Gender Issue

I presented on the gender gap in tech and the lack of digital literacy among students, why it is urgent that we do something about them, and some ways that the Digital Humanities can help address this from a new and different angle than the one that tries to get more women into STEM.

Rhonda Shaw, Rhonda Powell, Hannah Gibson, and Lois Tonkin – Panel: Assisted Reproduction in Aotearoa

This was an interesting presentation of perspectives about various issues in reproduction and technology, such as where the law sits in relation to surrogates. Panellists differed in their opinions of the best way to move forward in this ever-changing landscape, which made for an engaging and thought-provoking discussion.

The Feisty Feckin’ Full-time Feminists – “‘We want the whole d*&#ed rosebush’: Feminist Songs from 1970s-1980s Wellington”Feisty Feminist musical group

This musical performance was an engaging way to look at the history of feminist music and themes that unfortunately are still relevant today. The audience was invited to join in with the words projected onto the screen and there was a lot of laughter.

Day 2 – September 23, 2018

Sandra Grey and Sarah Proctor-Thompson – Workshop: The Gendered Impact of the Neoliberal Project in Tertiary Education 

Sandra gave a brief presentation on the current state of affairs in tertiary education in New Zealand, including aspects such as new public management techniques that are audit-based (ex: did 80% of students pass?), PBRF requirements, and heavy emphasis on students getting jobs after receiving their qualifications. Only about a quarter of professors and associate professors are women. She recommended reading Dame Anne Salmond’s speech at Women of Influence Awards. The Cabinet papers refer to staff as resources to be used efficiently. The TEU’s recommendations based on its State of Tertiary Education Sector Survey 2018 are now available.

One of the questions discussed amongst the workshop participants was whether there is a gendered component to these issues. Participants mentioned several ways, including that women take more responsibility for being good teachers and pastoral care, while men have taken up individual competitive game more; there is more emotional labor demanded of female tutors (not counted and not valued by neoliberalism); and that the Arts have suffered compared to Engineering. There were comments about Humanities faculty having taken up poststructuralism without realizing they were getting rid of communal and social and creating inaccessible language; tensions for students between academic striving and thinking about preparing oneself for future market; it’s becoming harder to get support for organizations like the WSA to book rooms; and there are more paywalls and closed access so non-staff and students can’t access materials.

Rachel Simon-Kumar, Golriz Ghahraman, Berlinda Chin, and Manying Ip – Panel on Asian Women as Citizens and Denizens

Sumita Mukherjee’s Indian Suffragettes (2018) was mentioned as a resource that documents British suffragettes of color.

Chinese Women in NZManying Ip described how Asian women are still forgotten and overlooked (and considered to be the Other) in New Zealand. The Chinese couldn’t naturalize between 1908 and 1952 and couldn’t vote because they were considered ‘aliens’. She showed a collection of political cartoons called Aliens at my Table: Asians as New Zealanders See Them (2005). The Chinese are the perpetual Other and there are formidable hurdles for contemporary Chinese women, including still being ‘aliens’, having a lack of tradition and role models, and being unsure of a sense of entitlement (it still feels like ‘white people’s’ land). She said that the connection between the Māori and Chinese is really worth exploring (for example, Aunty Kiripuai (b. 1916)).

Golriz Ghahraman discussed some of the challenges that women of color face in New Zealand, especially when they become more visible as she has as a member of Parliament. She said the East like the West has fierce feminism, environmentalism, and democracy movements (even if it manifests differently). All the microaggressions by people in power reinforce racism and feed it. She made the Ministry of Women desegregate the data on the gender pay gap because they hadn’t officially done so, and this revealed the differences in pay among women of different ethnicities. Amnesty International has identified online abuse as a key human rights issue this year. She described how ‘leaning in’ isn’t always/often safe, so it’s not a good thing to tell young women of color to just do that as if it can overcome the structural and other issues. Women of color need to be at the table not just consulted on for changing the system.

Berlinda Chin asked participants to go to havemysay.govt.nz for state sector reforms. D&Is (diversity and inclusion) are still seen as nice to have, not need to have. She said that’s what we’re up against, but also what we can be up for – having ‘courageous’ conversations with coworkers and others around us.

Rachel Simon-Kumar closed the session by looking at some of the ways women, including immigrant women, are treated in New Zealand. She mentioned an article ‘Expectant mothers ineligible for free health care fork out millions to give birth in NZ” that at first seemed sympathetic, but then later showed a fear of unpaid bills, as an example of the rhetoric.

Suzanne Woodward – Artificial Women: Human-Robot Sexual Ethics

Sex Robot EthicsWoodward’s presentation was a fascinating look at recent developments in the world of sex robots and how they relate to feminist issues and ethical considerations. The book that kickstarted the ethics conversation was David Levy’s Love and Sex with Robots (2008) – it asked can a robot consent and does it matter? She said the issue is not just about sex robots but also about real women and how they are being treated: subservience and control, maltreatment, etc. Speaking of Masahiro Mori’s idea of the uncanny valley, she said our emotional response goes up the more human a robot looks. She mentioned Sophia the Robot and Realbotix’s ‘sexualized personal assistant’. Sex robot brothels are opening up, seen as solutions to disease and loneliness. Male designers make robots to be exploited. 95% of sex robots are female; one named Samantha was so mistreated it lost fingers. There is a commodification of intimacy (something you buy), and even the suggestion that they are an answer to the ‘incel’ problem. and how celebrity models are not consenting to bots but have little control over others creating them. She mentioned Laurie Penny’s The B* Doctrine (2016) and recommended checking out the documentary ‘The Sex Robots are Coming’ (2017).

The Results of New Zealand’s First Gender Attitudes Survey from Gender Equal NZ, led by National Council of Women’s Sandra Dickson

Attitudes Towards RapeThe Gender Attitudes Survey revealed deeply entrenched attitudes of victim blaming (such as 29% of respondents agreeing that false rape accusations are common) that decades of feminist activism haven’t been able to change. The video has had a wide reach, having been shared 21,000 times on Facebook and been used by groups in schools, rotary clubs, consent education, etc. Organizations can pay a small fee to run the survey with their own organization’s people and compare the results with the national survey. It can be viewed at www.genderequal.nz

Pani Farvid – Looking Back and Looking Forward: Primary Prevention Strategies for Addressing Gender Inequality in Aotearoa/New Zealand

Farvid followed on from the discussion of gender attitudes to discuss some ways to prevent gender inequality from becoming entrenched. She said that one first thinks a stereotype, then feels, then behaves. Men benefit directly from changing masculinity norms because it is primarily men who kill other men. Quotas are one thing to consider because it doesn’t look like companies are going to get to equality on their won. She mentioned her article on #metoo in the New Zealand media. Some ways to implement a shift in thinking include: gender equality education in schools, media literacy across all schools, prioritizing comprehensive sex education, and focusing on ethical conduct in human relationships. The Swedish model of education is one example to consider.

Lizzie Marvelly – Keynote

Marvelly was the final keynote speaker. She has a weekend column in the New Zealand Herald and a web series, and she is the editor of Villainess, a digital media project for young women. She shared anecdotes about her time at King’s College in Auckland and that their prefect handbook still hadn’t changed to eliminate male language and had only one quote by a woman in its 50 pages. She discussed the online hate she has had to deal with and said that her new book, That F Word: Growing Up Feminist in Aotearoa (2018), has a list of commandments for how to deal with online abuse.

National Digital Forum (NDF) Conference 2016 – Day 2

NDF Conference 2016

Annual Conference of National Digital Forum (NDF)
November 22-23, 2016
Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand (Wellington, NZ)
Conference program PDF
Twitter feed #NDFNZ
Recordings of sessions on NDF YouTube channel

See Cool Things to Check Out and Stand-out Presentation on my Day 1 post.

The following are my notes from the sessions I attended on day 2 of the NDF Conference. Most sessions were recorded and are available on the NDF YouTube channel.

Day 2 – Wednesday, November 23

Keynote: Ngāi Tahu Cultural Mapping Project – Takerei Norton (Ngāi Tahu Archives Team)

Norton began Day 2 of the NDF conference by stating that this is not a technical talk at all; it is more about how a community tells their story. He said that he found historical evidence through his elder that had a paragraph about a part of land from the 1800s, and they were able to get the tenure review from the government to create a conservation/preservation area of a particular lagoon. Then he had the idea to start mapping all of the Ngai Tahu cultural sites in the high country so they could try to protect more of them. At first, people were adding stickers to 30 maps with different colors of labels (green means food gathering site, blue means river, etc.). It was very laborious but also was a good activity to help people learn history and participate. Then they started taking trips to the high country and bringing 30ish people along. This became a time when they were reconnecting with their landscape.

Eventually, they ended up with over 4,000 place names on the South Island mapped on Google Earth! This is known as the Ngāi Tahu Cultural Mapping Project.

Twitter photo:

Every place name is referenced and validated by locals. They are trying to create an official portal for Ngāi Tahu history. Almost all the sites are on Crown land, and Norton only has access to copies of the original documentation. The originals are in Auckland and Wellington – he asked what are people who want to access their tribe’s history supposed to do if they can’t get to those places? They are also making travel routes and trails on the South Island (in green lines on Google Earth). Little red rectangles are the land that was allocated to the Maori by the government (not necessarily in the same area either). It was not 10% like it was supposed to be.

He said that we owe thanks to Pakeha historians like Beattie and Taylor because without them, we wouldn’t have a lot of history. But they did make mistakes, and it’s the job of our generation to correct them and build on their work to make it better. They have to make a decision on spelling when there are discrepancies. They want schools and other groups to use this resource they’ve created. He believes that it matters that the project hasn’t been done FOR us; we’ve done it ourselves. We’ve got skin in the game.

Keynote: See New Zealand clearly: Using numbers to understand who and where we are, where we’ve been, what’s going on and where we’re heading, or Creating a Data Democracy – Lillian Grace (Figure.nz) @GracefulLillian

Grace began by asking several questions about data. How many Labrador dogs are registered in NZ? How many young people aged 20-24 that should be getting on with their lives but don’t seem to be are in certain areas? (28% in Gisborne/Hawke’s Bay)? How many NZers have there ever been?

For all of time, it’s been hard to share information widely and communicate with other people. For the first time ever, now it’s easy. Devices enable us to share information widely and communicate with lots of people in multiple directions. Back in the day, there needed to be smart people to be great leaders and digest information. Now it can be done differently. We can make decisions in different ways. People are scared to change because they think it means that what they were doing before was wrong. But she thinks that it should be seen as an opportunity instead.

We have finally moved to thinking learning to read is for everyone, but we still don’t do this with numbers. We allow the experts to figure out numbers and use them in their thinking. Figure.nz is trying to change this. She likes to think of numbers as holding stories that not everyone is capable of understanding. Why don’t we use numbers in our thinking?

Datasets were set up before the Internet, so sharing wasn’t even thought about. No standards, etc. But now, people with information are expected to make it open and share it. But this is also terrifying for people who collected datasets, because they are asked to share it and they hadn’t been thinking they would have to do that. Having datasets sorted by source and institution and country is like having a dictionary where the words are sorted by the country they originated from. It’s too hard to deal with and not very helpful to have New Zealand data trapped on each individual website.

She gave the example of her brother, a truck driver, who gets excited about knowing how many accidents happen in a certain area or certain times of year. So people understand the importance of numbers when you present them in a different way. But most people don’t use data, and most of NZ’s data isn’t used.

Figure.nz is a charity and the first organization in the world to assert that everyone can use data. Their mission is to enable everyone to make sense of data and see New Zealand clearly, in a way that inspires us forward. They charge places that have data like the Treasury or other government sites to process their data and tables. [But do these places actually want people to look closely at their numbers?…] Currently on their website you can look at a Pinterest-style page of figures. They know that at the moment, people still have to know what to search for on their website. Ex. A florist in Nelson might not just want to look at data in the floral industry, because it might be more helpful for them to look at other relevant data, such as funeral trends. We need to create a culture where people are encouraged and inspired to learn things and seek out things for themselves [yes, self-directed learning].

Youth, digital agency and encounters with the past and present – Louise Saunders (UNITEC)

 Louise Saunders was filling in for the originally-scheduled speaker. She said that she started as a student, became a leader, and then got published  [great trajectory for young students]. She was in a Communications class that had an assignment to make a community-based oral history project on WWI because of the centenary. It aimed to introduce students (outside of fields like history or cultural studies) to digital storytelling and content, to help them build a transmedia narrative. Her group produced an interactive exhibit called Help Me Tell My Story (www.helpmetellmystory.co.nz). She mentioned that ePress at Unitech is an online publishing platform. The rest of the projects can be seen at www.morethanawar.com.

Even though they considered themselves marvellous Communications students, they quickly realized they didn’t have much digital technology skills, so had to partner with back-end and front-end developers [again reiterating the importance of digital literacy]. She said it was probably the best learning experience they had as students. Students in the class not from New Zealand (like those from Asian countries) said that participating in this activity meant that they could actually relate to the First World War. Once they had something to focus on (WWI), all the things they had been learning about in their degree really came to life (blogging, social media, etc.). Before it was just like ‘blah social media’, etc. Leith Haarhoff asked a question about how the logistics between GLAM and academia worked and if there were any problems. Saunders said that the issues were usually about who would take responsibility but they were always worked out. Strong leadership is needed to see the project through.

A model for relevant technology programming in libraries – Leith Haarhoff (Palmerston North Libraries) and Tyler Benson (Massey School of Engineering)

Haarhoff and Benson took turns discussing the Technology Summer Challenge and Technology Challenge project that involved the Massey School of Engineering and Palmerston North Libraries. Haarhoff began by talking about problems that face the world and then looking at how these can catalyze a solution. There is a pressure on libraries to prove relevance and do that through technology. He said they feel pressure to use 3-D printing and new technologies but don’t necessarily know why. Research shows that 75% of primary school kids are loving STEM, then something happens in the translation to their NCEA choices and it goes down to 25%. Massey is not getting enough students.

Benson is an engineer and made the comment that he was glad to see so many ‘older’ people who know technology in the audience, that it was a great environment to be in [some of them may have been a bit ruffled over that comment!]. He explained that the Technology Challenge used 3-D printers to make stuff and kids were dragging their parents to come over and participate. There was good energy. He saw five factors that made it successful: Real-world context; Hands-on experiments [tinkering]; Peer-to-peer interaction and group collaboration (challenge/problem/project-based learning); Interaction with parents/parental involvement; and Key mentors that are committed. What they learned was that the library can help facilitate the STEM program. This was a key aspect. The library might have the stuff but doesn’t know how to use it in a very advanced way. By bringing in engineering students, this then leads to more expertise around the local city (like engineers who know how to use 3-D printers). One question was about whether there was any transference of skills to library staff. Someone did learn how to solder. If you’re interested in something, it doesn’t take that long to learn a new skill. People felt a lot more confident by the second time.

A fireside chat with Seb Chan in conversation with Courtney Johnston (Chan from ACMI, @sebchan; Johnston from DOWSE Art Museum, @auchmill)

Chan said that he used to say that virtual visitors need to be paid attention to just like physical visitors. Now he realizes that they are differently important. The fact is we are spending more time on screens. Mobile hasn’t reduced the time on screens but has actually increased it. Americans spend about 8 hours on average a day on screens (according to new Pew research).

He discussed a difference between museums in the UK, Australia, NZ which have the idea that things are for the public, and museums in the U.S. There, the nonprofit educational aspect is why donations to museums incur a tax benefit. This seems more paternalistic than NZ and Australia. Chan thinks that the U.S. is a decade ahead in museum practice but a decade behind in terms of funding that practice. The certainty of financial security isn’t there. There are much larger boards with stakeholders (up to 40+). There is also the sense that “digital is done”. It was a way to be seen to be showing innovation but wasn’t necessarily about a structural change. He gave a case study of Cooper Hewitt.

Whenever we do digital projects, we never spend enough time marketing them. You need to demonstrate that your organization is outward-facing. Institutions need to be looking out to the world. We need to get out there. People don’t look down here. We’re far away.

Johnston asked a final question about visitor research vs. surveillance. There are issues of privacy and harvesting data with no real purpose. She says, don’t collect data if you don’t need to (how many people walk by a building with a phone, example).

Panel: Labs and incubators for the rest of us

Tui Te Hau (Mahuki lab at Te Papa) @Mahuki_TePapa
Seb Chan (ACMI) @sebchan
Julia Kaganskiy (New Inc.) @juliaxgulia
Paula Bray (DXLab at State Library NSW) @paulabray

ACMIx at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image is a new coworking space (for filmmakers, VR developers, gamers, etc.) for making connections, fostering ideas, and building a community. It has been open for seven months now and has two universities in Melbourne that have postgrads and academics in this space as well.

Mahuki at the Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand is an innovation incubator.The Mahuki outreach program works with tertiary institutions, the start-up ecosystem, and the wider community. They provide $20,000 funding for teams. They get 6% equity in the businesses so are invested in their success. There is a priority on diversity (gender, Māori, Pasifika).

Kaganskiy runs New Inc., founded by the New Museum in New York. They have 8,000 sq. ft. with 100 creative practitioners. It seemed like every area had an incubator lab except for the arts. Artists lacked business and entrepreurial skills to stay in NY. It costs $600 a month for full time or $350 for part-time, so people pay for desk space. They are trying to offer scholarships and funding for those without means.

Bray talked about the DXLab at the State Library of New South Wales, which is more about Digital Humanities research than being an incubator program.

Question: Why are labs important? How can they be sustainable?

Kaganskiy: It extends the public service that your museum is doing for the community. It is sustainable because of membership fees (60-70% of operational budget) and they have some foundational funding as well.

Chan: Working with universities has removed the need to do things like build labs or studios (specialist physical resources).

Te Hau: They embrace fast failing, so speed is a good thing. Then people can move on to another project.

Q: What does success look like? How do you measure this?

Chan: They need to cultivate an alumni program like universities do, so they can help show the influence they have. The first step is making the lab and naming it. Then it takes more work to go from there.

Te Hau: They are hoping that 8 out of 10 will finish the program (looking like they are on track to do so).

There was a question from Andy Neale: What about organizations that won’t set up these incubators? Kaganskiy responded that these were filling a gap and a need. They weren’t competing with things that were already there. She thinks that the community value-add aspect is the most important. There was a question about whether or not incubators try to encourage people to use their content. It seems to depend on whether they are connected to an institution. New Inc. isn’t a collecting institution, but ACMI does encourage people in incubator to use museum space and ‘try out’ exhibits.

Should you start an incubator? Consider these factors: Real Estate, Community Value-Add, Strategic Partnerships, Business Model, Experiment and Iterate.

Keynote: Incubating culture and creative economies – Julia Kaganskiy (New Inc.) @juliaxgulia @Newinc

Kaganskiy mentioned the ‘Color the Temple’ activity at the Met Museum (Egyptian art being lit up with light). She highly recommended the MoMA R&D website/blog.

She said that incubators can help breathe life into struggling communities. They are most effective when they are site-specific and situated in a specific community. By the year 2020, 40% of the workforce will be freelance. Innovation doesn’t just come from the Sciences. It comes from the Arts too!

Twitter photo:

Virtual Reality is really hot at New Inc. right now. She gave a brief look at some of the exciting ideas coming out of the incubator.

Monegraph is trying to make it easier to share digital works.

Print All Over Me turns virtual designs into real world objects. It is run by a brother and sister duo. After this, the next year they started Kokowa, an easy tool to create 3-D environments. The process is still quite hard, so their startup made a drag and drop interface tool. You can view it cross-platform.

Artiphon is designed to make music really accessible for beginners. It can scale with you as you grow. Professional musicians could use it as well.

Micromuseums are another interesting concept. It is a mobile museum about 6 ft. high by 3 ft. wide, features 15 exhibitions, and is designed to go into places like DMVs and hospital waiting rooms that are classified as dehumanized zones.

Powerplnt is giving free art lessons to teens in Harlem.

Disability is a focus at New Inc. as well. Alice Sheppard is working on a new performance with ramps that she wants to disseminate. For her it is very much an advocacy project.

Elia Life (Education, Literary, and Independence for All) wants to redesign Braille to be more intuitive, because currently it’s very difficult to learn.

Kaganskiy discussed how we need to re-envision the incubator model to foster cultural value not just capital value. They initially had social impact as one of their objectives or focus areas, but then they decided to take it out because it was such a weighty term. But it has ended up happening anyway and has been something they support. Museums act as a credentialler and when connected with an incubator are possibly even more important than physical space.

Closing Remarks – Matthew Oliver (Chair, NDF Board) @talkingtothecan

Oliver offered some reflections on the tumultuous year, including the death of the icon David Bowie and the assault on human decency that Trump brings. Is it the end of Parliamentary democracy; do we need a discussion on neoliberalism? Our sector (cultural heritage) needs to be involved in these conversations. We need to help build society and communities where people want to help each other [empathy]. The future is about building a better world where hate can’t survive. He mentioned issues like sexism. He said that we need to stop trying to prove we’re relevant and just get on with our work. Then the award winners were announced, and the conference was over.

National Digital Forum (NDF) Conference 2016 – Day 1

NDF Conference 2016

Annual Conference of National Digital Forum (NDF)
November 22-23, 2016
Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand (Wellington, NZ)
Conference program PDF
Twitter feed #NDFNZ
Recordings of sessions on NDF YouTube channel

Cool Things to Check Out:

Stand-out Presentation:

The stand-out talk was Takerei Norton’s discussion of his work on the Ngāi Tahu Cultural Mapping Project, which now has over 4,000 Māori place names on the South Island mapped onto Google Earth, complete with references from Māori communities. This will enable countless Digital Humanities research projects and was so interesting and inspiring to learn about.

The following are my notes from the sessions I attended on day 1 of the NDF Conference. Most sessions were recorded and are available on the NDF YouTube channel. [If any errors, let me know.]

Day 1 – Tuesday, November 22

On Day 1, there was first a breakfast put on by DigitalNZ. Their big announcement was that they just launched Stories which is an easy way to put together images and text using historical material or your own material.

Then the conference opened and it was announced that they had over 300 registrations, which was the most they’d ever had. This number later was specified as 320 registrations.

Opening Address – Richard Foy (Department of Internal Affairs)

Richard Foy gave a fabulous opening address. He was funny, understandable, and relatable, and he used great images. He connected it with the personal/human element by showing images of his daughter Lucy and his grandmother. He said that we need to be people-first (rather than cloud-first, etc.).

It was pleasing to hear him make several science fiction references right off the bat, a big one being The Core science fiction movie. He humorously explained his attachment to this not-ranked-very-highly movie and encouraged us to please rate it on IMDB – it deserves better than a 5.4!

Foy then gave a hilarious overview of digitization – how we make PDFs and put them in the ‘cloud’ and then burn the rest of the leftovers. This has precedent! Actually, the Gibbons fire in New Zealand led to the Archives Act 1957. This kind of digitization is not best practice, obviously.

Foy next discussed time and memory. Our memory allows us to inextricably link our past with our present and our future. When we lose some of that memory, our memories tend to fade away. That can lead to a much darker future. We’re not accountable for things that have gone by in the past.

We’re moving from physical information to digital information and need to figure out how we manage those. Unlike Pokemon Go, we don’t want to catch it all. Some of it we don’t need and don’t want to remember. He said that copyright in the digital era is ripe for disruption! And he also gave a shout out to Digital Humanities – these are the things these guys are begging us for! We also need to make information useful and available for machines to be able to deal with it for us.

What would happen if we created the reading room on the web in the 21st century? But what if there were nothing to read? We have to make sure we preserve things for the future.

Keynote: Memory Institutions as Knowledge Machines – Eric T. Meyer (Oxford Internet Institute at University of Oxford) @etmeyter

Meyer is at the Oxford Internet Institute and has been there for 15 years, since 2001. He started by asking What does social informatics mean? He described the term “Socio-Technical” and how his book editors kept trying to take out the hyphen but he insisted on it. What social informatics does is to examine the hyphen – how do people interact with technology. He has an article about it: “Examining the Hyphen” (2014). Science and Technology Studies tends to look at the first side” of the hyphen (people), then add the technology later. Computer Science tends to look at the second side of the hyphen (technology), then add the socio/people thing just at the end.

Wired magazine tends to be quite focused on technology determinism. The Internet causes this, makes people dumber, etc. But actually, technology allows people to make certain choices.

Working with his colleague Ralph, whom he doesn’t often agree with, means that every sentence is carefully thought-out because they have to work hard to convince the other person of their position. (Benefit of co-writing rather than sole authorship)

No one used to care about data. Then after Snowden, now ‘big data’ draws larger crowds.

Do you indicate that you used a digital resource when building your list of references? Basically students use them but then delete because of academic standards.

He discussed marine biology research on humpback whales. There are many scientists around the world looking at their own populations, but it’s good to find a way to share that data with other scientists so they can build a map and estimate the numbers of whales in the world, rather than just one area. Another problem is that we don’t know how long they live, but they could live over 100 years. So how do scientists make sure that the scientists after them can use that data?

He discussed a ‘big data’ project on dementia (http://bit.ly/bigdatadementia). Funders insisted that they use the word big data in the title, even though it really wasn’t that big of a data. (Big data is seen as sexy though.) How do we change the incentives in medical science to make it so they not only want to create data but want to make it accessible to others and share it? How many people have worked with a scientist who comes to the end of the project and hasn’t thought about what to do with the data and just wants to shove it into a repository to meet the requirements of founders? There is a need to get them thinking about data earlier in the process (this is what librarians in universities are working on).

An example of big data that could be used to help out in the health care realm but raises ethical questions: Tesco grocery store chain has a loyalty card that can pick up on shopping habits of someone coming down with dementia (like narrowing shopping choices or buying the same item day after day). But how ethically would they be able to share that data with health professionals? There are other issues with big data. RFID chips are used to track things. Meyer said that if he goes to a conference and they have a chip in the id badge and they can’t tell him what they’re doing with the data, he rips it out. He also gave the example that made the news about how Target knew a teenage girl was pregnant before her dad did (see article in Forbes), started sending her coupons, etc. for baby stuff. This shows how scary big data can be – they know more than our own families do. Also, the problem with loyalty shopping cards is that it is all proprietary data protected under no disclosure agreements that medical researchers, really anyone can’t get access to.

He finds Internet Archive Wayback Machine and other web archives frustrating because you can only look at URLs one at a time. The search function isn’t very good because they can’t crawl the data as fast as they need. You can’t look at broader information. Historians in the future will want to know what was going on today, on the web, because that is where things are mainly happening in our world.

‘Academics quite like to link to themselves.’ He showed a chart of how the subdomains link to each other (.co, .gov, .ac).

He discussed a Digital Humanities project where a Thomas Pynchon wiki was set up to annotate his book Against the Day and it only took a few months, whereas previously it had taken years. This is a new way of doing a humanities task, such as annotating a novel, and can be done by the crowd. It was done by a non-academic, a fan, who ran the server from his own computer. Weisenburger’s Rainbow (first annotation) was bought and stored by libraries, but there is no plan to preserve this person’s wiki project. It raises questions about how to proceed in future with this kind of humanities project.

Re: Humanities Browsing and Searching vs. Physical Sciences Browsing and Searching
Lots of people use Google search and Google Scholar but also rely on a lot of other resources. Over the last 20 years, libraries have gotten to be too good at being invisible. He said that when physical scientists have been asked about their library use, they don’t even realize where they are getting their online journal articles! On the one hand it’s good that libraries are less visible because it means the experience is smoother, but on the other hand, they are not being appreciated or noticed. It used to be very difficult to find information, but now it just takes a few clicks. So that has changed the nature of how things work. We’ve moved from information to analysis.

He mentioned Blockchain and Ascribe and the discussion around whether these can help artists get paid.

He finished by discussing a student project where they were asked to make films using nothing but an iPad. “Bottling Inspiration: Shoot Smart Swindon Final Project Report” (2014) It unleashed a lot of creativity among their students. Instead of separating out roles like camera person, editing person, it allowed everyone to collaborate and comment.

A round up on the latest inspirations and examples of tech in exhibitions around the world – Emily Loughnan (Clicksuite) @suitey

Loughnan presented a whirlwind tour of really innovative museum exhibits in the world. The interactive version of Hieronymous Bosch’s “The Garden of Earthly Delights” painting inspired her to think about if they could make something that would allow others to do the same with their artworks and objects. Curio (curiopublisher.com) came out of Mahuki, the Innovation Hub at Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand.

Museums are moving from being story-tellers to co-creators. Virtual Reality (VR) can allow people to create something for themselves. Check out the Tilt brush from Google. Yet 5 million people are going through the museum, so there are issues of through-put in terms of being able to offer augmented experiences like VR. It also takes a lot of staff work and there are health issues with the helmet having just been on someone else’s head. There are also tripping, bumping, and other hazards. (Ex: Ghostbuster exhibit in NY) One solution: swivel stools so you don’t worry about stumbling into other people. Another one: turning a bus into a VR experience (“Field Trip to Mars” on Vimeo) shows how a school bus was transformed into a VR experience without the use of headsets.

In the Rain Room at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, it feels like you have a super power (back off rain!). Rain is everywhere except on you. At the Digital Waterfall in the Connected Worlds exhibit at the New York Hall of Science, you can divert the water into 5 or 6 different worlds. Boys come in and immediately dam the water and all the worlds are starved for water. Loughnan tried cutting down a bunch of trees in the rainforest and was actually saddened to see that they didn’t grow back. [I can see the potential for environmental education.]

Digitising the divide: Who’s in, who’s out? – Robyn Hunt (AccEase, Arts Access Aotearoa)

Hunt is from Arts Access Aotearoa and offered a challenge to the hype about digital by discussing disability issues. She said there is a certain group that doesn’t have access to all the digital stuff. Nearly one-quarter of New Zealanders are disabled. Older people are 14% of New Zealanders and growing.

Some digital solutions to disability issues are: accessible web sites, accessible devices, and closed captioning on YouTube (although it can be quite bad). But smart phones are more expensive with the accessibility additions so might be out of reach for disabled people. She mentioned BlindSquare, which is an app for the vision-impaired.

Digitally sculpted artworks for blind people are being done in the U.S. so they can then experience the world’s greatest paintings and art in a new way.

Hunt issued a challenge for everyone to Incorporate universal design into all of their projects. It should not be special – it should just be part of the way things are done.

She also brought up that what a nation chooses to remember is important and she is glad that Te Papa has started to document disabled soldiers in WWI.

Re-imagining Rutherford’s Den – Caroline Fenton (Communications Manager at The Arts Centre, Christchurch)

Rutherford’s Den is in the Christchurch Arts Centre. One good thing to come out of the earthquake damage has been that they had a chance to redesign the space. There is a time lapse on their website (change from a heritage space to the space that it is today with interactive exhibits). Their blackboards are actually screens, so you are tricked into thinking you walked back in time but there is actually a lot of digital material and technology that you can’t experience until you walk into the space. The exhibit has appeal to both Arts and Science people.

Getting it Done – Matariki Williams and Nina Finigan (TUSK Emergent Culture) @TUSKCulture

Tusk was launched in 2015 as an online platform for people entering GLAM institutions to contribute constructively, in their own voice, to the sector. They want to contribute to strengthening the cultural sector from the ground up. They mentioned LitCrawl (website; @tweetlitcrawl) then moved on to the ‘Trumppocalypse’ and millennial voting map (it was misleading because it actually was from a Survey Monkey survey done in October, but hopefully data people figured that out). They said the hamster wheel of short-term contracts in the Arts sector wasn’t working. They needed to fail in the traditional way so they could think laterally and get beyond the idea of funding being the primary goal. They wanted their online platform to be loose, reactive, and relevant to their generation. But this involves not always being taken seriously by the usual crowd. They said divergence and departure are the natural state of the Internet, and they wanted to be able to take advantage of this. The spirit of generosity helps when collaborating. They believe that those who have platforms need to use them; our voices need to be heard. We shouldn’t be restricted to what we’re doing as a day job. We should be active, engaged citizens. They asked: How do we avoid being an echo chamber? How can we bust down the doors and bring what we have to those outside of our circles?

Papers Past – A Redesign Case Study – Michael Lascarides (National Library) @PapersPastNZ

Lascarides discussed a new user experience for Papers Past. It was a well-liked service, so they didn’t want to change what people liked and what was working. Their Google Analytics says that there are 1200 different screen sizes per month being used to access their site. Google has started penalizing sites that aren’t mobile-friendly. A few years ago making it device friendly and responsive was a nice-to-have, but now is a must-have. They got rid of the search button on the home page. This was a bit radical. Now there are just 4 buttons for people to click and choose what they want to look at. They also changed their URLs (http://). They previously had very 1997 URLs so they redesigned them so they are a lot better. Now they use format, publication, year, month, day, page which is easy to understand and easy to parse with Google.

Learning to COPE with Galleries at Auckland Museum – Gareth de Walters (Auckland Museum) @gdewalters

Walters discussed how to use 3-D scanning technologies to bring objects to students and researchers, etc. They made a virtual laser scans of the old exhibit (unique permanent record) when it came time to renovate their long-standing Centennial Street exhibit. Ideally, they would be able to recreate it from storage if they wanted to. They worked with architects to make these plans. They also did photo stitching in the gallery. One of the goals was to make a digital tour (an interactive online collection). Matterport is a new technology that offers a relatively cheap and quick means of scanning galleries. It supports VR out of the box.

Regarding the Origins Gallery, they found that the gallery space wasn’t conducive to noisy kids (kids love dinosaurs!). There was a move to student-centered learning with teacher as a guide rather than an authoritative voice telling them what to know.

Shaping Knowledge: How can 3D Technology by Used in Libraries to Make New Knowledge Available? – Jason Hansen (National Library)

3D seems like a natural fit for museums, but it might not seem like something that fits in a library. They don’t hold that many 3-D objects. Hansen said that he would make the case that there is a reason to do it even if just because it is an emerging part of the technology in the world we’re living in. At this point, the conversation is just about 3D printing as a novelty (like printing chocolate) rather than about the potential for information storage, discovery, and dissemination. Libraries are still stuck in a 2-D model of scanned documents on screens. But, for example, a photograph of the parchment of the Treaty isn’t the same as having more details about the object. This is where 3-D that has more fidelity to the original object could be useful.

3-D printing could completely change the supply chain. Just like you might download music instead of getting CDs now, 3-D printing could do this to other objects that we buy. It could cut down on transport costs. What this means for libraries is that they would have a reason to collect the designs or 3-D models that may have some kind of cultural impact and to retain them in a repository to be made available later.

Hansen discussed Lightfield technology (mixed reality) and Magic Leap. [Reminded me of more Minority Report style of moving around data instead of needing a tablet since it is an overlay on the real world.] There was a YouTube video of a child showing their dad their Mount Everest project. Developing digital literacies was mentioned. The Rekrei (Project Mosul) was able to recreate some of the destroyed museums in Iraq. Semantic nodes (Augmented Reality and 3-D tech) allow ways of interacting with the world in ways that weren’t possible before. It blurs the line between physical and digital. It broadens the role of these tech as we use our role as learning facilitators.

Grisly Explorations into 3-D Models and 360degree Tours – Meredith Rigger (Nelson Provincial Museum & Relive360)

 The Nelson Provincial Museum didn’t have the same support as Auckland Museum, so it had to do 3-D stuff with 13 full-time equivalent staff just learning on their own. Rigger started off by telling a short history of Murder at Maungatapu: “Let’s meet some bandits shall we?” Later she explained how back in the day, a dentist took plaster casts of the heads of those executed for the now-famous murder because phenology was a hot topic at the time. They have 3 of these death casts at the museum. They took photos of them and then fed the photographic data into VisualSFM, Meshlab, Meshmixer, and Cinema 4D (some freeware, some not). They then created a 360-degree view in PanoTour software. She advised that text that looks good on a wall may not look good on a screen, so things may have to be adjusted for different locations.

The 2020s called: They want workers to be digitally literate – Kara Kennedy (University of Canterbury) @DuneScholar

[This was my presentation about how digital literacy needs to be incorporated into higher education. I discussed why there is a need for change away from just assigning traditional academic essays to assess learning, and how Digital Humanities offers a good way of accomplishing this through assignments that hone different skills. Examples include: blogging, editing Wikipedia, creating digital editions, working with digital archives, using map visualization tools, making multimedia assignments like videos, using textual analysis programs, working with databases, and digitizing images.]

Internet Arcade – Greig Roulston (National Library of New Zealand)

Roulston described the creation of a homemade video game arcade station and how surprisingly, it is not that complicated to make. It is now in the National Library in Wellington.

Crowdsourcing & how GLAMs encourage me to participate – Siobhan Leachman (Volunteer/Citizen scientist) @siobhanleachman

Leachman had three suggestions for a crowdsourcing project. 1. Be generous with content. Allow me to reuse what I helped to created. If I transcribe something, I want to be able to download it. If I’m tagging, I want to be able to use the images in Wikipedia or a blog. If you’re lucky, your volunteer will reuse your data in ways you never thought of. It’s a competitive market out there for volunteers. 2. Be generous with trust. We will not read the instructions until we hit a problem. Plan for this. Have easy tasks for beginners. Have challenges (like a game) to allow me to level up. 3. Be generous with time. The most successful crowdsourcing projects engage with their volunteers. Spend time cultivating. Think about what you can do for the crowd, not just what they can do for you. It’s about collaboration, which requires communication. Links from talk are available here: www.tinyurl.com/NDFcrowdsource

A new type of audiotour – Tim Jones (Christchurch Art Gallery)

The Christchurch Art Gallery hadn’t really thought of the place of audio in galleries before. But as a result of the earthquakes and Civil Defence putting in good wi-fi, they were able to do some new things with an audio guide in their space.

What I learned about massive branded projects from editing Wikipedia – Mike Dickison (Whanganui Regional Museum) @adzebill

Dickison said that the Radio NZ Critter of the Week for endangered species initiative to improve and create pages on Wikipedia has become quite popular and successful. What are MBPs? Massive branded projects like Te Ara, New Zealand Birds Online, and the New Zealand Plant Conservation Network. They also always have a nice logo and are well-funded, well-designed, and well-thought out. They are usually an excellent resource. The downsides are that they are slow to start, slow to change, and slow to update. They become hungry for money or time and are often doomed to wither away or become zombies (where the site looks like it’s alive, but if you look too closely, it will eat your brain!). [In other words, they might not have been updated in years.] He proposed an alternative, that being to start small. An example is the NZ Organisms Register; however, that is also now a zombie site after losing funding. He called for people to embrace open editing and build on open resources like Wikispecies. Wikipedia projects can occur in a healthier way than traditional GLAM projects.

Social media struggles and sub branded communities – Holly Grover (Auckland War Memorial Museum)

Grover’s discussed how to empower employees and create social leaders. She said to consider sub-branding and fragmentation and to make sure to do social media audits to evaluate effectiveness.

See the forest, not the trees: free data visualisation tools – Paul Rowe (Vernon Systems) @armchair_caver

Rowe talked about how to take raw data and clean it up and do stuff with it. There are new tools evolving, like IBM’s Watson Analytics. Remember: Data is your friend!

Unauthorised audio tours: Theatricality in new technologies – Joel Baxendale and Ralph Upton (Binge Culture)

Binge Culture offered probably the most unconventional presentation which involved a clapping demo and then a video of their ‘Unauthorized audio tour of Te Papa’.

Keynote: Insights from Data – Dave Brown (Microsoft Research)

Brown began by giving an overview of Microsoft Research. It was founded in 1991. It is like a Computer Science faculty at a university but bigger and has published more than 10,000 peer-reviewed publications. He said that if research shows we remember and process data better in 3-D as opposed to 2-D, maybe the next wave of the Internet will make the current website experience seem medieval. Sometimes visualization of data can prompt new questions. [This is one of the benefits of Digital Humanities research. You find things you didn’t even know to look for or ask about.]

Brown showed a couple examples of technology. One was of seismic activity in 3-D where you could see the angle of the fault line under the earth. This was definitely more interesting and engaging than a spreadsheet for most people. It’s called “Holograph” on the Surface tablet (but works on other platforms too). Another one was of the annual rainfall in the U.S. mapped onto the map, where the blocks could be stacked into histograms. It’s not only pretty but actually shows a lot of context. It shows how the data they are looking at is related, and allows you to look at multiple times (using scroll function to move between time) rather than just snapshots.

He then did a demo of the HoloLens (Microsoft mixed reality offering) and asked us, “What will a world with holograms enable us to do?” [Couldn’t help myself with this tweet: Communicate with Sith lords?] The HoloLens was reminiscent of Pokemon Go where there are things on screen, but in his case he was looking at the U.S. maps shown earlier or the globe. It provides context and will be more memorable than other ways of looking at the data, he said.

He mentioned the Bing Translator that can be installed on your phone. It’s fast enough that you can have a conversation with someone who speaks a language you can’t understand. He spoke about empowerment for under-resourced communities by giving them Microsoft Translator Hub. [This raised some ethical questions for me, in terms of Western culture offering ‘solutions’ to people in other countries.]

Notes from Women’s Studies Association NZ Conference 2016

The following are my notes from the sessions I attended at the Women’s Studies Association (NZ) Pae Akoranga Wāhine Conference on September 1-2, 2016, at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. The conference theme was Re/generation: New Landscapes in Feminism and Women’s Studies and the hashtag was #wsapaw16. There was a strong Māori presence throughout – I have never been to such a conference with so many songs (!) (in both Te Reo and English) as well as traditions and another language integrated smoothly into the proceedings. It was a welcome and uplifting experience, and it showed the power of relaxing some of the traditional academic stiffness and embracing bodily voices and movement. The conference is biennial so this will likely be the only one I am able to attend (I also presented a paper on science fiction: “Beyond the Womb: Imagining Life Without Pregnancy”), but it had a good vibe and supportive attendees. Kia kaha e hoa mā!

Day 1

Wahine Kia Mau: Reflections for Re/generation by Professor Ngahuia Te Awekotuku

On the first day, after the Mihi Whakatau / Welcome, there was a keynote from Professor Ngahuia Te Awekotuku. She provided a historical overview of her experience with feminism in New Zealand and offered sincere reflections about issues of biculturalism. She said she used to fret and worry about whether Māori women were in the room but now feels bad about this guilt-tripping of pakeha women. She said she is more mellow now and understands that Māori women have their own heroines and their own things to do, and that it is alright if they don’t always want to come to events. Apparently women’s groups have been harassed by engineering groups since the 70s, so it’s nothing new, and she was reprimanded by a senior female academic for publishing a piece on lesbianism, even though the person was a lesbian. She showed a headline from New Zealand Truth from May 4, 1982: “Lesbians Plan to Take Over NZ Town”. She mentioned Broadsheet, the collective, and Cherry Raymond, and she discussed when sexual violence became a big issue. She showed some examples of Pasifika Women’s Community texts: Tai: Heart of a Tree, Fast Talking Pt, Sai Figiel, Tail of the Taniwha, and Dream Fish Floating. She recommended the television show Transparent and asked the question: Would we benefit from Hilary Rodham Clinton or Helen Clark being elected? She discussed how institutional women’s studies was hijacked by the neoliberalism of the 1980s. But feminism is about community, and feminist scholarship and studies is an essential strategy and one to be proud of. Her final positive thought was that we (Māori) are no longer invisible. In response to a question about where does multiculturalism fit in a multicultural NZ going forward, she said that instead of the deficit talk (about jobs lost, etc.), she looks optimistically to the future at examples like Hawaii, where she did her PhD, where white people are in the minority.

Rape in New Zealand Newspapers: 1975-2015 by Ange Barton (Victoria University of Wellington)

Barton’s supervisor is Jan Jordan, whose project is Marsden-funded and who will be publishing a book on women’s experiences reporting rape to the police. Barton is searching through newspapers—New Zealand Herald, Dominion Post, The Press, Otago Daily Times, Sunday Start Times, Taranaki Daily News, and The Southland Times—looking at how women are represented and constructed in the articles regarding their relationship with the offender and the differences between newspapers’ accounts. Other aspects being looked at are what is gained from constructing women in this way, and what are the possibilities for action from this discourse. The project involves very laborious searching through microfilm. Also, keywords only come up in the feature articles, not the more minor crime reporting ones. Challenges in researching this kind of sensitive topic involve nightmares, loneliness, and mental and physical tiredness. Someone told her supervisor that if the research is so traumatising, then don’t do it, but this can be seen as the ultimate silencing technique. The National Sexual Violence Collective’s work on media in 2012 was mentioned as well.

Sexual Violence in Ethnic Minority Communities in New Zealand: Findings from Two Honours Project by Shannon Kumar and Setayesh Rahmanipour (University of Auckland)

Out of 56 countries, New Zealand rates the third highest for sexual assaults. The New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse shows that ethnic women had a lower rate of reporting an assault compared to European women. The Campaign for Consent based in Hamilton was mentioned. One challenge was there is no one definition of sexual violence. Western women might define it very differently from a non-Western women. Ex. catcalling. They discussed the need for education and awareness-raising within the wider community. Talking about sexual violence shouldn’t be discouraged. The major challenge is that there is a lack of data on ethnic women in New Zealand. Most studies are from the US or UK, or if from New Zealand, there is no information on ethnic women specifically. Wording is a big issue too. Using sexual violence is a strong term that women might not want to be associated with or own. It can be disempowering.

Sexual Violence in Ethnic Minority Communities: An Exploration of the Discourses of Violence and Vulnerability by Setayesh Rahmanipour (University of Auckland)

Rahmanipour mentioned there were three key themes in talking to women in ethnic minority communities: double silencing (in mainstream and by community), migrant defensiveness (maintaining cultural traditions), and discrimination (stereotypes and representation). Sexual violence is a silenced issue so a profile is difficult to establish, and it is under-reported even though rates are increasing. Sexual violence is often framed from a dominant or male gaze. Because there is no statistical evidence that there is a problem or funding for research to find out, it is not given funding or priority for government to address. There are issues of stigma, shame, and honor, as well as fear of community gossip (people understandably want to maintain their community reputation). But holding onto their culture can lead to being fundamentalist in their perception because they have little else to hold on to (white schools, friends, values, etc.). A defensiveness may emerge. Rahmanipour found it eye-opening that women sometimes are forced to marry their rapist because their family fears that they won’t be able to get married otherwise because they have ‘lost their virginity’. It was hard to believe it was happening in New Zealand but the interviews revealed that it was indeed happening.

Soapbox Session

The following six presentations were offered in a Soapbox session of shorter presentations by young women, some still in high school. The room was standing-room only and ‘Soapbox’ was talked about the rest of the conference because it was so enlightening, enjoyable, and refreshing to hear from such passionate, young feminists from all over the Pacific region.

The Prevalence and Impact of Intimate Partner Sexual Violence on Women in America and New Zealand, and the Barriers to Escaping and Reporting Intimate Partner Sexual Violence by Eliza Melling

The stereotype is that ‘real rape’ is the stranger in the darkened alley, rather than the often intimate partner violence that occurs in the U.S., New Zealand, and elsewhere. Why this matters is that it influences how the police view situations. Most victims know their offender. Melling referenced Themkin and Krahe’s (2008) Sexual Assault and the Justice Gap. She made a poster with a white bed ruffled with text of a rape myth on top (it’s impossible to be sexually assaulted by your intimate partner) and then the reality below (51.1% of sexual assault against women is perpetrated by an intimate partner or ex-partner). The bedroom is a private space so it is a powerful and controversial image. One of the audience members raised the issue of threats to animals being a barrier for women to leave or report. Also, there are threats with gun violence.

Ethnic Ambiguity: A New Beauty Myth? by Naomi Simon-Kumar (University of Auckland)

Simon-Kumar discussed how Caucasians are praised when they take on ‘ethnic’ characteristics like plumper lips and bigger butts, but ethnic women do not receive the same social benefits or are maligned for them. One poignant quote was: “Whiteness is the template on which desirable ethnic traits can be imprinted”. This occurs rather than celebrating hybrid identities. There were some questions about cultural appropriation versus cultural appreciation. And Te Awekotuku made a comment about skinny women not being valued in Pacific cultures, yet there being high rates of anorexia among Maori and Pasifika girls.

A New Generation of Feminists by Ander Alrutz-Stierna (Auckland University of Technology)

Alrutz-Stierna has lived in many different countries and so witnessed all kinds of issues around gender. She said it is about privilege. One positive about New Zealand is that it has the smallest wage gap in the world. We no longer live in a Neolithic era, she said, so it does not make sense to go back to the biological, testosterone argument. Women can be creative too. She noted that the question we should ask ourselves as feminists today is: How can I change the world around me to create a better global community?

R. Tui discussing Samoan culture

She discussed some aspects of gender performance in Samoa, such as that it is acceptable for men to act like women (special term for this: fa’afafine) but not for women to be lesbians. In Samoan culture, daughters are sacred, so sons can get away with dropping out of school or sleeping around, but if a daughter is a lesbian, it is damaging to honor and pride. The religion teaches that God created a man and a woman. In the question time, there was a discussion about how British colonization changed cultures that previously had accepted same-sex relations (possibly Samoan, and African). Someone mentioned Betty Seal (sp?) (Samoan lesbian feminist in politics).

E. Ikiua discussing Pasifika customs

She discussed some customs in Pasifika culture, such as that the men are supposed to go first, which some in the audience couldn’t believe. Even smart women are expected to submit to their male relatives and stay quiet. She questioned the idea that the culture must remain static. It’s not the 1950s anymore. But the consequence for speaking out is that one would bring shame not only on themselves but on their family. Te Awekotuku commented that certain cultures do have ways of shaming and calling out men for their mistakes, though this may differ between Māori and Pasifika cultures.

C. Destrieux discussing stereotypes and new visions

She said she took it upon herself to educate herself about feminism and found it odd that other women she knows said they weren’t feminists. Stereotypes about bra-burning and hairy armpits were still present. She said that social media provides a great forum for women to talk and rant to other women, through blogs, etc. She then asked the audience about Emma Watson’s HeforShe campaign and whether they thought men can be or should be feminists. That sparked some lively discussion and debate, with some agreeing and others disagreeing.

Panel: Gender, Generation and Care

Chair: Associate Professor Christa Fouche (University of Auckland)

Women of LiLACS NZ: Life and Living in Advanced Age, a Cohort Study in New Zealand by Professor Ngaire Kerse (University of Auckland)

Kerse is doing a longitudinal cohort study of advanced ageing to establish predictors of successful ageing for Māori and non-Māori. She shared several slides of statistics and explained some of the findings. Older women are very likely to be living alone and unmarried. Men tend to be married. There are hardly any Māori women living in retirement villages. Over 70% of Māori women own their own home (a little higher than for non-Māori). Despite health issues, older women still have relatively high independence in instrumental activities of daily living (shopping, traveling, going out, cooking, etc.).

Mai Te Wairua, Ko Te Reo Aroha: Māori Kaumātua End of Life Care by Dr. Tess Moeke-Maxwell (University of Auckland)

Moeke-Maxwell showed a clip from a film about end of life care. She said there is a strong Māori cultural imperative to provide care at end of life and after death (body not left alone). One gay, single man ‘threw a tantrum’ about having to care, said that he would not have had to do it if he were straight. Heterosexual men seem to avoid the responsibility. Interestingly, at the end when care gets too difficult, men transfer care to women or residential care facilities. She said the palliative care sector should recognize that Māori cultural customs mean that the family want to provide 24-hour end of life care and facilitate this.

Gender & Class in New Zealand Care/Work Regimes by Dr. Katherine Ravenswood (Auckland University of Technology)

Ravenswood referenced a Huffington Post article on men spending more time caring for pets than for children [may be this one: “There’s No Gender Gap in Caregiving for Pets. So Why Is There a Gap for Child Care?”]. She said gendered norms of care work are deeply held and enduring. The New Zealand Police Force won an award for a campaign to encourage women to join the force by highlighting the caring work that police do. If capitalism is about what you can sell in the labor market for money, then care work was outside of this system and considered something that women did naturally at home, not in the factory.

During questions, there was one for Kerse about what she and her colleagues are doing as a result of what they have found in their cohort study. She said that they are providing information to the District Health Boards, but that as academics it is hard to do anything else and it isn’t their responsibility to do more, that other groups are working on this. It was disappointing to hear this, because there are limited resources for other groups (especially not-for-profits) and academics often have the knowledge and/or resources that others lack. Someone asked if there were any care facilities she would recommend or not recommend, and she says she tries to avoid recommendations, but she tells people that you’ll know as soon as you walk in the door, like if people are smiling and talking. Usually in life, in the places where good things are happening, there are always people there because they want to be there. Another person raised the issue of immigrant women being low-paid and taken advantage of, and that New Zealanders bear some responsibility for this because they gave care over to the private sector. They believed that people need to get angrier and raise this issue at the next election. The day then concluded with singing.

 

Day 2

The second day started with a panel on justice, which covered some contentious issues around the law.

Panel: New Directions in Justice

Feminist Knowledge and Legal Discourse by Professor Rosemary Hunter (Queen Mary University London) 

Hunter discussed her work on the feminist judging project. She mentioned the concept of ‘femocrats’, or women driving change from within government bureaucracy, which was especially prevalent in Australia and New Zealand in the second-wave.

Mary Jane Mossman’s article “Feminism and Legal Method” (1987) said that legal methods’ elements are categorization, precedent, and statutory interpretation (legislation). She argued these were impervious to a feminist argumentation or understanding. Carol Smart’s book Feminism and the Power of Law (1989) said that legal discourse is powerful and productive. It does not just prevent things, but actively produces its subjects. Who is the woman of law that the law produces? Part of the power of law is its ability to trump other accounts of law, like a feminist one. Sandra Burns’ book To Speak as a Judge (1999) saw judging as a particular type of performance and authority. It was impossible to have judgement and feminist speech. Feminist judgement was an oxymoron in a sense.

Hunter’s own book on Domestic Violence (Domestic Violence Law Reform and Women’s Experience in Court: The Implementation of Feminist Reforms in Civil Proceedings (2008)) looks at how the law does not view it in the same way that we as people understand it. It sees it as discrete events that have to be categorized. Even if we have feminist law reform, it ends up being administered by the usual legal personnel (still male-dominated field), which is a problem. And many of these people have no interest in deviating from business as usual and can make their own interpretations still. Example: discrimination law. The Feminist Judgments Project is about not waiting 200 years to see what would happen if there were more feminist judges. It was invented by a group of Canadians.

One question was how do you protect feminists against the retaliatory exclusion that this kind of project might elicit? For example, men basically blacklisting activist feminists from becoming judges. The conclusion was that feminists might need some kind of protection beyond the informal network of support.

Behind the Wire: Maori Women and Prison by Associate Professor Tracey McIntosh (New Zealand’s Māori Centre of Research Excellence)

This was a similar presentation to the one McIntosh gave at a previous conference [see notes from Trans/forming Feminisms]. Two interesting things mentioned were that besides war, mass incarceration is one of the most effective government social programs of our time, and that it is important to work with like-minded as well as unlike-minded people to be able to learn.

Re-thinking Feminist Informed Criminal Law Reform by Associate Professor Elisabeth McDonald (Victoria University of Wellington)

McDonald first gave a warning that she would be talking about rape in her presentation. She said she is working with Rosemary Hunter on the Feminist Judgments Project. In New Zealand, the Court of Appeals has a rape band which includes a traditional rape definition as well as other forms. She is trying to get the government to allow sexual assault support advisors to be at the victim’s side throughout the process of the criminal justice system. The victim might be more comfortable disclosing details to that person, and that could become part of the record. She mentioned the case of Mr. Bourke in the Waikato region who was acquitted within an hour! There is a problem with prior sexual experience not being allowed to be argued, because this rule can also be used when prior experience might actually help support the victim’s case (ex. virginity, normally would not do certain things, being lesbian, etc.). There needs to be more nuance in the law or interpretation.

There was a question about if having a gender continuum rather than a binary (to be more inclusive of trans-women, for example) will mean that women’s issues and oppression might be lost. McDonald said that we have to ask ourselves what are we giving up by going down the gender-neutrality track and what kind of outcomes do we want. McIntosh later asked why it is that people with the least power are seen as the most dangerous, whereas judges with privilege and power say their hands are tied and they cannot do anything.

Growing up with Hardcore: Exploring the Meanings of Pornography in the Digital Age by Samantha Keene (Victoria University of Wellington) 

Keene discussed some of the challenges with doing research on the controversial topic of pornography, including the fact that there isn’t much research on it in New Zealand and that those who do research it are sometimes seen as deviant or dodgy. Virtual reality pornography now exists (through wearing a headset) and POV shot style pornography is rapidly becoming popular. What was once usually in written or magazine form has adapted to changing technology. She noted that the ‘sex wars’ over pornography in the second wave feminist movement are still going on today, and there is still fierce debate in the scholarship – either very anti- or pro-. There is a Netflix documentary “Hot Girls Wanted” exploring amateur pornography industry in the U.S. Three pornography sites sit within the top 100 websites in the world, as well as New Zealand. One in five young New Zealand women access pornography, so it is not just a guys’ thing. Her study aims to understand what people construct as pornography, the meanings that people attribute to it, and the gendered differences in those meanings. The encrypted, anonymous messaging platform Kik is being used, and there have been ethics issues regarding criminal activity. But this is something that criminologists often have to face, because people won’t be honest if they know they are incriminating themselves. It’s not unique to research on pornography.

Freddie Montgomery, Matrixial Trickster: Representing The Feminine in The Narratives of John Banville by Michael Monaghan (Dublin City University)

Monaghan presented an analysis of some of the work of John Banville, an Irish writer who is very popular at the moment in Ireland. He discussed ekphrasis, which is “a verbal representation of graphic representation” (Heffernan, 1991, pg. 299), Judith Butler’s “Bracha’s Eurydice” (2006), and The Matrixial Borderspace (2006) by Bracha Ettinger, an Israeli visual artist, philosopher, psychoanalyst, and writer. In simplified terms, one of Banville’s male characters kills a woman and then tries to come to terms with this through art. There is the issue of the male gaze (common in film, literature, and art). The takeaway appears to be to stop aestheticizing one’s view of women and one might be able to represent them in a better, less invasive way. One can then see a woman as a whole person, rather than an amazing specimen, for example.

Disrupting Misogyny on Social Media – A BYOD Workshop by Jenny Rankine (University of Auckland)

For this workshop, Rankine provided a brief overview of how social media can be used to build a media advocacy campaign within feminist and other activist groups, then advised participants to choose an issue and brainstorm ideas for funny memes that get a certain message across. The first step in setting up a campaign is to look at the themes in whatever you are upset about and unpack it, looking at the assumptions and worldview behind it. The second step is to develop a response. It needs to be funny if you want it to be shared. This could mean being whimsical, ironic, sarcastic, or parodic. You should focus on the contradictions because every dominant discourse has them and it is the best place to drive a wedge and make people think twice. The third step is to post it on lots of social media platforms and come up with a hashtag if it is on Twitter. Finally, you should evaluate whether it made a difference. This involves looking at the average likes and retweets for your platform so you can measure whether you were successful. You can also use Google reverse image search to see which ones were shared the most. It is a good idea to use non-copyright images (through free image sites like www.pexels.com, www.pixabay.com, www.freeimages.com, and Wikimedia Commons) or try meme generators. The max size is 600 x 600 pixels for Facebook and Twitter. The key is to be effective in a small space with few words.

Margot Roth Inaugural Lecture:
Feminist Futures in the Anthropocene: Sustainable Citizenship and the Challenges of Climate Change and Social Justice by Professor Priya Kurian (University of Waikato)

Kurian opened by defining the Anthropocene for those who were not familiar with the term. It is a term that was coined by biologist Eugene Stoermer in the early 1980s and popularized by chemist Paul Crutzen in 2000. It is the age where humans have become a destructive and disruptive force of conquering nature. Kurian also used other rich vocabulary like capitalics, which is “a politics fuelled by global capital” (Munshi and Kurian, 2005; 2009) and inchoate and knotty. She noted that New Zealand received “The Fossil of the Day Award” at the UNFCCC Conference in Paris in December 2015 for being among the worst performers of climate action. This surprised her students, who have the perception that New Zealand is one of the good ones. With the current hegemonic focus on things like climate change, it can lead to a muzzling of democratic avenues, as happened in Canterbury in the name of urgency. She acknowledged Rachel Carson from the 1960s as one of the women at the forefront of dealing with environmental degradation. All of the advice to use eco-friendly light bulbs, drive less, etc. tells us nothing about collaborative political action. An environmental group interrogated a political candidate recently for her personal choices on whether she drives and other environmental issues, without providing for context. A single mother, for example, might have reasons for why she has to make certain environmental choices. Kurian emphasized that sustainable citizenship is an active citizenship. She closed strongly by saying that we need messy democratic and egalitarian politics, because this will lead to feminist futures for all of us.

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