I saw my first conker last week and it smells like Back To School time out there, so accordingly I thought I’d share the cool stuff I did this summer. Not quite a trip to Center Parks, but there was plenty of adventure.
Events were a big feature, and here are a few highlights:
Speaking at Digital Undoc Camp, finding ways to use technology to help ‘undocumented migrants’ find their way through a ridiculously complex system. In my presentation I gave examples of ways in which tech is being used in other similar areas, for mapping, connecting people, and sharing stories. Though I could only make the kick-off event for this, it was a brilliant evening, with a great presentation from Refugee Youth, who did a sort of performance-art-type-presentation by coming into the audience and giving us first hand experience of what it feels like to be pressure, harrassed, ignored and generally mistreated by the many bureaucratic systems they encounter daily. Very uncomfortable stuff that will stay with me for a long time – if you ever want a bright, funny, creative bunch of young people to work with you, either at an event or to help you redesign services, I suggest you give this lot a call.
Local Gov Camp in Birmingham was the usual raucous shindig and a great chance to catch up with what people are up to. I ran a session on 3D printing, which I really enjoyed. I learned so much from everyone there (even though I ran the session I’m far from an expert and was glad others are thinking about the topic too). A summary of the discussion is below:
It was fascinating to hear both the potential of 3D printing, as well as some of the risks people highlighted, from World Wars breaking out, to issues of accessibility for people with disabilities (something that we’re hoping to address at our event in November). I’ve come to really appreciate Local Gov Camp as a place to talk to others like me, to catch up with old friends, and to get a sense that there really is a movement out there. The conversation has moved on over the last few years – no longer are we talking about how to convince councils to use Twitter, but we’re now thinking more deeply about topics like democratic engagement, cloud hosting, and open source tools for the sector.
Digital Futures in Shropshire was a barnstorming event, with a great speaker line-up and a lot of energy. The theme of the event was ‘Digital by Default’, but in my presentation I made a case for an alternative: ‘Open by Default; Digital by Design’. My presentation is below, the essence of which is that sometimes people can use technology badly, under the guise of ‘Digital by Default’ (see the hilarious http://wtfqrcodes.com) and that we should take a more thoughtful approach to technology, using it as a means to an end – to help us be open, transparent, accountable and human.
It really felt like everyone there was ready for a big change. Of course there were the usual reservations – accessibility (both the ‘not-spots’ in rural areas and the challenges of digital inclusion for certain groups of people) but everyone seemed up for tackling the challenges, from the (many) elected members that attended, to the local digital innovators in the audience.
Open Space South West marked the end of my summer on tour, and was a great way to round things off. With a relaxed and friendly vibe, there were speakers at the start, followed by an afternoon of open space sessions, in which attendees got to decide the agenda. I try not to repeat presentations too much (purely to stop myself getting bored!) so used my 15 minutes to bombard the crowd with some great examples of where tech is helping people and organisations be ‘Open by Default’ (oh, and this: http://omgcatsinspace.tumblr.com). There really is so much out there at the moment, it’s an exciting time for tech and public services. Luckily that’s my job, and I love it
And while I’m right where I should be job-wise (i.e. disrupting #localgov from the outside) it would be a million times harder to do that without the presence of those people quietly disrupting things on the inside. They deserve some biggups for opening doors, arguing cases (in the face of some insane objections at times), navigating the system, making alliances and generally getting stuff done guerilla style. The people behind Digital Futures and Open Space Southwest, as well as the officers who came along to #LocalGovCamp, are pushing at some incredibly stubborn boundaries, but doing it in style.
Other cool stuff I did includes:
Going to Restart Camden (http://therestartproject.org/) a couple of times
Watching the Olympic women’s boxing
Oh yeah, and attending the Wedding of the Century
So as I get my pencil case together, carefully colour in my new timetable, and decorate my homework diary with stickers, I’m well up for a challenging autumn. Casserole is going great guns with some amazing media attention; Patchwork V1 is looking great and launching this week; we’re disrupting things in Islington; and there are more great projects on the horizon. Plus there’s only about 12 weeks till Christmas, yay!