Eclectic Tech Carnival 2012 Ljubljana report and thoughts

More than a week ago ended a Ljubljana edition of Eclectic Tech Carnival – /etc – a gathering of women interested in FLOSS technology (software and hardware). It was organised in collaboration between Cyberpipe, Red Dawns festival and LJUDMILA – Ljubljana Digital Media Lab.

When the prospect of doing some type of programing in Cyberpipe appeared around last summer, one of my first thoughts was to try to facilitate an /etc in Ljubljana. A constant thought was, of course, how to do it properly within consideration that I’m male. So I reached out towards Genderchangers and ETC organizers list, whose responses were extremely valuable. In fact, Aileen Derieg, one of the organizers of /etc Linz in 2007 decided to come for the whole Carnival in Ljubljana and we agreed on her moderation of the main round table, which she did amazingly.

The Carnival kicked off with three workshops running consecutively: SOLAR (creating solar cells from various cheap materials) by Selena Savić, KOERPERSPULE (creating wearable electromagnetic sonic ‘sensors’ from old recycled coils) by Roger10-4 aka Sabrina Basten and Audrey Samson and HARDWARE FUN (looking at the ‘inside’ of a computer, tearing apart, puting together, possibly installing basic FLOSS and creating something towards a BIOMODD) by Monika Pocrnjič. All workshops were open to women and trans-persons only. There was a two-hour slot for /etc mingling and debate which ended as a fun coffee meetup with a lot of discussion about funding and other playful stuff. Final day (saturday) was a public day of presentations by Nataša Muševič, Deborah Hustić, Maja Kalođera and Audrey Samson. The day (and carnival) concluded with extremely interesting – and in opinion of many a very good – round-table about sustainable media-labs which are encouraging and ‘safe’ for women, with Robertina Šebjanič, Deborah Hustič, Reni Hofmueller, Tea Hvala and moderated by Aileen Derieg.

The publicity and press for the Carnival was done primarily by Red Dawns festival – International Feminist and Queer Festival that was happening in parallel and which /etc was part of. So participants and performers of the festival and carnival met every evening at the vegan dinner at the anarchist infoshop at Metelkova City and, therefore, mingled. This intertwinement of two festivals created various consequences: firstly, the audience for /etc workshops didn’t come through connections of tech-curious emancipated female self-organizers of /etc itself, because, really, there weren’t any involved in organisation. There was amazing help and engagement from Red Dawns team but that still created a certain gap in semi-public communication towards possible audiences. So, the workshops, each of them lasting two days with 3-4 hours/day, had very floating participants – either with different set of women coming to each day, or with very few participants (2-3). Secondly, the carnival didn’t feel as an independent whole, but more as a part of something bigger with missing self-organised ambience where /etc women do everything – from organisation, food and hacking. At the same time, it must be said, that without /etc being under umbrella of Red Dawns, I doubt we could’ve pulled it off with the fact that there are no groups in Ljubljana/Slovenia doing emancipatory women-only tech workshops. A lesson in this is that we need to find women and encourage (but not force in any way) them to self-organise and create those exclusive pockets of technology research for women only. The space for it can always be Cyberpipe or possibly Ljudmila.

Or as Audrey put it – it was nice but somehow strange that there were a couple of guys ‘at the service’ of women during /etc – arranging what was necessary in the space and washing the coffee mugs (Klemen and Brodul). Another comment concerning the feel of the space was also that it didn’t feel quite ‘/etc-only’ as there were events happening later in the evening that were not connected to /etc. It would seemingly be the most powerful feeling if the space was devoted 24/7 to an event like /etc and its participants. The 24/7 aspect helps to create the feeling of a ‘safe’ space – ‘a room of our own’.

A big issue (at least for me personaly) was quite strong opposition by some Cyberpipe members to exclusivity of workshops and of Cyberpipe space. Despite of my effort to talk and be clear about the fact well ahead that Cyberpipe will be closed to male public and members during /etc, the moment I asked on the mailing list that guys refrain from coming to, or walking around, Cyberpipe unless really necessary, the issue exploded – on IRC channel and partially on mailing list. My intention is not to make public some of the internal dissagreements and conflicts in Cyberpipe and ways these are being handled (although I strive for transparency) but more to put forward certain thinking and dilemmas that become potent in such situation. At this point, however, I must admit, I’m unable to make a final decision what I think about it. One thing for me is sure: women need exclusive labs to work with technology. And we, men, shouldn’t be ever nervous about it. White male has always and for very long time been at power and with privileges above everyone else: black slaves and women. There is nothing less that we can do then to move aside and give space – as much as we can, many many times and as frequently as possible. With cultural damage carried by women today (and I don’t mean to victimise anyone), we have the responsibility to be open about it and move along.

The rest could most probably be nothing but trolls.

(last edit 20/mar 9:24 – mainly grammar corrections)