Reflections on Double Dabble

Last weekend Double Dabble: A Feminist Day of Making finally came around. Janis and I had been planning, organising, sending e-mails, and attempting to figure out what was going to happen for the last few months, and on Saturday the day finally came.

members of that were at Double Dabble
[me, Helen, Ko-Le, Janis, Rosie, Vidya and her little one] Thanks for the photo, Vidya!
As, we won the Feminist and Women’s Studies Association‘s small grant scheme this year, and were able to obtain match-funding from the Digital Economy Network to make Double Dabble happen!

The idea was simple: create a space where feminists can come together to discuss theory and making; to delve into a world of support, comfortable discussion, and creativity. Our way of doing this was to essentially create what we are starting to call an anti-hackathon.

Astrid crafting a muscle activity sensor

We took the things we liked about hackathons (making, creating, exchange of ideas) and got rid of all the things we don’t like about them (competition, judges, stress, teams, segregating of ‘techies’ and ‘non-techies’). Taking these things into consideration, we hosted 5 stalls and a ‘zine machine’ to reflect on the day as the day was happening. The stalls were designed by groups of two (except for one stall that was run by one person only) – what was particularly beautiful about these teams was that they always came from different academic disciplines (or one was non-academic) and had very different backgrounds, approaches, and research topics. I don’t think any of them had known each other before they were put in contact with each other by Janis and me, and I’m pretty sure most hadn’t seen each other before Saturday.

Let’s just say, it was an experiment.
And I was nervous about how it would turn out.

To my surprise it all went alright in the end though! Running up to the event, I was worried about not being worried enough – it’s a weird thing I do when I know I should be stressed, but for some reason am not. I fully understand the ridiculousness of this, but I can’t help it. Whenever I organise an event there is usually a moment of panic; a point (usually one or two weeks before the event is to take place) where it feels like it is all going to fall apart, where something goes horribly wrong, or where we receive some horrible news about a major participant in the event. Not at Double Dabble! Until the morning of the day, we had been working for a few minutes or hours each day for a few months to make the day happen. Janis and I had (many) informal exchanges about an e-mail we had just received or about something we had to figure out, and as such never had the pressure to deal with something on our own, but rather knew that we always had back-up. Thank you so much, Janis for all the support you gave me in organising this event. It truly was a team effort, and I really appreciate all the hard work you put in!

The day was relaxed, informative, and delicious. We had some fantastic feedback from participants and stall holders. We made cool things, we made new friends, and we made a great day!

Learning more about pre-technological Fanfiction written by Emily Brontë: Gondal stories and poetry

We’ll be sharing more reflections and information on how we organised Double Dabble over on the website soon (hopefully, we’re all a bunch of PhD students though, so this might take a while! haha), so if you want to keep in touch or learn more about Double Dabble and other events we’re organising subscribe to our blog, or follow us on twitter!

Happy Crafting!

Women’s Work stall where we learnt how to knit, crochet, and quilt while discussing hte invisibility of women’s work

DEN Annual Meeting

Just over a week ago, we received an e-mail that we are to attend the annual meeting of the Digital Economy Network (DEN) in London. So, on Wednesday a group of roughly 15 people groggily got on a train at 6:30am in Newcastle, heading South. There was talk of last years annual meeting that only a few of us attended, and previous DEN conferences and events that took part in London.

After an hour long delay, we finally arrive at Kings Cross Station, head out and walk towards the Digital Catapult, and try to find the building on Euston Road. Once finally there, we quietly walked into the room where a presentation was going on. Throughout the day, we listened to presentations and joined ‘workshops’ that were more like half-hour long discussions around a certain topic on issues related to the student experiences across the 11 CDTs the DEN supports.

It was a weird day. I was engaged with the group that was discussing potential events, barriers, and opportunities for diversity and equality within DEN and its CDTs. In the end what I had learnt was that the DEN really wants to find out our experiences of equality and diversity, but also that they think we are doing a ‘pretty good job’ in relation to gender diversity.

Looking at the room we were in, I’d have to agree on the basis that it’s rare to find a CDT or a DEN event where the audience doesn’t have a relatively large number of women, but on the grand scale of things, I’m not sure how ‘well’ we really are doing. Just because you have an audience that is 1/4 to 1/2 women, does not mean you’re doing a great job. How do those women feel? Are there any policies in place to support them? Most importantly however, diversity goes beyond this. Where are all the people of colour? Those from working class backgrounds? …

As a network, what are we doing to engage rather than alienate those that think differently, those with different backgrounds, and those who look differently?

Something I quite liked about the last discussion group we had, was that after it finished, a woman came up to my friend (not the one that proposed the topic, but the one I run with…) and me and started a conversation about the futility of Athena Swan, and how women are always the ones who end up having to do the work in it. About how it’s almost impossible to even start conversations about diversity, because of the lack of understanding of what diversity is – the idea that it goes beyond quotas and having a woman CEO!

So, DEN, just to let you know: while you have a (much) better gender balance than traditional engineering and computer science spaces, we need to engage in some work to encourage diversity. I’m glad that this is what came out of our discussion at the event, and that DEN seems to support this idea.

My two friends and I are now working on putting a proposal together to develop a cross-CDT working group to tackle this issue. It’s going to encourage exchange between all the CDTs and encourage each participant at the quarterly meetings to go back to their CDT and to be a champion for diversity, enacting at least one ‘thing’ after the meeting. It was encouraged by DEN at their annual meeting that we do something on this issue.

Thank you for that, and thank you for listening to the importance of this topic. At the same time though, let’s take some time to reflect, and see what we can do. While I was starting to put together the proposal for this network yesterday, I went looking for a diversity policy on the DEN website. I couldn’t find one. So, maybe that’s a starting point. Or an end point?