The best take-away for me was expanding my network of geeky women and strong women. We are spread out all over the world, and such events are good for increasing awareness of our numbers, our histories, and our collective talents. Meeting and working with the women at RTHack inspires and motivates me to take on more challenging projects and exchange more knowledge. The RTHack hackathon refueled me!
Another excellent result is that we created a new art installation! Our collaborative team "Deaf to Men" (Liz, Jenny, Eve, Joanne, Carmin) built a sound installation prototype that will be developed further. Our installation interactively amplifies the voices of women who participated in various local minor strikes. Our 'voice hack' quite literally 'fades to fem'. One way we do so is by altering a woman's voice such that it initially sounds like a man, but gradually fades to the actual woman's voice. We received positive feedback from visitors, and encouragement to submit it to a couple of places. I will write a proposal to show it in Eindhoven and the places recommended in England.
I also enjoyed learning about the industrial history of the region; through archived data presentations, as well as via the dramatic reading of a poem. I was especially surprised to discover some of the tactics these creative activists used to get out to the picket lines. For example, early one morning women on a bus told the police they were strippers going home from work. "Please let us through" they begged. The police decided to mark their bus so that they had free passage to 'go home' easily. And these clever women went straight to the picket lines to join the men! HAWAY THE LASSES!
I had an amazing weekend of chatting and making with wonderful people. It was very interesting to exchange experiences about being a women in tech as well as generally learning about the mining history of Newcastle. It was really cool to dive into the data and see how we can make sense of it and materialize it. Especially the autobiographical excerts, women talking about their everyday life were super fascinating along with the data. I was amazed by the equipment that we could choose from raging from old floppy disks (yeah!) to keyboard insides, loads of electronics, fabrics and other materials. Overall, an event I am very happy to be part of!
Annoyingly, illness cut short my fully involvement in the weekend but the first day I participated in was a fantastic and positive experience. I have to admit that I was unsure what doing a hack event would mean and how I could contribute when I first began. However once I began talking to the other participants, I realised that they felt the same way and with uncertainty and experimentation as our bond, we set about being creative and thinking about our experiences as women, and imagining those of others. The ideas of playing with narratives, history and sound really appealed and by the end we had thought of a practical way of showing our thoughts in aural and physical ways which was really a thrill. I would definitely recommend this to others, to release your inner hack-femme!
Sunday trains are a nightmare! But I got to the Rewriting the hack event in time to see that hard core work being done. There were three groups all working really hard, together, productively, stoically, determinedly. The original remit was much more broad but by the time I landed, these broader themes had solidified into something that seemed very clear to me which was about visibility and voice. I've been working with NEET kids in a different project about these themes - so maybe it is me drawing connections - but this rewriting the hack seemed to be about making things visible and understanding the politics of making them visible in particular ways. So the project that pulled out all the terms that professors use at Northumbria university had a really interesting politics about the language of success; the deaths in the mines project was located in a domestic setting, drawing attention to where these deaths are both felt and little discussed; and the voices project that would have changed audio from male to female and vice versa as you approached, noted the politics of what was already visible and how that could be disrupted by altering the address or pitch of the voice.
Obviously themes about visibility and voice are longstanding feminist issues - they are longterm projects of film and television, digital media and archive work, of activist and community work. But what was really great to see, and to be kind of (tangentially) involved in, was that this politics was taken for granted - not in terms of it being dismissed or moved on from - but that for the first time in a long time, it was accepted, developed, thought about, responded to. Usually if it is ever acknowledged, it is noted and then set aside, negated. And I think that a women only event, that acknowledged, accepted and then used gender politics as a (natural, evolving) means to pull everyone together into a collective and productive projects - in a bottom up way - was just wonderful really..... the actual prototypes and outputs were pretty awesome too
I wasn't sure how to prepare for a female only hackathon, so I came with an open mind and vague ideas of exploring the post Industrial landscape of the Northeast. The event followed the usual basic outlines of a hackathon but I really enjoyed the extra thinking that went into preparing the materials we had access to, bringing experts from other fields (other than technologist - as the participants brought these skills) and starting off the day with a poetry reading that illustrated the voices of the voiceless.
This was a theme that I was drawn to - shining a light on the stories that are seldom recorded, scenes of a domestic nature that for much of documented history that are pushed to the sidelines. I found the most valuable aspect of the weekend was this opportunity to discuss personal experiences of being a women in a largely male dominated field, sharing and listening to other women from a large pool (national / international) and the ability to channel the discussions into a project.
I enjoyed working on my team's interactive domestic diorama with Francesca and Diana, and found the working process really easy and fluid. All the women were interesting, generous, smart and open. I am very honoured to have been invited, and post-event wonder why I worried at all.
After brief introductions by all the participants we were allocated to a group, via supercollider aided randomisation code, to discuss a specified subject. I got the subject "Revealing Narratives" and had the pleasure of learning more about the industrial history and discovering the role of women and womens' experiences during the miners' strikes in Newcastle: how few of those narratives are recorded. This led us to discuss the nature of female history being predominantly in the oral traditions (person to person retellings via family and local community settings), in contrast to "male" histories or narratives which are often retrieved through official documents relating to industrial companies, unions, news stories and local documents.
From here a project about voice, tone and hearing began to emerge, shifting the perceived reception of stories using amusing "Fade to female" or "Deaf to men" devices that interact with the viewer. Raising questions about how we value to contribution of the female voice to our collective history? How would men situate themselves; their identity, abilities and self worth, if their own achievements, histories had not been written, disregarded or intentionally erased? It was an intensive and fun couple of days and a great opportunity to work with Joanne Armitage, Carmin Karasic, Eve Forrest, Elizabeth Dobson, I was only sad that I had to leave the workshop before the public presentation and seeing our groups prototype in its finished state as well as the exciting, geeky work created by the other groups.
Big THANK YOU to Shelly Knotts and Suzy O'Hara for organising this inspiring meeting and inviting me to participate. I met many fantastic women at Rewriting the Hack and would like to create/participate in more such situations with women working in these networks to continue to collaborate, question and create.
As the days to the Hack drew closer I felt I really didn't want to do it. I was unsure how I would make an idea/hack something, work through the technology in such a short space of time. Plus then I doubted my skills, where they enough, what can I offer, everyone can sew and most people use camera and edit. But I felt I wanted to understand a little more about what a hack was, and then also why was i reluctant to take part.
I was first reassured by the table discussions, I loved that we started with a poem and a performance. I think it set a different kind of tone, maybe even allowed us to be more playful and think outside of hacking technology ( my misconception of what a hack is meant to be I think).
I really loved that we talked through ideas and used skills as artists business women designers to think about alternative model for business, for meetings, to disrupt the norm and put radical elements into the work of work. Everyone at some point should step out of their comfort zone in our new business realm!
I loved the talk about language, about holding space, removing apology.
It has been a very valuable experience and hope I can find the right opportunity to work with the women again.
I really had no idea what the weekend was going to be like. I had done a bit of googling on hack events and they all seemed very techy based, so I was a bit apprehensive about what me, an outsider (as an economic development practitioner) could contribute to such an event. On reading all the biographies my apprehension grew as every woman participating seemed to be very creative and techy!
Creativity - The Wor Lasses poem and the information from the Mining institute were both excellent material to get the creative juices going. The first was really inspirational and a powerful reminder of how women’s voices get lost. The second was a great illustration of a period when there was virtually no obvious recording of "herstory". The four themes provided were excellent in providing the required structure to enable us to be creative in terms of the options and possibilities for creation. I personally would have liked more time at this stage, probably more introspective time outside of the group to explore and think and then come back to the group, but this would have been impossible within the timeframe.
Group Work - As we settled into groups, it was clear we had a great deal to talk about and contribute, what wasn't clear, was how this was going to come together to have us all working to produce one thing. In the end, this didn't happen and we produced a number of products which had some sort of connectivity. As there was no expectation placed upon the groups, this seemed to work well, but I couldn't shake the feeling off that we should have produced one thing as a group (probably just me!)
Sharing/ Comradeship - I really enjoyed the sharing and comradeship that developed over the two days and the sense of acceptance there was in the room as well as the supportive environment created. There was definitely a positive energy.
Problem identification/solving/awareness raising - I think this type of environment worked really well to identify problems, like the loss of women's voice and then create something which highlighted this loss, or to raise awareness of the impact of gender differences in written biographies or the inability to have voice in meetings etc. and think about how these impact on perpetuating structures and systems which disadvantage women.
A great deal of food for thought. I found the presentations provided excellent information injections into the creative space.
I really gained some very useful insights into how spaces like this could work in creating alternative thinking and different approaches to resolving problems. I often work in environments where there is not much time provided to this.
Thank you for inviting me to participate.