[Geowanking] Whats not in a Foundation
jo at frot.org
Fri Jan 6 06:15:05 PST 2006
dear Arnulf, you made me want to say a gazillion things all at once.
On Fri, Jan 06, 2006 at 12:25:46PM +0100, Arnulf Christl wrote:
> I almost posted this to the MSF Discuss but at the last moment refrained
> from doing so as we are already well enough confused there. This might
> be a slightly wacky one to ask so I thought this might be a better place
> to genderize it.
I imagine anyone who wasn't also following the conversation on the
wsfii-discuss list feels like they are seriously lacking some context
for this. I can't explain the Mapserver Foundation discussion because
i have not been involved in it. Allan Doyle has talked about it pretty
well and i would refer lost people here and to other articles on his
So back in Oktober last year, i helped organise the London bootstrap
conference for the World Summit on Free Information Infrastructures.
I say "organise", but i just listened to the traffic on the public
discussion list and when something seemed to wobble or something
seemed to be needed done, i tried to direct conversational energy there.
And the conference was really great fun, and enough people got psyched
up that there's going to be a whole series of Wsfiis in India this
year, and in anywhere else that someone decides to start one.
As "self-appointed organisers", Saul Albert and Rufus Pollock and i
tried not to take ourselves too seriously. We wanted to have a very
"open process", delegated what we could, took charge of what seemed to
need taking charge of until we could delegate it. There wasn't
"governance structure", there wasn't an apparent need for one.
But now Wsfii looks like it's coming over all respectable and international
and so on, the Call For A Governance Structure has begun. Regretfully
i seem to have triggered it off by complaining strenuously about how
http://www.wsfii.org/ acquired a set of "We are this, we provide
that, we want the other" statements on its front page.
For a while i've been growing the idea that "we" is a very deceptive,
exploited, divisive, heavily-laden word to be used so very much as it
is used in the world. Ted Nelson triggered this thought in me, when i was
lucky enough to chat to him for a few minutes at bbc backstage/OpenTech
in July. I was burbling about how my friends and i were trying to put
together and interconnect various different sources of collaboratively
produced spatial, temporal, social information and mix them up in a
way that could support a distributed, self-organising, participatory art
festival. ( http://wiki.wirelesslondon.info/NodelSoftArchitecture )
I was rambling on at him about "we're trying to do this, we have these
different data sources, we could maybe provide something that would be
a real-world-data demo for (zigzag) one day instead of this dodgy
genealogy tree stuff" and he looked me very straight in the eye and said
"who are we?"
And while i was clarifying and mapping, a little bit of my brain was thinking,
"that's a *fucking* good question."
And increasingly since then, whenever i see or hear someone talking
about "we" without providing a clear referrer to who "we" is, i listen
to them extra carefully, *especially* if i find that i "agree" with what
they are saying.
I agree with pretty much every statement that the organisers of this
year's Wsfii series are putting together. But the "we" phrasing just
jars with my consciousness now. It comes down partly to this:
"We spend a lot of time talking about who We are, how We are defined,
and what We believe in. We get caught up in discussion about Our
processes, how We make decisions and how We should act to effect them."
I think http://www.bopsecrets.org/CF/structurelessness.htm is canonical
reading for everyone who considers themselves to be part of
a "movement". It is partly a brilliant analysis of why the feminist movement
only got so far as it did, when it did. It concludes with a great set
of recommendations for collaborative organising practises. I think one
should be required to read it before any "governance" discussion.
> Shouldn't there be some women in the Foundation board? Allegedly they
> represent more than half the population in the world but either my
> selective male view makes me miss their comments or they are actually
> not there?! Talking about being broadly inclusive...
At OpenTech there were almost no female speakers. I asked one of the
organisers why. He said, "well, we delegated each track, everyone
picked the people they knew best or were most vocal; this was not
intended." I did my best to make sure that every Wsfii.London panel
session had at least one non-male speaker.
The two most brilliant female hackers i have met, Libby Miller and
Allison Randal, share many qualities: a great amount of really
foundational, deep work for which they don't get credit outside of
small communities that 'get' what they do; and a kind of paralysing
self-consciousness which means they don't stand up, speak out, where
they can be clearly heard. They send messages through what they do,
not by talking about what they do. But this means the messages are
hard to rebroadcast and rebound in terms of "credit", the kind of
credit that gets you the recognition that gets you conference slots
that allow you to spread the messages you like, further around.
There are feminist discourse theories that suggest the very
"combative", ad hominem (ouch!) forms of discussion to which in
partic. Usenet and mailing lists tend, are 'male'-oriented, and put
women off joining in. I can't speak for anyone else, but i often feel
that way, just don't enjoy the back-and-forth, hair-splitting tone.
IRC is my "spiritual home" on the internet. (routing, not polling?)
But if that's the case, why are blogs also so dominated now by male
voices? Perhaps that is changing. But there are definitely ways in
which women are culturally conditioned against self-promotion,
self-expression. As recently as a hundred years ago, most women were
denied access to the tools that allowed them to express and record
their thoughts. It takes a lot of de-conditioning to escape that.
Gender polarisation in media representations doesn't help: the program
says, "men are funny, creative, authoritative; women are decorative,
assistive, demure." The message reads: "doubt yourself, always. You
probably don't even deserve what you have."
My grandmother is a brilliant woman, with a capacity for instant
comprehension, a humility and integrity that i can only aspire to one
day come near. But she hides behind my grandfather. She doesn't have
her own email address. I fear she would view it as somehow selfish or
secretive to even ask for one. When i hear her voice through my mum's
Yahoo! account occasionally, it is funny, creative, aware.
My mother has spent her free time all year, for token reward, correcting
translations for a book of narratives by women all over the world
about their efforts to organise infrastructure and dispel injustice in
their local environments. The stories are to go into a book which is
part of a campaign to give a collective Nobel prize to all these women.
As individuals, which of them would dare to ask?
It took me a long time to find my feet as a hacker because i was
self-taught, and people i met professionally assumed i must be some
kind of administrator, or project manager, or technical writer.
More than once i have been billed at conferences as Mr Jo Walsh.
The London perlmongers helped me find my feet. For a about a year
after i first joined i was the only woman who went to the meetings. Then
Kake and Sphyg both came along at once, and after that a lot more women
started coming to London.pm meetings. So it goes...
Well, you ask, wtf has this got to do with maps and geodata?
Maps are weird because they act simultaneously as a thing-in-itself
and a reference-to-a-thing-in-itself.
Maps are the most powerful military technology that there is, but they
are also something that every person draws from their own mind innately.
But without tools to record our own maps, we don't have our own maps.
Without maps, are we lost? With maps, do we know where we are?
> Jo, could you stand us - um - stand up? Additionally this give us an OSM
> stalwartess (or however you would feminize that) and a representative of
> the university of openess. This would make so much sense.
i just talk about openstreetmap.org a lot because i think it is
wonderful and i was too lazy to do it myself, occasionally upload my
GPS tracks to it, never contributed code, i have a little code
graveyard of half-finished interfaces to each version of the API.
If you enjoyed reading this email, please consider uploading your GPS
tracks to OSM, or organising a Wsfii in your home town.
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