OKCon for inclusion and diversity

Photo by Navneet Vasistha
Photo by Navneet Vasistha

Together with @rastrau @acolt @mlbrook @tmwdr @wnstns @philippkueng @martyphilipp and @csailer80 we submitted the OKCon 2013 Workshop Proposal summarized below. The ideas that went into the brainstorm and our notes are a starting point for what we hope will make for an interesting debate tackling fundamental & challenging issues. What are your thoughts on the subject?

Update: we did not make it into the 10% of the ~300 fantastic applications that were accepted, but despite not leading this track our team is set to use this proposal as a lens during our involvement at the conference. To this end, we are continuing our collaboration, shortlisting individuals and groups to meet during the event, working on data visualization sketches, spreading the word and leveraging OKCon as an opportunity to break orbit with our ideas. Please get in touch if you wish to be involved.


In this workshop we’ll share and cultivate new projects on the question of improving access to critical information for *all* people. Accessibility is often used to promote openness, from which perspective we can talk about challenges in ensuring that a diversity of views are heard and broad citizen participation obtained. We will present a case for how Open Knowledge contributes to inclusion, highlight the digital divide in terms of relevant problems and global trends, share methods used to foster diversity and break barriers between communities. In the interactive workshop each participant will be encouraged to consider his or her own minority affiliations, learning together about how the principles of openness help each of us to overcome isolation and participate in a connected world.

Our group, composed of experienced and multicultural open science and open data champions / researchers / developers, believes that the inclusion divide stands not only between countries and their respective measures of Internet availability, but has deeper roots among the shortcomings of digital strategy everywhere that progress of citizen participation and democracy gets impeded by differences in aptitude, access, perception, values and interests. We will ensure that diversity activists from in and out of the OKFN are invited to take part in this workshop, that the results are naturally broadly documented, and do our best to help engender significant new projects in a relevant and urgent area of digital activism.

Questions we wish to explore

  • Which groups are left out of the OGD movement? While alleviating the immediate problems, does openness potentially reinforce the digital divide in some areas. We will present the usual suspects, as well as report on stories of unexpected isolation, where openness may be potentially more of a desert island rather than an open door.

  • What efforts would be necessary to bring these groups into the fold? We can talk about the experience in various Open Source communities, outreach efforts that have been done and their results. We have also studied success stories in many countries, and would like to present several of these inspirational use cases to our participants, as well as the requirements of frameworks for supporting new causes.

  • What do statistics and literature say about representativeness of viewpoints and demographics in the O(G)D crowd, especially when such contributions might assert a form of authority? We will aim to reference several turnkey sociopolitical, economic and business studies that help form a scientific perspective on the above.

  • How are we progressing with the main challenges of making data technically accessible? From factual/legal access to data formats and standards, tools and software (available, open, free), education and know-how, ‘soft barriers’ (e.g. sense of entitlement, intimidation), involvement of minority groups.

Related activities, websites, groups, people

  • Manovich, L. (2011). ’Trending: The Promises and the Challenges of Big Social Data.’ Debates in the Digital Humanities. PDF (p.16 last paragraph).

  • The Ada Initiative seeks to increase women’s participation in the free culture movement, open source technology and open culture.

  • Hackerspace Mothership is a space for creative, curious, tinkering moms.

Please leave me a note with any other links that come to mind!

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