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« why sxsw? | Main | sxsw & etech »

March 17, 2005

why sxsw? part 2

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Posted by danah boyd

I also attended SXSW and not Etech and i wrote an extensive post about why and what needs to be done.

In short, i believe that you can’t acquire diversity at SXSW or Etech simply through a CFP. These are networking events where there’s a large body of people who are working in those spaces that don’t even know about it, let alone attend. People come to it because they heard about it from their friends the previous years. Social networks are homophilous which means that the less diverse an event is, the less diverse it will continue to be over time. And to counter that, you can’t expect marginalized populations to suddenly appear because you ask them to apply - you have to be active to shift the downgrade in diversity. Read my full post to hear out the logic in various arguments. Blind review is not the answer - the problem is far more systemic.

People want answers. Here are some.
  1. Diverse committee (along multiple axes).
  2. Diverse advisory board that will help you brainstorm who to invite.
  3. Active recruitment of diverse populations working in the field.
  4. Identity-driven BOFs or panels if appropriate.
  5. Bring diverse voices to the smaller events too - integrate them into the community because they’re not represented at all levels of the social network.

Please note: i love the members of the Etech committee - some of them are my friends. This is not a problem with them nor should it be read as an attack. It is a systemic problem that affects all of us; perhaps many of you reading this are dealing with it in your own domain. The reason that Liz and i are not being quiet is that we believe that change should happen and we believe that folks like the Etech committee are allies and will work with us to make change if we make it clear that it’s a problem and that there are ways to fix it.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: social software


1. Gina on March 17, 2005 5:52 PM writes...

Liz and danah's points are well-made and important.

The only reason I got to speak at SXSW this year is because women were actively recruited (as a matter of fact, Caterina Fake was asked, and when she couldn't make it, she recommended me.)

Like danah, I'm not stupid - I assumed I was asked partly because I'm a woman (in addition to my resume). I didn't know how I felt about that at the time, but now that I realize what a problem homogenization is at these things (Kick! - while fun, was *very* male-dominated and worried me at first) - I know how important the solutions are.

I've been working on the web for 6 years now, and for the last couple of years I read about folks' experiences at SXSW on their weblogs and thought I'd never have a chance to do it myself. Honestly, I was pretty bitter about what I saw as the exclusivity of it all (and my inability to find an employer who'd fund me to go.)

The idea of getting there as a *speaker* never occurred to me until I was asked. Now that I've been there and back, suddenly I feel like I'm "in" - something extremely empowering. I got to meet and network with folks I've admired for a long time (Liz and danah included) and hopefully I was able to offer something on my panel that wouldn't have been there otherwise.

Actively diversifying your audience gets folks like me involved. And (problems with self-promotion be damned!) that's a Very Good Thing.

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