Digesting the Gender and Sexuality in Information Studies Colloquium

Most of the conferences I go to are technology ones that are focused on practical applications and knowledge sharing on how we have solved specific technical problems or figured out new, more efficient ways to do old things. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to a conference that’s about broader ideas and a much longer time since I’ve been to an academic conference. This was outside my comfort zone and it was an extremely worthwhile experience.

I was unbelievably excited to see the program for the first Gender and Sexuality in Information Studies colloquium. Also, as Emily Drabinski and Lisa Sloniowski  were involved, so I knew it was going to be great.

There were 100 attendees. I’d estimate that library and information studies professors and PhD students made up 50%, library school  grad students made up 25%, and the other 25% of us were practioners, who work almost exclusively in academic settings. The conference participants had the best selection of glasses, and I was inspired to document some of them.

The program was great and I had a very hard time picking which of the 3 streams I wanted to attend. A few people scampered between rooms to catch papers in different streams. Program highlights for me was the panel on porn in the library and the panel on gender and content. My thoughts on the porn in the library panel became a bit long, so I’ll post those tomorrow.

In my opinion it was a shame that most of the presenters defaulted to a traditional academic style of conference presentation, that is, they stood at the front of the room and read their papers to the audience without making much eye contact. For me the language was sometimes unnecessarily dense and that many of the theoretical concepts discussed would’ve been more successful if expressed in plain English.

I was also disappointed that there wasn’t a plan to post the papers online. Lisa explained to me that for those librarians and scholars in a university environment publications are important to tenure and promotion. Conference presentations count, but not as much as peer reviewed publications, which don’t count as much as book publications. I know there’s a plan in the works for a edition of Library Trends that will be published in 2 years. Also, I know from the interest on Twitter that there are many people who weren’t able to travel to Toronto and attend in person who are very hungry to read these papers. For the technology conferences I go to it is standard to share as much as possible: to livestream the conference, to archive the Twitter stream, and to post presentations online and made code public too. I hope that most of the presenters will figure out a way to share their work openly without it costing them in academic prestige. There’s got to be a way to do this.

There was a really magical feeling at this first colloquium on gender and sexuality in LIS. Everyone brought their smarts, ideas and generous spirits. I think a lot of us have been starved for this kind of environment, engagement and community.

My brain, heart and sinuses are full. I’m exhausted and heading home to Vancouver. This one day of connections and ideas will keep me going for another year. Kudos to the organizers Emily Drabinski, Patrick Keilty and Litwin Books for organizing this. I’m hungry for more.

Get your FOSS on: Wellington conferences, companies and organizations

This is the last post in a 3 part series looking at the tech/geek/open source communities in Wellington. Part 1 looked at regular geeky events and Part 2 looked at geeky people and projects in local libraries.

Wellington will host some excellent open source conferences in the next year. Also Wellington is home to some great companies and organizations who are active leaders in the community.

Upcoming conferences

WordCamp New Zealand (August 8-9, 2009) Tickets aren’t available yet, but I’m sure they’ll be snapped up quickly. WordCamp is being held at the Mt. Victoria (Lawn) Bowling Club, which is pretty awesome.

linux.conf.org.au 2010 (January 18-23, 2010) LCA is “fun, informal and seriously technical, bringing together Free and Open Source developers, users and community champions from around the world.” It’ll be a jam packed week with miniconfs on Monday and Tuesday, followed by the main conference of 5-6 streams including Seminars, Tutorials, Lightning Talks and Birds of a Feather. Wellington will be the second time that LCA has been outside of Australia (after Dunedin 2006).

Kohacon 2010 (April or October 2010) There’s been some murmurs of hosting a Kohacon in New Zealand to coincide with the 10th birthday of Koha Integrated Library System.

Companies/organizations

Catalyst is a company that specializes in open source software development. The staff are smart developers, passionate about open source software, and active in many communities. Chris Cormack, Brenda Wallace, and heaps of other rad folks work there. Many of the staff are involved in getting the Maker Space off the ground. They have been managing the New Zealand election systems, as well as the TAB betting systems for quite awhile.A   Staff can use the company’s equipment to work on their own projects, with the caveat that the project is licensed under GPL or Creative Commons license. An example of this is some of the videos that Creative Freedom Foundation recorded in their campaign against Section 92a (copyright reform bill).

New Zealand Open Source Society The current president Don Christie, is part of the Catalyst Management team. Recently they lobbied the New Zealand government against signing another all-of-government deal with Microsoft. The Government said that this type of agreement with Microsoft was no longer appropriate. I’m interested to watch the software and hardware choices New Zealand decides to make in the next while.

New Zealand Open Source Awards These have been happening for the past couple of years to the recognise and celebrate “the contributions of New Zealanders directly to open source projects or the promotion of open source generally”. Reading the past nominees and award winners gave me a really broad view of all the things happening in New Zealand.

I feel really lucky to have had a chance to live in Wellington. Not only does Wellington have the best coffee and cafes in the world, but there are vibrant, robust, and friendly open source communities.