Jelena Savic

I am a fuckn artist!

DESCON 2018: Welcome to the tech candy shop October 14, 2018

***

Academia makes me laugh, except that it makes me furious.

Keep thinking that’s why the church, right wingers and all other conservative and retrograde groups have more effect and legitimacy on the world than any fckn research and academics.

That’s why there is all chance the knowledge and technology will stay in the hands of the entitled better off people, and tech will not save the world at the end. Tech people for eco solutions and on the left really need to check themselves first for so many things that I am not sure if its even possible.

 

***

DESCON, WOW SUPER NICE….

And so I read there is this DESCON event. “ The IOT global warming and pollution hackathon, saving the world one hack at the time”. Wow, super nice. Ecology, technology and left oriented event, as I saw. A lot about protecting your privacy from corporate evils and sharing, putting things like knowledge in the hands of people. Very nice. I cannot speak for the rest of the program, I was not there, so here I limit my blog on the one event I was also not on, which will be clearer later. Also, I have to put another disclaimer – I think the event by itself is a good thing.

Anyhow, as I am interested more in theoretical stuff, I checked the program, and there it was

“14:00 – 16:00

Ethics & IoT Workshop

By Dr. Funda Ustek-Spilda Virt-EU, Sebastian Lehuede Virt-EU

 

https://virteuproject.eu

We invite tech designers and entrepreneurs to discuss how values and social concerns can be put into practice. The methodology has been previously employed in London, Amsterdam and Copenhagen and is one of the tools developed by the Virt-EU research project.”

 

I went to the site of this virtueproject. If you click there are many projects which I was too bothered to read about. Nothing really about the workshop itself, so I just thought, ok, this is a workshop about technology and ethics. Cool. I figured, there are some Dr. Funda and Sebastian who work on these issues, and they will organize a workshop. Its nothing I am unfamiliar with. People gether and talk, somebody who has some expertise usually moderates…..

I was late that day, so I got an email signed by DESCON team asking if I am coming, and later another email from somebody called Jana to inform me that another workshop will be organized on Sunday and on Monday, and that there will be pizza there also.

I was pleasantly surprised that people actually track presence, and I thought again – how nice, they take it seriously and every person matters. So I said I will come on Sunday.

I thought again, how nice, they provide some food, even though I refuse now to eat animal products and I find it problematic to serve them on public events, especially the one proclaimed to be eco and left oriented. And the choice of junk food is also another issue, but not to be too demanding I disregarded that.

 

And I came on Sunday, 14th of October.

And you have to realize, I live in a suburb. The price of the time so to say, is much higher for me, than for somebody from the city center. If I come to the city, I lost a good portion of the day. I also have to eat in the city. I have to bring extra clothing, so my bag is always heavy, I get very tired. So, I do not go for nothing to the city, and I do expect some value from the events I decide to go to. The price of knowledge from these kind of events is higher for me, even when its totally free. I expected this to have some value, so I went.

ETHICS AND METAETHICS: WELCOME TO THE CANDY SHOP

First thing I saw at the Impact hub in Makedonska 21- a lot of young men around some tables.  Ooookaay. As a feminist I find this to be problematic, but again, I trained myself not to expect still too much from these kinds of events regarding their selected audience. Feminists events gather mostly feminists, Roma events Roma, and all the same people for that matter, so ok, not really devastating critique can be made from this fact.

The woman who contacted me, Jana  was at the door, eating pizza, said the workshop will be a bit late. So, I waited outside, bought some potato which is sold very near that place, spent some money.

After some time I came in, some younger women, I assumed Dr. Funda and a younger man, I suppose Sebastian asked us to come into the small room, there came with me I think three or four people more.  Without really and properly introducing themselves , the first thing we got in front of us was some paper, a consent form, which we are told to familiarize ourselves.

Wait, why do we need to sign a consent form to participate on this event? I thought it’s an open event, more less, I registered , but again, its simply a workshop about technology and ethics…I was confused,  as were other people.

We are told actually that this is “kind of a workshop” but “kind of an interview”, and suddenly we are supposed to be participants in some group of people’s research.

Other people seem to be puzzled and uncomfortable as I was. As usual, people felt more uncomfortable to make an issue out of this, and as usual, I was not, it simply costs me too much to be there at the end.

I said that I am surprised, that I don’t know them, I don’t know their institutions, their policies, their politics, it was really silly to expect me to be ok with all this just by reading some paper, and so I also asked to be there without signing the paper- which was not possible, as organizers said.

I asked them if they actually announced that this is actually a part of a research?

“Sure”, they said.

As usual, I made a mistake, I assumed I was wrong, did not read announcement carefully, I apologized , and left.

Still, I was puzzled, since other people also did not seem to be aware that this was announced, so I checked again and as mentioned above, this was announced:

“We invite tech designers and entrepreneurs to discuss how values and social concerns can be put into practice. The methodology has been previously employed in London, Amsterdam and Copenhagen and is one of the tools developed by the Virt-EU research project.

Was this clear and enough to inform yourself that at the moment you step into that room, you are entering a trade situation and becoming somebodies interviewee, and that you cannot be present without signing a consent form, and that somebody will be recording your words, using them for their own purposes and for that matter for a rather private academic profit? Is this what you would expect from these sentences in the context in which it seems that everything is about free access and sharing of knowledge?

I mean, maybe they also announced it and explained it, and maybe you were supposed to read about it on the provided link further, but if you are like criticizing FB and other stupid companies for making it difficult for users to understand what they are consenting to,  is this like enough?

When I left I was asking myself – are they now really going to treat these signed papers by other people who stayed as a proper informed consent????

What I would like to comment on is that before I left the Dr. I-have-no-time, younger women, seemed to be having less patience with me asking questions. As it is nothing strange that suddenly somebody whom you have never seen in your life before gives you something to sign and records what you are saying, using it later for not really clear purpose to you. As we were all expected to be already familiar with the whole thing and its just a formality to do this. And if we did not familiarize ourselves before with this, as if we are expected to be convinced in a good cause and their good intentions by reading about some research on a piece of A4 paper for 2 minutes.

It sure looked as the proper consent is not really in their interest. It  really looked Dr is not going to be bothered with providing a chance for a proper consent.

And Dr was so familiarly corporate and detached, the manner which many in Serbia where “the might is always  the right” learn for survival, as a daily bread, and can be especially recognized with bureaucrats, bank officers and other corporate people trained to see only numbers, and more importantly who hold some power in their hands over others.

And she did not even hold anything, any power. I still am not sure what kind of power she has. She was very willing to let me go, interestingly, even though the whole field is populated with the opinions of men, for example. It would actually be that I would hold some power there, if she would care for the results of that research, and if we are to play power games.

But, in essence, she seemed not at all worried about the ethical aspects of her research. And it was a workshop about ETHICS!

BORING NOT REVOLUTIONARY CONCLUSION: TECH ACADEMIC ENTREPRENEURS WILL SURELY NOT SAVE THE WORLD, IF ANYTHING, THEY WILL HELP MAKE IT WORSE  

So, my conclusion is academic entrepreneurs manage to get into the every field of engaged science. In Roma issues, in feminist, lgbttiq, in disability issues, in leftists issues, in ecological issues, whatever, you name it.

This corporate and unethical treatment is, of course, the product of capitalist academia. There is nothing special in their presence, and in this approach in this specific area. Academia per se demands it. But, its not like you lose all agency, ok?

It reminded me too much on non Roma academics who obnoxiously unaware of their white privileges, feeling entitled embarge like some safari tourists into slums and expect absolute compliance, absolute trust from Roma poor and their input for no compensation at all, nothing really beneficial for Roma, while the researchers take what is necessary, go and build their careers, not allowing any kind of real consent, real participation, with a legacy now of huge amount of Romology studies, misrepresenting, orientalizing, criminalizing, sexualizing Roma, further deteriorating their already bad position.

I am fascinated, but again not really surprised  how people think they can come in this colonial stile, from some fancy institutions and do their “operation for a good cause” , their focus groups or whatever. How they consciously mislead people and  call this event very activist like  “a workshop”, how they totally entitled and opportunistically use a  pretext and the context of  “a safe, sharing knowledge space”,  where people, I assume, are expecting anything but this, and are more likely to participate even in these “smelly” conditions, since they came to share their knowledge, experience, opinions, and cause they actually care for the topic, and not any fckn research, no matter if you are a fckn Tech Jesus Christ walking on a forsaken fckn country of Serbia, and if it is the fckn God’s university of tech itself from which you are sent from above.

And when you look at it from a researcher’s side I guess it makes sense,  its very cost effective. The minimum investment. Otherwise you would have some issues finding travel grants, finding your interviewees, would’t you? You would have to trouble yourself, even to spend some money and all. I don’t know, maybe its not a problem for them. I know it would be for me, a 0 point researcher from  a shitty non Eu country.

Maybe people think its ok to do it exactly cause of this, since its some shitty country like Serbia, I don’t know. The Dr woman, a more annoyed and offended by my skepticism than a man, mentioned they did it in many different countries, but I was like thinking – is this really how you did it in those countries?

I mean, It sure did look like she is expecting that everybody would comply easily.Just I could not tell is it because she feels entitled in general, maybe  since she is Dr or something, its a well known feature of academics to get suddenly important with titles, or cause it already happened, so she got used to it.

Anyway, I mean, if you are a researcher, and you research ethics, and you are a Dr from some unavailable to us poor people from poor non Eu countries  university, and you are ensuring consent of ours this way, by throwing a fishing net in the dark and catching unsuspected people, I  mean…do you really not expect at least one fuck off?

Academia makes me laugh, except that it makes me furious.

Keep thinking that’s why the church, right wingers and all other conservative and retrograde groups have more effect and legitimacy on the world than any fckn research and academics.

That’s why there is all chance the knowledge and technology will stay in the hands of the entitled better off people, and tech will not save the world at the end. Tech people for eco solutions and on the left really need to check themselves first for so many things that I am not sure if its even possible.

But anyhow, general impression for now is that, they, the academic entrepreneurs,  do not really care, even if you fuck them off.

They anyway do it for themselves, as usual.

Academic capital plays mostly the same way.

The least of the investment, the most of the profit.

The consent does not matter, the content does not matter.

It can be about ethics if it sells good.

Who cares.