Grants:TPS/SarahStierch/Fembot UnConference/Report

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FemBot Jam

Event name: FemBot Jam (Unconference)

Description of your participation:

I spent two days in Portland, Oregon, attending the FemBot Jam Conference. I was invited to participate by the organizers. I went into the unconference believing this would be a chance to meet with feminist scholars and technologists involved in the FemBot Collective, in order to learn about opportunities to improve the engagement in Wikimedia projects, and to also share my experiences as a Wikimedia fellow focused on closing the gender gap.

Out of about 30 participants, I was the only person who did not have my PhD or was working towards a PhD. It was a bit intimidating, and the unconference ended up being really geared towards the academic community, which surprised me. I was able to bring a more grassroots/non-academic view to the meetings, which often had the participants "checking themselves," to remember that not all feminists involved in the collaborative technology environment are PhD candidates and academics. Sadly, Wikipedia wasn't able to be included in the conversations much, despite me bringing my experience from the WikiWomen's Collaborative and community organizing into the mix.

The only "non" FemBot oriented unconference session I participated in was about free culture. I was able to talk about GLAM-Wiki and OpenGLAM projects, and emphasize the movement to open journals up under free licenses. It wasn't really relevant to the subject of the conference though, so I'm not sure what type fo impact it had.

I was able to meet with University of Oregon staff, who are having me serve as "WikiWoman in Residence," during the weekend of March 8th in Eugene, Oregon. That event will focus around WikiWomen's History Month and I'm doing multiple workshops about editing and the importance in women contributing to the projects. We were able to get some logistics situated regarding things.

I also connected with Dr. Karen Alexander, from Rutgers Douglas Residential College (the women's college for Rutgers). She wants me to lecture and do a seminar with her students to encourage their participation in technology with specific focus on Wikimedia projects. So I'm following up with her about that.

What lessons were learned that could help others in similar events?

I thought the unconference was specifically an unconference focused around the interest of the FemBot Collective, allowing for opportunities to connect with participants about subjects related to collaborative projects like Wikipedia and the WikiWomen's Collaborative. Turns out it focused mainly on shaping and building the FemBot Collective as a project and "group." I did get to bring my own experience in working with women and collaborative concepts to the table, providing input on project management, volunteer participation, and social media/blog use in the sessions about the journal Ada, the blog, and membership.

If I would have known that I would have had less of an opportunity to discuss my work and opportunities for women's engagement related to Wikimedia I would have opted out of attending. While it was rewarding - great and inspiring people, I did learn a few things about academic collaboration and how different it is from other forms of collaboration (i.e. "wiki collaboration"), I do feel that I was led on to believe there would be more general discussion and not so focused around building the brand and group.

What impact did your participation have on the Wikimedia Mission goals of Increased Reach, Increased Quality, Increased Credibility, Increased and Diversified Participation?

I did get to have casual discussion (i.e. not during sessions) with some participants (about 10 of 30) about the work that I do - as a former fellow and now as a volunteer, in regards to engaging more women to edit and contribute to Wikimedia projects. As I stated above, I was able to connect with a woman from Rutgers about a potential event there, which could have potential to overlap with the WikiWomen's outreach work and the education program.

I really wish there was more to report. It was empowering and great to connect with such a smart and passionate group of feminists, who respect the work I do, and had interest in Wikipedia as a collaborative tool, however, the focus - which surprised me - was specifically focused on the collective and not broader concepts. They do intend on doing these event ever six months, I most likely won't be attending in a capacity related to my Wikipedia work. Again, it was rewarding to meet with likeminded people, but, in the end, the unconference did not have the impact that it was originally promoted as being able to potentially have in the work I've been doing with the gender gap and Wikipedia.

Detail of expenditures:

  • Flight to and from San Francisco to Portland via United - $204.60
  • Two nights at the conference, the Marriott Courtyard City Center - $272.51
  • Per diem allowing for breakfast/lunch/dinner (none of which were provided) - my original request was $99 to cover both days which is based on 75% off the GSA rates for a total of breakfast/lunch/dinner in Portland. I had dinner on Friday, breakfast/lunch/dinner on Saturday and breakfast/lunch on Sunday (and bought my own dinner via the airport on Sunday).

Total: USD 576.11