This is the thirteenth post of a series of profiles on GOSH community members who were featured in the GOSH Community Events Framework. You can access the framework, along with this profile in its original format, on the GOSH website at https://openhardware.science/gosh-community-events-framework/.
By Marcela Basch, independent journalist, Argentina. Twitter: @marbasch
Julieta Arancio is a researcher in Science and Technology Studies, an advocate for the democratization of science and technology, and a mentor for open hardware projects.
Julieta has a background in Environmental Sciences and is currently working on a case study of the Open Flexure Microscope project at the University of Bath. Looking for a topic for her PhD in Argentina, she came across open science hardware. “One of my thesis supervisors suggested that I look into open hardware; I had heard about it through discussions in the free software community,” says Julieta. “But I was interested in scientific tools. So when I ran into the call for the second GOSH meeting in 2017, I decided to apply; getting selected surprised me, because I didn’t do hardware.”
“It was totally different from what I imagined: it was structured chaos, and everyone seemed to be having a great time. I found it an interesting mix of technical and non technical people, and much more women and gender non-conforming people than any other tech conference. Witnessing the Roadmap discussion was very intense: it was a mix of an assembly, which was familiar to me, with people discussing technology” recalls Julieta. “I took on the role of observer, and thought I would like to study GOSH for my thesis. Soon after I started participating in open hardware projects myself, and I met a lot of people doing my thesis. It was hard for me to familiarise myself with some of the concepts in the beginning; that’s why I always push for new ways to welcome newcomers. Due to the PhD, and writing GOSH history, I managed to meet lots of GOSHers”.
“In 2018 I was invited to be part of the organising team. With Marc [Dusseiller] and Fernán [Federici], we were thinking of a programme that was a call to action, more than just a conference”, says Julieta. “The theme of Shenzhen was ‘scaling up’. For many it was paradoxical, when thinking of ‘Small is beautiful’. That discussion is central and I think was reflected in the panels. It was like a transition for me: a more activist Chilean GOSH, the more maker Chinese GOSH, and a decentralised, regional GOSH in 2019, which
seems like the right decision for this different kind of growth,” she adds. “I now focus more on reGOSH, the Latin American community. We organised a residency in 2019 in Brazil, we also promote the discussion about openness in technology policy in Latin America through different activities.”
“The organising team has to be diverse. At least five people depending on the size of the event, and always with someone local. In the 2018 team we were very different, that tension was productive”, she remembers. “We have to be very intentional about the diversity quotas established in GOSH, not only in terms of gender or geography, but also in diversity of background, which has a strong impact. There has to be someone insisting on that. And try to spread the call to as dissimilar and unconventional places as possible.”
“The unconference element of the agenda is key. The system has to be very clear, so that everyone knows how it works, to prevent some from taking advantage of it over others. It has to be very clear what the time limit for proposals is, how many people are needed to open a session, and that the agenda is visible to everyone at all times”, states Julieta. “A balance between self-organising and predefined key discussions is central. You build on what happened before, it’s not that you’re making an event out of nothing, you shouldn’t reinvent the wheel. You need someone in the organising team with experience of what’s been going on. In the three events, the link was very clear: the Manifesto as an umbrella of values in the first, the Roadmap taking into account those values in the second, and in the third it was ‘concretely, who is going to do what?’.”
“The balance between discussion sessions and hands-on workshops is very important”, remarks Julieta. “Maybe someone who doesn’t like to talk a lot will be encouraged after participating in a workshop, and someone who is a pure talker will be exposed to the vulnerability of not knowing how to build something. Usually, you know the role you are going to play at a certain event. GOSH throws you off a bit. This relates to the selection of participants, but also with the layout of spaces: they should allow this flexibility”, she says. “And it is key to have a time for engaging with the local community outside GOSH. GOSH is about applying technology and making it useful in different contexts, you have to understand where you are.”
“It is essential to document, to record what was done and discussed, so that everything is somewhere and can be shared, to be able to build on that, and to invite many people who couldn’t be there. You need a team of dedicated people, plan the documentation guidelines, have templates so it’s easier for everyone to fill in. In each session there has to be a person to document, everything can be shared in the forum, allowing discussions to emerge. Media consent is important, some people may not want to be photographed for many different reasons.”
“A small talk on facilitation and contextualizing the event at the beginning are essential to set the tone. ‘The facilitation training and the code of conduct are there to ensure fairness in participation, documentation, respect for others’. The code of conduct isn’t just a piece of paper, you need the roles to make it work”, says Julieta. “Those are all mechanisms to make the diversity productive. If a disagreement is stated respectfully, and is documented, it can open up alternatives. This is related to feminism as well: setting up the necessary infrastructures to dialogue from different places from a position of equity. It’s a huge work of patience, an attitude: realising that you can disagree, and it’s ok, you can keep building.”