Geeks, Arts and Activism: a Call to Arms

As I’ve been travelling the country learning about effective organising and social change (and especially working alongside First Nations communities) I’ve been constantly asking myself “what can creative technology thinking bring to all this?” I have a few ideas myself, obviously, but one thing I have always been so grateful for is my incredible network of super-smart people. So I’m doing the cleverest thing I can think of – asking them what they think.

For those who don’t know, I’ve been centralising that part of my social media world into a thing called Sunday Afternoon Activists Club. It started out as a book club but I’m always keen to play with models and I have a long history of public speaking and collaboration labs, so… welcome to “Geeks, Arts and Activism: a Call to Arms“.

The full blurb from the (Facebook) event is pasted below, fyi. This one is in Perth next Weds, 7th Oct, and I’ll continue them as I travel.

When: 6pm for a 6.30pm start. Weds 7th Oct 2015.
Where: Vic Park Mini Lab, 874 Albany Highway, Perth.

Fee Plumley has been a Media Arts agitator for almost two decades. In that time our western society’s leaders have revealed some questionable concepts of a humane society. If the “geek will inherit the earth”, isn’t it our nerdy responsibility to make sure there’s actually an earth left to inherit?

This is a call to arms: let’s build a geek social change army equipped with the tools and networks to collaborate with and support the growth of decentralised networks locally, nationally and internationally. It’s all broken; bring out your nerds.

In this informal session generously hosted by Enkel and the Vic Park Mini Lab, Fee will present a few of her favourite Media Arts and creative activism examples to get the ball rolling. From there we’ll chat about how an Internet of Things* approach could help us collectively translate slacktivism** into direct meaningful social change outcomes.

This is a short-notice event as Fee lives in a bus and has to drive back to South Australia next week. The dialogue we begin together here will be taken through to other Maker and Hacker Spaces as she travels around the country. Join our geek social change army physically here or online via Sunday Afternoon Activists Club: https://www.facebook.com/sundayafternoonactivistsclub.

http://twitter.com/feesable
http://reallybigroadtrip.com/
http://sundayafternoonactivistsclub.com/
https://www.enkel.co/vic-park-mini-lab/

In the true spirit of DIY maker culture, please feel free to BYO drinks & snacks :)

* Internet of Things = the physicalisation of the ephemeral internet.
** Slacktivism = passive activists who click to sign petitions but don’t tend to take things much further.

comms update – transitions between ‘geek artist’ and ‘creative activist’

i’ve realised that in my broad personal/creative meanderings over the last 12months i’ve started a few fb pages/spaces to help me work out where i’m going with it all. i’ve partly been trying to avoid overload in my personal profile (since i barely use twitter these days) but i’ve realised i’m possibly just spreading it all too thin.

i’m finally getting to the stage where the next steps are becoming clearer and learning is starting to take shape into action. it’s pretty exciting, and definitely time for me to get more organised in how i communicate what i’ve learned and what’s next.

to help this next stage i wanted to let old and new friends know that this is how my shares/comms work these days. I try not to cross-post so if you want to know #allthegoss you should follow all the pages :P:

Reallybigroadtrip​ – everything geek arts, nomadicy, and the hub for all my creative projects and the arts sector broadly.

Sunday afternoon activists club​ – for creative activism, social change and organising thinkings, actions, learning, strategy, celebrations, calls to action.

TransPassivePartyships​ – coordinating a TPP action in perth which kickstarts tomorrow :)

Hammocktime​ – we’re running a new version for Adelaide Fringe​ next year, so if you want to be involved as a guide or just want to know about hanging out as a punter, follow us there (or PM me).

Little Activist​ – a little venture painting activist slogans on recycled kids clothes.

I’ve got a few other projects/spaces i’ve been playing around with, but for now those are my main social spaces. and if we’re not connected on twitter i’m @feesable – maybe you can help me remember why i used to love it there, cause i have to say it feels an oddly dead space to me these days.

i drifted away from ‘developing my arts practice’ and into the creative activism journey because i felt so desperate that the world was so broken. a year on and i’m blown away by how many astonishing humans i’ve met, watched and shared lives with. Yes there’s a long way to go before we fix it all, but we’ve had some amazing wins collectively and my gut tells me the tipping point isn’t far away now.

I’m so grateful to everyone who’s helped me fumble my way through in all the tiny and enormous ways you have.

Big love x

rcws – pop down, you’d be welcome

randomconversationswithstrangers

#randomconversationswithstrangers

I try to avoid residential areas in case it annoys the locals, but last night i parked on a street. I’d spent the evening with a friend visiting from interstate who’s staying across the road. so now I’m sitting on my busstep drinking coffee and writing #allthethoughts when the lady with the amazing garden next to me says “you must have been cold last night”. “not really, it was so hot yesterday the bus takes a while to let it go. besides, Welsh blood keeps me warm”.

We chat. I walk over to ask her about the tree with the strange fruit my friend and I had puzzled over the day before “it’s pawpaw”. I’ve not seen pawpaw growing before. She offers me some herbs, I gratefully accept – who wouldn’t?! She proudly talks me through them all, hacking off bunches of mint, garlic chives, rosemary, parsley, thyme, bay leaves and chilis (“careful, they’re way too hot”).

she walks round the corner of the house “and you can have what’s in here, might only be one or two”, pulling out three eggs for my overflowing tub. “They’re bantams. Here chookchooks!” she calls the free ranging chooks out from under the house to meet me. one, the oldest and smallest, has these fluffy, flare-like feathers coming from her little legs that make her look like the consummate disco diva “they’ll probably be hers, she’s the best layer”.

She tells me of their travels past and upcoming, the oysters they always bring back from South Australia, the northern fishing or feral pig-shooting trips where nothing is ever wasted. “you should go to bridgetown music festival, we’ll be there on the way back from our next trip. With oysters.”

she excuses herself – time to cook lunch – and asks how long I’ll be on the street “because if you’re here tonight, around 5pm, we’ll be down in the park doing a cook-up. We like to get together, burger nights, pizza, especially grilled fish if we’ve had a good catch. It’s great to teach the kids how to cook and help make sure everyone gets a good feed, you know? so if you’re in the area – tonight or any other night – pop down there, you’d be welcome”.

[first posted on instagram, (with lots of funny comments there and on facebook) August 17th 2015]

Comments highlights:

I love the stories of the people you meet on your travels. [Ruth, Canberra]

Amazing [Annie, Adelaide]

Bring on the random encounters :) [Christine, Perth]

in two words: stunningly mundane. oh, ok, one more: beautiful x [Vicki, Adelaide]

Amazing generosity of spirit and love of nature [Adam, UK/Perth]

Great story [Sarah, Adelaide]

That story fed my soul. [Sarah, Melbourne]

Honey, your life lifts my spirits like nothing else! Did you go to the cook out? [Sayraphim, Melbourne]

rcws – a system designed to keep you down when you’re down

‪#‎randomconversationswithstrangers‬

finished an event in the city quite late last night so went to a spot i’d used as a day spot nearby. but, as with previous visits there, it just didn’t feel quite right for an overnight (sometimes they just don’t and it’s not worth arguing against the gut), so i kept looking. found a place that’s a bit too close to residents for my general liking, but no dodgy feelings, so I stayed.

woke at 6.30 (as i’m strangely doing all the time these days, regardless of what time i crash) and knowing i wasn’t here for another night packed the bus to drive mode before making coffee. a ranger drives up at about 9am, stops right next to me but doesn’t get out – i’m not sleeping, the curtains aren’t down, i’m just parking and it’s a car park. move along please, nothing to see here. i smile through the window to let him know his presence is felt, and he leaves without comment.

a while later a bloke walks across the car park directly up to the bus. “hey would you mind if i charged my phone?”, “sure!” i say and hand him a cable that’s already plugged in to my solar rig. “want a cup of tea?”. we chat. he’s homeless, moved from Glasgow when he was 3 so doesn’t have the accent (except when he talks about his dad, when the gruff comes fluidly).

he admires the bus, asks if i have any grief parking, tells me a few spots to try where he’s seen other vehicles and makes me write down a few places i can get free food. these days that’s actually incredibly useful info, my typical routes of earning money haven’t been much on my radar of late. he berates me for being too proud when i tell him i won’t go on the dole, but agrees that the hoops they make you jump through aren’t worth it and suggests i get in touch with a company called ‘jiffy’ who always need drivers. good advice.

i ask where he’s sleeping, if he’s OK – it’s COLD at the moment. he tells me that all the men’s temporary shelters are full. there are a lot of people with nowhere to go. he’s lucky, he’s crashing with a friend at the moment but it’s a house full of stress and arguments so he does a lot of walking during the day. he says it all rolls off him, he’s happy enough, he’s got what he needs. “it’ll be easier in summer, and when work comes”.

I ask what he does “I used to be a truck driver but I got suspended. I had a fine, thought the payments were coming out of my wages but turns out they weren’t so it defaulted. i didn’t know. now it’ll cost me another $1000 just to get a new payment plan set up. until I can pay that the fine just keeps going up and I get further away from being able to pay any of it”.

a system designed to keep you down when you’re down.
what kind of a system is that?

“back in the day you used to be able to turn yourself in, do jail time for a few days to wipe the debt clean. you can’t even do that any more”.

i’ve heard this a few times recently, people berating the fact they can’t do jail time anymore. that doing time is a way out. from my perspective the very idea of jail time is scary, not just from being locked up but for what it would do to my career, my ability to travel, my freedom. my privilege.

as he leaves he tells me to make sure i buy a lotto ticket for the weekend. i tell him no, i’d rather save the few bucks i have for, well, something other than stupid tax. he tells me he’ll buy a ticket and bring it back for me to take care of “but you’d better phone me when you win…”

[originally published on facebook, August 12th 2015]

Selected comments:
Reply by me to someone: thanks both, they’re lovely moments to have and give me an incredible perspective on diversity. i spent 18months couchsurfing before i even got the bus and that was also a fascinating insight into how other people lived. life is rich n strange! … i always meant to write them up. even while i was living them i figured they’d probably make good fodder for a book (as indeed does buslife of course), but i always seem to be too busy living it and not writing it up afterward. hence these little snapshots. i have so many more stories/encounters but it’s lovely to share some of them too.

Life, what stories it provides! Thanks Fee. [Aubrey, Perth]

These snapshots of life are jsut beautiful, honey xo [Sayraphim, Melbourne]

Fee! I spent a year actively exploring the intention to have more conversations with neighbors, strangers & artists. Many interesting discoveries that I’d love to share with you! [Julia, UK]

rcws – Am I dodgy?

more ponderings from ‪#‎randomconversationswithstrangers‬

so there’s this guy who lives on a boat nearby to my current parkup. He’s a bit of a character and always friendly. He asked me the first morning, as I was having coffee on my busstep, if I paddled (he was getting a kayak ready to go over to his boat which is moored in the river). I said no, but only coz I don’t have a boat.

Anyway, there’s this other guy who walks his dogs early morning. He’s been quite chatty too, only in a different way, a more ‘British’ way. He asked me yesterday if I’d met the guy with the boat. “He’s an odd fellow” he said, “seems to live on the boat out there. I’m not sure how he acquired it…”.

That really struck me. If someone lives in a house no one wonders how they ‘acquired’ that house. But if you live on a boat someone thinks they have the right to question such a thing? It’s a funny kind of judgement that only seems to come from suspicion of otherness. He lives on a boat therefore he’s dodgy. If he looked the same way but lived in a house would he be deemed less dodgy? I wonder if this old British dude thinks I’m dodgy too. Maybe I am, by default. Funny thing to consider about yourself, really: “Am I dodgy?”… ‪#‎thoughtfortheday‬

[first posted on facebook, August 11th 2015]

Selected comments:

Artfully dodgy [Steven, Perth]

Dodgy as hell, in the best kind of way! [Rebecca, Adelaide Hills]

Yeah you’re definitely dodgy! [Siobhan, UK]

Definitely dodgy dear, and subversive too. :) [Ruff, UK]

We’re all agreed – so dodgy [Sarah, Wollongong]

How can we harness the power of creative digital culture to improve Aboriginal rights?

reallybigroadtrip is calling for expressions of interest from artists, geeks, filmmakers and social change warriors. Join us in a South Australian/APY Lands Aboriginal roadtrip, any time between April – August 2016.

#homeJames, Uncle Chris and I being sent off with a smoking ceremony from the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, Canberra

#homeJames, Uncle Chris and I being sent off with a smoking ceremony from the Aboriginal Tent Embassy, Canberra

Digital literacy is often considered to be lacking in Aboriginal communities, yet smartphones, social media, games, music and film production can be prolific. Storytelling sits at the heart of social change, yet (despite increased solidarity) non-Aboriginals often haven’t experienced what life is like for remote communities such as those currently threatened with closure.

This begs the question: How can we harness the power of creative digital culture to improve Aboriginal rights?

reallybigroadtrip invites emerging or established artists, geeks, filmmakers and social change warriors to help respond to this question. Thanks to funding from Country Arts SA, travel (on the reallybigroadtrip bus, homeJames), subsistence and a negotiable artist’s fee will be provided to selected candidates.

Aboriginal applicants from South Australia and the APY Lands are strongly encouraged to apply.

About the project

The overall roadtrip will take place between April and August 2016. We aim to visit a number of Aboriginal communities, with locations and durations determined according to proposals received and permissions from those communities. Potential locations include (but are not restricted to) Adelaide, the Coorong, Point Pearce, Port Augusta, Coober Pedy, Ernabella and Alice Springs.

Our activities at each location will depend on the proposals received and subsequent conversations with selected artists. Anticipated activities include (but are not restricted to) workshops, screenings, exhibitions, creative productions and collaborations within each community. A budget for materials is available but know that we will preference legacy and agency over expensive, hard to access kit.

Expression of Interest

Please email fee@technoevangelist.net with an Expression of Interest (EOI) and a response to the question “How can we harness the power of creative digital culture to improve Aboriginal rights?” by February 22nd, 2016 (UPDATE: this deadline has been extended to March 22nd 2016). Your EOI can be informal but should include your contact details and give us an indication of who you are, where you’re from, what you do, where you’d like to take us, why you chose that location, and what you’d like to share or create in our time together there.

A selection panel will review proposals and contact a shortlist of candidates for discussion around detailed logistics and collaboration. The final selection will be announced in April 2016.

Contact

Applicants are advised to check out the reallybigroadtrip.com blog, Facebook page and homeJames flickr album to get a feel for the journey so far. You can also email fee@technoevangelist.net with any queries prior to applying.

We look forward to hearing from you!

Frequently Asked Questions

I’m getting a few common questions coming through so will add them and their answers here as we go.

Does my project have to cover the entire April to August period?
No, the overall roadtrip can start in April and will finish at the end of August. Each project can last anywhere from a week or two upwards but are expected to be individual blocks within that four month period. Of course that largely depends on the proposals we receive – some might want to start in April then come back again at further stages, or might have a physical presence in one community then continue as a digital experience across the rest of the time. We’re keen to keep things open until we’ve seen what people want to do.

Do I have to be based in South Australia to apply?
No, the project’s activities will take place around South Australia and the APY Lands, but applicants can come from anywhere in Australia. Sadly we don’t have budgets for international travel, so if you are from overseas and want to apply we would love to hear from you but you will have to seek alternative funding for the international component of your travel.

Can I propose a project but not be involved in the roadtrip?
Possibly… but projects demonstrating an active engagement with community will be given preference. If you think you can demonstrate significant engagement without being physically present then feel free to send in your ideas, but please pay special attention to explaining how you think that can be achieved.

Why are you running this project?
I’ve not actually been asked this, but I felt it would be useful to give some background for those who don’t know me.

lateral drifts

Increasingly pissed off with Facebook’s continued disrespect for our personal rights and privacy, I’ve started using a new platform for my personal ramblings, to begin taking myself out of the anti-Net Neutrality world.

Known lets you publish status updates, etc, which are then pushed to Facebook, Twitter, etc (it’s in beta so there’s a lot more to come too). This means you own all rights to your content rather than giving them away to walled gardens that are more interested in your data than providing the open service you originally signed up for.

Check out more at http://withknown.com and follow my lateral drifts at http://fee.withknown.com.

Nomads in Residence

Since things are starting to hot-up around here it seems to be time to post a bit about what I mean by “Nomads in Residence”.

These nomads are basically my guests in the bus. They must be from the creative digital culture space but I’m really broad about that. By “digital culture” I mean artists, makers, hackers, coders, practitioners, researchers, games developers, animators, filmmakers, policy folk, arts workers, cultural practitioners… ummmmmmm…. other people who play creatively with technology. The point is to be INclusive, not EXclusive, so if you’re not included by title here but feel you should be included by practice then message me regardless.

I have a list of people I have already personally invited. I also have a bundle of folk I have just loved working with/around over the years and will be contacting in due course. But there’s also folk I stumble on/am introduced to who just spark something and need to be invited. For example, I just contacted my first total stranger because her work suits my thinking perfectly, and there might be the perfect match event coming up next year.

And then there’s the unknown-yet-by-me. Of which there are many!

I do not know everyone (or everything). Obviously. This whole project is about getting out there and seeing who/what I don’t know, as well as sharing who/what I do.

So.

The ‘challenge’

  • Location: You don’t need to be from another country; plenty of you gorgeous Australians are on my list. I need to see this country through your eyes and be introduced to your networks too.
  • Your mission: I ask all my “Nomads in Residence” to define where you want to go, who you want to meet and what you want to achieve from your trip.
  • Networking: Once I know your intentions I can help make connections with people you could meet both with me and outside of your time with me. I really encourage you to spend extra time in this amazing country if you can. I can also follow up on people you tell me I should know about in case we can meet them together.
  • Duration: I would love you to stay with me as long as you can, but I understand time is a valuable commodity and you are probably travelling a fair distance. When I started visiting Australia from the UK our costs were often split across a few organisations and that worked a treat, but affects timing/demands, etc.
  • Monies: As you can see from my crowdfunding campaign, this is all very DIY. I would love to offer you travel/accommodation, a nice fat artists fee and a luxurious ‘maker’ budget, but that’s not something I can promise. Especially right now. But I can fundraise (either through crowdfunding targeted to both our communities or through traditional arts funding) and co-productions/shared visits are pretty straightforward to coordinate. You will at least get standard return flights, acommodation/food in the bus and some kind of artist fee.
  • Accommodation: The bus will have a ‘bedroom’ space, a sofa-bed in the ‘lounge’ space, a swag (traditional aussie sleeping bag/tent), and an extra tent. You can choose which you’d like, even on a daily basis.

The Bigger Picture

This often freaks people out when I talk about it; “Your plans are too big, Fee. Calm down and take one step at a time”… Um, no. I think big missions help you better achieve baby steps… but that’s just me.

The big picture plan is to start the model in Australia but then take the concept all over the world. I’ve already been talking to a University in Canada who likes the concept as a research methodology. At some point we’ll run a co-production together to raise funds for a bus and the same process over there. That bus would of course drive across Canada, down to America and then South America, scooping more locals and international en route. I’m also British, so at some stage I’ll be setting up another bus in the UK, which would go to Europe… and so on.

The really-big-picture is that eventually I would like to have a bus in (or within access of) every continent. While I’m not using it the bus would be available for other digital culture practitioners. If they maintain the bus and continue to support the concept (capturing/sharing data, etc) they can have it for free when it’s not being used. If they want to do their own thing then they can hire it and any proceeds will go back in to the project.

National / International

This really isn’t just an Australian project, it’s a digital one. Like the internet it’s inspired by community, collaboration, creativity and connection. The potential is huge but the baby steps are really manageable and realistic. It just takes a little bit of conversation and we can make amazing things happen together.

So if you’re interested, message me with some responses to the above ‘challenge’ and we’ll take it from there.

UPDATE: Get a flavour of some of the Nomads.