Are you a community networks activist? These sessions at the Internet Freedom Festival are for you

By APCNews 28 March 2019

Topics directly related to community networks will be addressed at the Internet Freedom Festival (IFF) happening in Valencia, Spain, on 1-5 April 2019. Understanding that community networks to access the internet are not only about networks, but first and foremost about organised communities, we put together a list of sessions that community network enthusiasts, promoters, technicians or activists just interested in the topic might want to participate in.

Some of the events listed below cover intersecting areas of discussion such as deeply rooted bottom-up approaches to community building and how technology can support it; language barriers within communities and how to deal with these differences in the process of owning the technology; how technologies can be designed from the first mile on and with a local first and local only perspective; and many others. How to respect and strengthen the different communities while interconnecting us all is the common denominator.

You will find this and much more at the IFF this year! You can check out the full list of activities here

Description: Implementers and donors are investing a lot of energy in developing local capacity. However, sometimes instead of strengthening it, we are damaging it. Or, at least, we don't invest in effective local capacity, but invest in something less useful than it could be. So how to develop local capacity? How should effective local capacity look like? This session will provide space for an informal talk on this, sharing of experiences, exchanging of ideas and, maybe, finding a better way to develop local capacity.

Date: Monday, 1 April 2019 from 14:45 to 15:45

Room: Gallery

Description: There will always be places with weaker connectivity, where the internet is slow, expensive or censored. This session will address the following questions: How are communities developing creative solutions that strengthen autonomy and technical sovereignty? How is local content being woven into these networks? And what solutions – offline content, small servers, decentralised web – are being developed to bring content across these barriers?

Date: Monday, 1 April 2019 from 16:00 to 17:00

Room: Greenhouse

Description: How can activists around the world imagine the role of digital technologies in their struggle for social justice? How do activists not only use internet technologies, but also think about them? How do they construct “technological imaginaries” that link their views about technology and their politics? This session will introduce innovative research methods to facilitate a collaborative discussion between frontline activists, technologists and other researchers on how we can imagine a different and better internet. Participants will be asked to produce drawings that represent how they imagine the internet to be now and how they would like the internet to be in the near future. The drawings will then frame the discussion towards concrete ideas that can be taken up outside the session. The session will also demonstrate how this drawing technique can be used to generate ideas not just in a research setting, but also in activist/tech circles, for instance to generate policy ideas from below. The drawing technique allows for the inclusion of different stakeholders, even those that do not necessarily have advanced tech or policy skills.

Date: Monday, 1 April 2019 from 17:15 to 18:15

Room: La Factoria

Description: In many indigenous and non-urban or alternative communities, the respect of nature, the attachment to the land, the preservation of memory and traditions, shared goals and a strong organisation are crucial to surviving. However, these imaginaries are not compatible with the dominant and corporate technological rationality that takes advantage of people’s lives and environments and produce narratives that separate the land, the people and their affections. For these communities, digital colonialism, the datafication of the self, and the capture of life produce poverty, exclusion, the loss of natural resources and, in some cases, death. This workshop will analyse the implications of digital colonialism in daily life and in relation to traditional cultures. Through participatory methodologies and the support of different visual materials, the participants will develop a map of routes of technology production, and locate their place in that network of relationships, resources, narratives, agents, territories, bodies and subjectivities. The organisers will frame these flows within a socio-technical system that includes the extraction of minerals and the effects on the land and territories, energy consumption (in transportation, manufacturing and packaging, data centres, cryptocurrency mining, end users, among others), labour exploitation and labour rights in the "maquilas", technological dumps, and affectivity. The major goal is to intervene in those routes: How can free technologies contribute to building narratives that are significant for indigenous and non-urban or alternative communities? How can we imagine other futures, where free software development is closer to indigenous, non-urban territories, bodies and subjectivities? How can free technologies contribute to decolonise ourselves and our territories? From these traces, alternative narratives based on the ethics of free technologies will be created.

Date: Monday, 1 April 2019 from 17:15 to 19:15

Room: Gallery

Description: What can be learnt from the from the civil rights movement, the anti-colonial revolution, the struggles of the Dalit women, the #BlackLivesMatter struggle, and #NoSocialMediaTax movements? This session will bring together people who participated in all these struggles to share tips about organising offline and online. During this conversation, participants will curate tools that people used to organise before the internet, like zines, flyers and posters. The session will hear from current activist and anti-oppression leaders to see how they bring millions of folks to the streets using the internet.

Date: Monday, 1 April 2019 from 17:15 to 18:15

Room: Greenhouse

Description: How can we evolve our use and development of technology to be rooted in mutual aid? In this session participants will dive into the Teaching Community Technology Handbook, a guide to developing accessible and meaningful technology education through popular education practices and workshops. If you get excited by education and love sharing your knowledge and skills with techies and non-techies alike, this session is for you!

Date: Wednesday, 3 April 2019 from 09:45 to 11:45

Room: Sky Room

Description: Autonomy is often presented as a key part of all internet freedom. That ranges from urging people to run their own web servers to the numerous kickstarter campaigns trying to put little plastic boxes as "home servers" into people's homes for them to "get back control of their lives". And there is an argument to be had about creating an internet that allows basically any entity to plug their own service in: Everybody _could_ actually (from a protocol standpoint) run their own email server and send emails everywhere (caveat when it comes to the question whether those mails would pass the spam filters though). The dominant understanding of autonomy (on the internet but also in physical spaces) as individualised control carries with it hefty biases: Who has the resources to run all their own hardware? Their own services? What does it do to the internet security-wise when everybody puts little boxes into their homes but has no clue about the technology? Who maintains all that infrastructure and, if nobody does, what happens when all those autonomous email server boxes become a botnet? This session will clearly outline (with current policy and campaign examples) the issues that the individualised structure of the dominant understanding of autonomy brings with it. Who it helps and who it really does nothing for. Afterwards, participants will be invited to dive into developing a more social, networked understanding of autonomy to address some of the issues at hand to serve as a basis for further discussion. This talk is intended to spark a conversation about autonomy between different groups of people with different experiences to end up with a better concept of autonomy that suits the social structure of the internet better than the existing "everyone for themselves".

Date: Wednesday, 3 April 2019 from 14:45 to 15:45

Room: Sunny

Description: This year, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published its report on climate change, warning that the world will likely see food and water shortages, wildfires, and inundated coastlines by 2040. Absent a global concerted effort to reduce carbon emissions, these environmental changes will intensify strife in our lifetimes. In response, governments and non-state actors may take measures that roll back hard-earned internet freedom victories. Drawing on the “deep adaptation” model proposed by University of Cumbria Professor Jem Bendell, this session hopes to facilitate an open and collaborative discussion of how internet freedom advocates can best prepare for an upswing in censorship and surveillance that will likely accompany planetary climate disruptions. The first part of the session will introduce the salient climate issues to the internet freedom community, addressing ways in which NGOs can include climate change advocacy into their existing digital rights agenda. The rest of the session will invite the community to discuss their community needs and strategies for resilience and deep adaption. Prompts may include: What are the most pressing internet freedom projects to prepare people for adapting to climate change? How might Western technologies engage with local traditions and lifestyles in at-risk regions in community-led, sustainable ways? How can we encourage equitable global information sharing when it comes to climate-resilience technologies? Do funders take into account the interdependence of their focus areas like sustainable food, renewable energy, and freedom and accountability, and if so, how does that reflect in their funded projects? What models of adaptation can help emotionally prepare for climate change?

Date: Thursday, 4 April 2019 from 12:15 to 13:15

Room: Gallery

Description: This session's goal is to collectively understand the ways in which a more pluralistic take on language on the internet of the future can be encouraged. In a series of short guided exercises, the participants will explore the intersection between oral history and internet culture, and the implications of designing systems that overlook cultural and linguistic diversity. The proposal is to make visible what gets left out in the process of using English as a default language, to question what the use of English as the default online language means for expression and internet culture, and to play at the intersection between oral history (idioms, family sayings, expressions, etc.) and internet-created language (memes, hashtags, gifs, emojis, etc.). Participants will be able to explore provocative simple scenarios like what would be a multicultural mom-wisdom manifesto to internet communication. By doing this, they will speculate around alternative internets that could exist within diverse cultures.

Date: Friday, 5 April 2019 from 11:00 to 12:00

Room: Think Tank

Description: This session will address the different efforts made for a number of years to bring internet-style solutions to network outages caused by both nature and politics. While these approaches are technically sound, they rarely work for the people trying to use them. The networks are easily overloaded, and in a mobile first world, a browser-based solution only.provides intermittent usefulness. The Wind approach is a “connected sneakernet” focusing on enabling a variety of many-to-many nearby interactions at the edge of the network, through apps, protocols and developer libraries. A windy network is shaped and scaled by the movement of people through time and space. This will be a very interactive session where the organisers will run a Wind ecosystem in the room and ask participants to imagine that a natural disaster just happened and there are not internet or phone services available. Step by step, the participants will be guided to get access to all the off-grid services and capabilities of the Wind network.

Date: Friday, 5 April 2019 from 11:00 to 13:00

Room: Sky Room

More information about the project here and here

Description: This session will focus on the importance of getting community members involved in the development process from the beginning. Presenters will address factors that assist in creating community-driven tools and share stories, insights and opportunities from community-specific cases. This session is an opportunity for technologists, designers and community members to understand key areas that should be kept in mind when developing networks for users living in diverse contexts around the globe, and provide examples of how users can be more seamlessly integrated into the design process through different activities (including localisation), so that together, more sustainable, more useful, more inclusive, more desired solutions can be achieved. Specific regions and countries addressed in this session include Southeast Asia with Burmese, Indonesian and Cambodian users at Localization Sprints, Colombia through Colnodo, Latin America and the Caribbean through the Viento project and Speaking Up, and Kenya through digital security trainings for women.

Date: Friday, 5 April 2019 from 14:45 to 15:45

Room: Think Tank

Description: The Detroit Digital Stewards work through the Equitable Internet Initiative to ensure that more Detroit residents have the tools to leverage digital technologies for social and economic development. They do it by fostering the development of community-rooted technologists, those who have the desire to build, design and facilitate a healthy integration of technology into people’s lives and communities, allowing them the fundamental human right to communicate. In this session, the Digital Stewards, community technologists and neighbourhood leaders trained in the technical and community organising skills necessary to redistribute Gigabit Internet connections, will share how they – through the practice of common ownership, environmental and digital justice, openness, and skill building – bring their communities online. More here.

Date: Friday, 5 April 2019 from 16:00 to 17:00

Room: Think Tank

Check what APC will be doing at IFF 2019.

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