The Challenge

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How can we strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation? read the brief

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Feminist Tech Exchange Festival: Creative Encounters for Innovative Solutions

Innovation is most creative when it comes from need. The internet is especially critical for those who have little access to other publics because of their gender or sexuality, including women and the queer community. How can we create a safer internet that is inclusive of diversity? The Feminist Tech Exchange understands that everyone has something to bring to the table. It aims to bring together unusual suspects to discuss, share experiences and expertise in creative encounters to develop solutions to issues of violence, discrimination and censorship that threaten the integrity, safety and potential of the internet as a transformative space. Thinking differently when people who don't usually speak come together for a common purpose.
For groups of people who face discrimination because of their gender identity or sexuality, the internet has become a critical space for connection and transformation.  At the same time, they face specific threats and attacks because of who they are. This includes censorship of sexual content, online stalking and harassment, targetted attacks aimed at their sexuality and more. Based on a global survey in 2013, 98% of sexual rights activists consider the internet as an important public sphere for the advancement of sexual rights, and that more than half of the respondents have received violent or threatening messages and experienced hacking, intimidation, technical damage, unwanted access to their private information, blocking and filtering, or censorship.

Yet discussions on online security rarely underscores a gendered and feminist perspective and framework. They also emphasise either the legislative/policy layer or the technical one in thinking of solutions to internet safety issues. They rarely address interventions at the level of cultural communications - changing the way we engage, interact and create online. There are also few spaces that allows for convergance of conversations between different types of actors - policy spaces privileges advocates, legislators and policy makers, hackathons focusses on techie communities, activists spaces rarely bring together people from different human rights and social movements.

The Feminist Tech Exchange (FTX) festival aims to bring together unusual suspects to ask different kinds of questions, share experiences, expertise and knowledge in creative encounters to deepen the understanding and develop solutions to issues of violence, discrimination and censorshop that threaten the safety, integrity and potential of the internet as a transformative space. It understands that everyone has something to bring to the table. And creates the space for innovation by bringing together diverse, engaged and invested people who don't usually speak to each other to come together to explore, interrogate and play for a common purpose. What can an architect, gamer, designer and feminist activist explore and create to address the issue of misogynistic hate speech? How can street artists, policy makers, sexual rights activists and educators disrupt the dominant discourse on online surveillance and privacy?

The FTX festival will have simultaneous open labs, conversation centres, hands on workshops, ideas market and resource sections that participants will host. The thematic areas will be built around issues of human rights, feminism and the internet. The conversation centres will allow for a deepening of understanding an analysis through allowing different questions and perspectives to surface. The resource sections and workshops will build capacity of participants and allow for an exchange of knowledge, skills and know how. The ideas market will show case and allow for germination and cross polination of diverse and creative initiatives. And the open labs will aim produce concrete proposals or pilots for solutions that will be selected for development through a seed grant post-festival.

We aim to have 3 regional FTX festivals, to build on the context-specific needs and realities. They are: Eastern Europe, Africa and South and South east Asia. The seed grantees will continue to build on the exchange through an online platform, with an evaluation of its impact a year later through storytelling.
In ONE sentence, tell us about your project to strengthen the Internet for free expression and innovation.
The Feminist Tech Exchange festival aims to bring together unusual suspects to discuss, share experiences and expertise in creative encounters to develop solutions to issues of violence, discrimination and censorship that threaten the integrity, safety and potential of the internet as a transformative space.
Who will benefit from what you propose? What have you observed that makes you think that?
The festival aims to directly address online safety and security needs faced by queer communities, including LGBTIQ people, women and girls and others who face discrimination and violence because of their gender and sexuality. In the process, the festival will also benefit feminist, human rights, cultural activists and people from a range of disciplines to think creatively and explore the intersections of their fields to better understand their work and issues. We have begun some of this work by bringing together sexual rights and internet rights activists, and the process of uncovering and engagement has already raised interesting insights at different levels. A festival that encourages exploration, play, interrogation and creation can be a conducive environment for cross-boundary innovation.
What progress have you made so far?
APC Women's Rights Programme have organised Feminist Tech Exchanges since 2008, which includes 2 global FTXs with more than 150 women's rights activists, feminists and internet rights activists who participated, and over 20 country-based FTXs in 12 countries (Cambodia, Philippines, Malaysia, Pakistan, Congo, DRC, Uganda, South Africa, Argentina, Colombia, Mexico and Brazil). The FTX had a focus on capacity building, and we are interested to explore and evolve this into a more creative, open and collaborative space for knowledge building, play and innovation. Our work on sexuality and the internet through the EROTICS project will also ground the development of the festival based on needs and priority issues of sexual rights activists and their communities.
What would be a successful outcome for your idea or project?
Development and implementation of at least 5 concrete solutions that directly involve and benefit intended communities of people. This can include the creation of a community project (e.g. urban reimagination), production of a creative communications output (e.g. short film), capacity building of a specific marginalised community, development of a monitoring application or platform for documenting violations which feeds into a policy process or support service, local or smaller scale FTX for specific issues in specific locales etc.
Who is on your team, and what are their relevant experiences or skills?
The Association for Progressive Communication (APC) Women's Rights Programme is a global team of internet and women's rights activists who have worked together as a team since 2005. Partners who have collaborated on Feminist Tech Exchanges since 2008, which includes 2 global FTXs and over 20 country-based FTXs. We will also partner with activists and organisations who are interested and engaged in technology for social change, such as the Frontline Defenders, Tactical Technology Collective, Association for Women's Rights in Development, and the Women's Human Rights Defenders International Coalition.
Location
Johannesburg, Gauteng, South Africa Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina OR Prague, Czech Republic Yogjakarta, Indonesia

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