Written By: - Date published: 8:47 am, November 17th, 2017 - 1 comment
Categories: community democracy, disability, internet - Tags: community, illness, internet freedom, nethui, nethui 2017, Sarah Wilson, writehandedgirl
Sarah Wilson is a disabled journalist, writer, feminist, social justice campaigner, and poet. She writes about living with arthritis, politics, feminist issues, and issues regarding social welfare. You can see more of Sarah’s work and support her at Patreon.
NetHui live! From my bed! Ok, it’s not my bed, it’s my friend @Antheaw’s bed, and we are attending NetHui in a very appropriate way: via the Internet.
So:what’s NetHui and why am I in Anthea’s bed?
I was lucky enough to be awarded a Fellowship to attend this year’s NH in Auckland (thank you to sponsors APNIC). In my application I stressed that I’d participate as much as possible, but that my disability might limit that.
NetHui opened yesterday and I was there in person for most of the day. Here’s a quick bit of background for those who aren’t familiar with the setup, because NH is kinda different to most conferences – actually, it’s really different and it’s not a conference at all. This is from the website:
“NetHui brings everybody and anybody that wants to talk about the Internet together. We’re not a conference and speakers won’t talk at you all day. NetHui is a community event – made for the community, by the community.
Participation and collaboration are at the heart of NetHui. The programme isn’t decided by InternetNZ – it’s designed by the community. NetHui is about issues that actually matter to your community.
The theme for NetHui 2017 is Trust and Freedom on the Internet.”
The programme is designed around discussion sessions that are facilitated by loads of different people from diverse backgrounds. The discussion sessions are just that – everyone has a chance to have a say, if they want to.
One of the important defining factors of NetHui is the Code of Conduct, which sets the kaupapa for how people will interact with each other during the sessions. It is excellent and well worth a read. It’d be great to see it replicated elsewhere.
Right! So, I arrived yesterday for the opening addresses. I tuned out a little to the speech by Minister Clare Curran because I’m not a tech person and some of the stuff she was talking about didn’t connect with me, but it was encouraging to hear her talk about some of the direction and focused of the new government, including increased internet accessibility for everyone.
I really enjoyed hearing Jillian York talk about the immense control that corporations like Facebook have over the internet and how we can behave on it. She’s the Director of International Freedom of Expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. You can watch her, and many of the other sessions from yesterday, on the recorded livestream.
I then went to a session run by two people from NetSafe NZ, titled ‘What About The Kids?’ which was a discussion around keeping young people safe on the internet. What was most useful about this one was we had a bunch of local high school students who shared their views. There was a couple of key things I came away with:
The lunch break was good because I got to meet a bunch of people face-to-face that I’ve only met previously on Twitter. So it’s nice to put voices to names – thanks for saying hi!
After lunch I went to the session ‘Sex Sells: But Who’s Paying?’ facilitated by Nat Dudley and Jess Ducey. The discussion kicked off looking at the fact that although sex work is legal work in New Zealand, payment platforms like Paypal and Patreon aren’t available to them because those companies operate out of the States and they don’t allow sex workers to use them. Fittingly, because many of the people in the room were coming from technical backgrounds, a number of technical solutions – like building local payment platforms (which has been done, is much more difficult than it sounds, and hasn’t solved the issue) – were bandied around. But those kind of ignore the social and cultural origins of the problem, which is that these giant companies are making moral choices around their customer base. Some people suggested that this was their right – maybe that’s true, I don’t know. I just wish we’d had a lot more time to talk about it. Again, that session is online at the link above.
After that I was exhausted and had to head home, which meant missing the panel and networking events.
However! This brings us to today and my decision to participate as much as possible from bed.
I think the fact that I can do that is indicative of how far the Internet has come and it speaks to the idea of ‘freedom’ that is part of the NetHui theme this year. For me, as a disabled person, the internet gives me the freedom to still be part of a bunch of different communities, even when I can’t be physically present.
I think it’s pretty bloody amazing that I can be comfortable in bed right now, listening to Marianne Elliott from ActionStation talk as part of a panel on digital democracy. I’m not going to attempt to liveblog everything in real time, I’ll miss what I want to hear, but I’m going to try and duck in and out of some sessions during today and then sum up some bits that stand out for me.
So! Stick with me…
Join the livestream. [replay video available]
Some notes and quotes from the panel on digital democracy:
“Teach people civil disobedience. Teach them how to participate in democracy.”
The key takeaway for me from this session was that people do care about political issues, but they don’t necessarily know that they are political issues, or how to participate in democratic processes, or feel empowered to be part of change. So I guess the question is how the internet can enable democratic participation, and how we can make this accessible to everyone.
Accessibility is of course a big issue for me – obviously I come from a place of huge privilege in terms of digital literacy, education, internet access at a technical level – but I feel like there’s this idea that the internet is open to everyone, and it’s absolutely not. Many people with disabilities are excluded. And then conversely many people with disabilities use the internet to participate in communities and wider society when they would otherwise be limited. I’m a prime example of that – even when I can’t physically leave my house, I’m not isolated like I would have been even five years ago. The chronic illness communities online are incredible – spaces of enablement, empowerment, education, information sharing and support.
Next session I’m signing in for might continue that conversation a bit: Digital: inclusion, literacy and education – The benefits of digital inclusion and digital literacy for life-long learning
Facilitators: Samuel Beyer & Sue West
– defining digital literacy,
– the importance of digital inclusion,
– how to develop key, transferable, digital literacy skills,
– the relationship between digital literacy and other literacies, and
– the role of civic organisations in promoting digital inclusion and contributing to digital literacy.
Here’s the livestream link again. [replay video available]
Ok! Here we go.
Love that the session gets opened with a reminder of the code of conduct “We have a shared kaupapa and it’s about being kind.” That’s my jam right there.
Different forms of literacy – you don’t need necessarily need to be “written literate” to be digitally literate. (Comment from my friend Kevin Prince who works in accessibility).
“The internet has fundamentally changed our lives.” “This is real life, this is not something “out there.” The internet is real life.” “There are people out there watching this that we can’t see.” (haha hi! *waves*)
A conversation about education. AnyQuestions – 6% of talks with students are about online behaviours. (I used to promote AnyQuestions when I worked at the National Library!)
What are the benefits of being digitally literate?
-Not being digitally literate is going to be an actual physical barrier to participation in society. IRD has a 4 year plan to get rid of most frontline staff, because everything will be required to be done online. There is government responsibility to ensure people do have literacy so they can still do things like get information, pay taxes, be part of society.
-We don’t ask, is it important that our children know how to read? So is this the 21st century equivalent. It’s like knowing how to cross the road, it’s just part of life now.
-People who don’t use computers to do things lose $10 a week over people who are doing say online banking etc. Doing things manually is more resource-heavy.
-I commented online at this point about my own situation in relation to digital literacy – obviously I wouldn’t even be doing this right now and getting to participate in NetHui if I wasn’t digitally literate, so it has a huge impact on my life. My literacy enables to be communicate, to work, to socialise. It also enables me, as a woman online, to know how to protect myself and stay safe.
I’m getting tired even doing this from bed! But there’s a couple sessions this afternoon I’m interested in and going to try and cover. So see you soon!
…. and, coming back to you for the session Social and Cultural Implications of the Internet, with Amber Craig and Don Hollander.
~All the following is notes of other people’s words unless stated otherwise~
Amber sharing her story about discovering her previously unknown to her whakapapa via tools and communities online. She’s found a lot of her whanau through “random friend requests.”
People saying about how we meet people online and become really close friends – which is absolutely my experience. I have met almost the majority of my close friends via Twitter. I wouldn’t have half my friendships or my support community without the internet – but it’s really all about how to use it.
A lot of people talking about how important the internet has been in enabling them to keep connected with their families spread out across the world.
Genealogy is the second most common hobby in the world! “Family history is an addiction – I have found family all around the world.”
Question asked: is culture becoming more homogenised because of the internet? (Read; Americanised). – not sure anyone has answered this so far. I don’t know if we can!
“The internet is as exciting as the printing press” – in terms of revolutionising information sharing.
Do people check news sources from both the left and the right? Are we solio-ing ourselves? The ‘issue’ of being in a bubble…
Jess saying that being in a bubble isn’t a bad thing, and is not an internet thing, but reflects how we manage relationships in the physical world as well. “No one goes to Klan meetings for fun.” It’s ok to curate your communities for your own safety, enjoyment and comfort.
“The internet is important for New Zealand because it links us to the world, because we’re so far away from everything.”
The internet isn’t a different thing, it exacerbates both the good and the bad, and we need to make sure legislature keeps up with that.
Talking about the consequences of behaviour on the internet – what constitutes “dumb behaviour” and how do we treat it? For example, is taking a nude selfie a “bad behaviour” or is the sharing without consent the unacceptable behaviour? (words from me: this is kind of the same thing that came up in the NetSafe convo yesterday – if teens are taking silly photos, should there be some statute of limitations on those images? Should those silly choices exist in perpetuity?)
“We made the decision not to be involved in social media and our lives are getting lonelier and lonelier… there is so much communication going on on those platforms, that if you’re not on them? The world goes quiet.”
Someone summarised a few things by saying that social media doesn’t represent all of the internet, and it can be a trap to binarise them and try to say they’re all good or all bad (which is a very intelligent comment and the person was someone who studies social media for a living).
So! I feel like again I didn’t follow everything in that session and I guess participation via a livestream isn’t ideal because I missed some nuance and I also missed the opportunity to raise my hand and represent myself (not saying I would have even if I was there because I’d rather throw up than talk in front of people, but it would’ve been nice to have the option). My own situation or even set of situations or community weren’t really in the room – ie, the internet has such huge social implications for women with disabilities and it’s a point I keep banging on about and will probably continue to do so.
However – it’s pretty awesome that I was able to be part of NetHui today in even this limited capacity, and thank you again to all of the sponsors and organisers and speakers and everyone who make that happen. I hope I can come again next year.
Enjoy the closing addresses and drinks, everyone!