torsdag 25 januari 2018

Adopt an activist (paper)

Last week (January 15) I submitted a paper to alt.chi for the first time:

"alt.chi 2018 continues the tradition of bringing substantive, thought-provoking, original work to CHI through an alternative approach. alt.chi is appropriate for submissions that prove difficult to assess through the main Papers track, whether for reasons of methodology, style or content. A Juried review process ensures that high standards for excellence are maintained. alt.chi hosts some of the most audacious and insightful presentations at the conference. This is the avant-garde of CHI. We invite the submission of bold, compelling, critical, and innovative works that challenge or re-imagine human computer interaction research and design."

I literally worked until the very last minute together with co-author Bonnie Nardi (through Skype) and I uploaded the paper a bit more than one minute and a bit less than one and a half minutes before the deadline. The last hour and especially the last 10-15 minutes were adrenaline-filled and I had to calm down for half an hour afterwards before I was able to go home (I worked late).

As apart from "ordinary" CHI papers, alt.chi papers are not anonymized so I believe it's ok for me to tell you that our paper, "Adopt an Activist: A ”Transformation-tithe” to Support Collaboration Between Activists and Researchers" has been written by me together with Bonnie Nardi, Bran Knowles and Pella Thiel. The core idea of the paper is that we "[propose] a platform that would enable scholars to “adopt an activist,” that is to band together to fund an activist working for their cause".

The paper builds on some ideas I've been thinking about on and off for several years and one of the starting points for these ideas actually happens to be captured in the frustration that is almost palpable in two blog posts I wrote back in 2012, "Writing research grants applications = wasted time?" and "My price tag". I have been thinking about these challenges in terms of them being a very practical, personal problem for me (e.g. "how can I solve this?") until I met Bonnie at a workshop we both attended in Siegen, Germany back in October; "Solutions for Economics, Environment and Democracy". When I told her about the problem and my proposal for a (personal) solution, she opened up the possibility of scaling it up and making it into something that would be relevant to many people and that we could write an alt.chi paper about. Bran later had some interesting additional ideas and the fourth author, Pella, is in fact not a researcher at all but an activist. So we basically recruited an activist to help us write a paper with a suggestion for how researchers and activists could better work together. I think that was a very smooth move and that the resulting paper is both evocative and provocative. I don't have any experiences of how the alt.chi "juried" process works but have high hopes our paper will be accepted. I truly believe it describes and argues for a never-before-heard concept and that the paper would be much appreciated by researchers who are, who study or who for other reasons "are into" activism.

The paper was however also written under time pressure and this pressure was not just severe but extreme at the very end. I wouldn't have been able to make it without the last 24-hour burst of work and especially the very last few hours together with Bonnie. Or, I might have made it, but the paper wouldn't have been anywhere as good as it is now, with the help of Bonnie's expert last-minute penmanship. The basic problem is that I've just had so many tasks and so many deadlines since the beginning of January (see previous blog posts as well as the next one). This is also the reason I've been publishing not just two but three blog posts per week as of lately. I take for granted that it will be highly interesting to activists too of course!

Adopt an Activist: A ”Transformation- tithe” to Support Collaboration Between Activists and Researchers

Keywords: Activism; activist; tithe; transformative change

"We propose a platform to match researchers with activists whom they wish to support financially. Activists are devoted to their causes and do not have a livelihood from the job “activist.” Researchers are generally employed by universities, government agencies, or corporations. A cluster of researchers could support one activist, promoting transformative change through the activist’s work. The platform would also provide a public space to share the results of the activists’ work and to build new networks of researchers and activists who might eventually engage in collaborative projects."

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