What are the official rules of the conference?
1. You must complete something.
Aim big, aim small- just figure out a task for yourself that you can commit to that you can accomplish during your time at the conference. It can be any format you want: sculpture, a movie, a poem, a fingerpainting, a journal article – you just have to finish it!
2. Document it openly.
You need to document what you made and share it with our group at the conference (even if it means just sharing your article you wrote, or taking a photo of the thing). Everything will be made open-source and publicly accessible! At a minimum, this just means publishing a post on our wordpress.
3. Get written feedback on your project (x2).
You need to find at least two other participants who will provide you with written (or video, or any kind of non-ephemeral ) feedback about your project. For instance you can get someone to agree to send you an email, give you a handwritten note, or film a video impression of their feedback, and give it to you. We want to make sure that you get the most out of your surroundings and people there to help refine your projects. We also want to help you not get overwhelmed, which is why the feedback you get must be in some form that you can review at a later time, perhaps when you have left dinacon, and can reflect in a more relaxed manner.
Following our very basic rules ensures that everyone going to the conference comes away with a finished project in hand, that has been reviewed by amazing experts you got to co-habitate with.
Anything other rules?
4. You need to stay at the conference for at least Four (4) consecutive nights.
5. Be nice to all humans and non-humans
What is “Agoutis?”
Agoutis are these wonderful strange creatures that sort of lope around Gamboa. When they get scared, their butt hair puffs up (because they are related to porcupines), and they love eating your banana peels. Also if you are filling out a form that is checking to see if you actually read the FAQ, the word “Agoutis” is functioning as a bit of a shibboleth. So if you see the word “Agoutis” appear somewhere, you should check it. (And also read this whole page!)
How come it isn’t free anymore????
Last year we were able to make the registration free because Andy used the personal money from his job to cover a large amount of expenses (~$10K). But now he quit that job, and he has a new mortgage on the dinalab. So money is a lot tighter! Whoops!
Luckily, we worked hard to minimize costs, and still have one of the cheapest conferences to attend! Most of the money you will spend will just cover your housing and food.
What is Gamboa like?
It’s a magical, strange little town crawling with fun animals and weird scientists. You can learn more about on our Location description page, and also if you want a deep dive on gamboa knowledge you can check out this document of collective wisdom of past Smithsonian Scientists.
What is the food like?
This year we are hiring full time local chefs to make all our meals (It’s actually a service bundled with the housing cost). We get 3 meals per day. They will serve all meals buffet style, and the food will be vegetarian with a meat option.
Are there options for special needs foods.
That being said, if you have special dietary constraints you might want to stop at the grocery store and pick up your own supplies to supplement your diet.
We will also be trying (but can’t promise) to use some of the food fee to help supplement the meals with some extra basic staples and interesting additions.
Do I need to pack in all my own food?
Probably not! You can if you want! There is a little “tienda” (shop) in town where you can get very minimal food, and there are grocery stores leading in to town, but Gamboa itself has pretty minimal food offerings. That is why we are hiring a chef to make stuff. If you have special needs for your food, you may need to supplement with a run to the grocery store. We have spaces to store your extra food for special food needs folks.
I want to cook all the time and use the kitchen! Can I???
At the main housing facility, the kitchen will be off-limits, because it will be in use full time by the staff preparing everyone’s meals. You will be free to use the dinalab kitchen though!
Will I be able to bring my own tent/hammock and camp?
Yes! Though it is the rainy season. We also have very limited camping spots. You will also still have to pay for registration and the food fee.
Is this conference going to be rough? Will i have to live outside in a deadly jungle the whole time?
Just like the previous dinacon, we tried to set up our location to accommodate people of various adventurousnesses.
It takes place in a cute little town near a jungle and you don’t really have to even step foot outside into the forest if you don’t want to. You can choose your level of outdoorsy-ness for stay: live in a fancy hotel room at the Gamboa Rainforest resort, stay in some dorms with us, live in a tent in the backyard, or go live in the deep forest for the whole time.- it’s up to you! Note that you are responsible for your own safety and comfort. So do not sign up for a camping spot, unless you are prepared for rough jungley rainy nights.
What are the accommodations like?
We are still working on them. They will be minimal and shared. Likely dorm-style housing with bedrooms holding 3-8 people. It will also be in the tropics which means hot, damp, full of biting things, and beautiful luxurious nature! Full description of our accommodations will be here: Housing.
So how much is it going to cost me to go to this conference?
There is a sliding scale, and we are still working out the exact costs, but a typical person’s costs will be about $68 per day, or $340 for a 5 day stay including housing and meals! This is cheaper than just the cost of most hotel stays at most conferences! Full breakdown of costs is available on this page- Costs.
What’s with all this “node leader” and “chair” nonsense? All people should just be people! Down with Hierarchies!
Our entire conference exists to create interesting creative spaces. The “node leaders” are just people who have been working with us who are carrying the extra responsibility of hosting a public workshop or event with the rest of you at dinacon. The “chairs” are just the folks spending all their free time during the rest of the year organizing this thing for you. Nobody is “above” anybody else, some folks have just been working along with us for a while and took on extra responsibilities to help out give you an awesome experience!
So if nobody is in charge, I can just do whatever I want and be mean to people and mess up the place!
The only basic hierarchy we have is that if you become a problem to the conference, or the local community, we reserve the right to boot you out of the conference without any kind of refund. Just be nice, and respect the people and places around you and you will be fine! We have a posted code of conduct you will need to sign before coming. We haven’t really had any problems before, so help us keep up our tradition of being friendly and nice.
Kids and Families
I have a child that is super amazing and brilliant, can I send them to your conference?
Sorry, this conference is meant for autonomous individuals and groups to interact with each other. Everyone is entirely responsible for themselves, and thus we can only admit persons 18 years old and up.
I, a person over 18 years old, have a family that I want to come with me. Some of my family joining me is under 18. Can we come?
-Yes! Each person needs to have filled out an application so we have a valid headcount, and you should register your group as a team. Importantly, note that you will be ENTIRELY responsible for not only yourselves but also any individuals under 18 that are in your care (i.e. I’m sorry to say we cannot provide any babysitting services). We have had families come to the previous dinacon and it was great!
What’s this rule that everything has to be open-sourced and shared?
Being good scientists and technologists, we know that all work builds off the works of others. Therefore our goal is to expand humanity’s collective knowledge, and not limit it. For this reason, a key rule at our conference is that everyone’s projects have to be publicly shared.
I wanted to use the conference as a writing retreat to write articles, and get them reviewed in preparation for submitting to different journals or conferences. Won’t sharing my article prohibit me from publishing in these other places?
Nope, you can just share what you are working on as a “pre-publication” which is some sort of loophole that lots of these publishers don’t seem to mind!
What Types of Participants?
I don’t consider myself a field biologist, or an artist, or an engineer. Can I still come?
Totally of course! You can be whatever you want, no experience required, just have an interest in any aspects of these areas!
I’m a biologist, but I usually work in the laboratory, not in the field. Should I still try to come?
Totally of course! Take the cool things you know and do in the lab, and come try them out in the field with us!
I’m an artist without much experience in art or technology stuff, but i’m interested in exploring it more in the wild with you. Should I try to come?
-Totally of course! We will love combining your talents with all the other interesting stuff going on!
I am really into food, should I come?
Yes! Food seems to be an amazing topic that elegantly ties together many of our big concepts at dinacon. It merges craft, science, and technology in a visceral, everyday experience.
I’m an engineer working with computers or electronics, I’ve never been outside, but i want to try it out with you, should I come?
-(are you starting to notice a pattern) Totally of course!
I’m a jerk, and I’m real mean to people, and I don’t care about the environment, should I try to come?
-uhhhhgg i guess probably not?
I am upset that you didn’t choose my application to join dinacon. I hate you. I am going to keep writing you mean emails.
Well that’s not nice to say. There are many reasons people don’t get in to dinacon. We have super limited space, logistical issues, and plain old human error. Plus it’s just straight up random. There are so many unique applicants, and we have to make some decisions about who can make it from a pool of talented people we don’t know. At many points this just means we have to make totally random decisions. Also we try to work in as many people from the waiting list as possible. So if you get denied, we apologize, but please don’t attack us, this is just a fun thing we are trying to do for people!
You are trying to put on a nice event for people to join together and learn about new ways of interacting with nature, so is everything perfect and happy and flawless about your conference?
Totally not. Any kind of large event has to navigate tons of socio-economic difficulties. We are trying our best to include as many different amazing people as possible, but we will of course make mistakes, and not always be able to faciliate everything that would be great. But we are really trying.
Won’t this conference involve people flying from all over the world, leading to the release of lots of greenhouse gases and increasing the toll on our earth?
Yeah. Unfortunately so like most other international conferences of academics. The longevity of the conference aims to help keep folks in place longer than most conferences though (where people zip in and out for a couple days). The eventual goal of this conference is to hopefully spawn lots of “Digital Naturalism” conferences in a similar style around the world, where people can rent out some land, and invite people to live and work on it in a more localized fashion.
And that’s it! We will keep updating this as more common questions emerge.