Margaret Minsky creates multimedia artifacts exploring learning, improvisation and thought. Her core research has been in the field of haptic interfaces (computational interfaces that simulate objects that you can touch and feel), as well as educational technology. Recently she has been investigating “Do We Think Differently Upside Down?”, substituting circus trapeze for furniture in the workplace and investigating whether that’s good for our cognitive, social, and physical wellbeing. Oliver Steele is a software engineer, technology advisor, and open source contributor. Previously he has been an engineering manager, product manager, and educator at Olin College of Engineering, Apple, Aol, and Nest.
The Dinacon 1 projects pages show our on-location projects as a team, and as individuals, last year. Amazing dinasaurs from dinacon 1 returning as node leaders for dinacon 2
L Wilkins is a cyborg based in Toronto, Canada. They are currently a PhD student at the University of Toronto, chair at Site 3 coLaboratory, and co-executive director of Little Dada.
I’m interested in exploring the relationship between the senses at nature through cybernetics. I want to explore magnetic fields and translating them into physical experiences. I plan to create at least 2 devices that translate these fields into sensory experiences, and contrast this data with other environments.
Antony Hall [UK] is an interdisciplinary artist / educator / amateur scientist. His current research concerns multisensory perceptual illusion, exploring methods used in experimental psychology within framework of artistic practice. Working with bio sensors and tactile feedback mechanisms to induce illusory experiences. Previous projects have investigated the physical behaviour of liquids, and the physiology of animals, for which he develops control structures [devices & instruments] within which these unique phenomena can exist, perpetuating their existence for extended observation, study and experience. For example; Working with electrogenic fish, harnessing their electric fields and communication signals, using a laser to record sound from microscopic pond creatures in a drop of pond water, analogue liquid light projection and Heleshaw cells.
He is a a founding member of Owl Project who work with wood and electronics to fuse sculpture and sound art and craft. They create crafted music making machines, sensors, interfaces and objects which intermix pre-steam and digital technologies. Drawing on influences such as 70’s synthesiser culture, DIY woodworking and current digital crafts, the resulting artwork is a quirky and intriguing critique of the allure and production of technology. The result is a distinctive range of musical and sculptural instruments that critique human interaction with computer interfaces and our increasing appetite for new and often disposable technologies.
We have an evolving code of conduct based off other nice codes of conducts that deal with the intricacies involving people in remote places building things and working together. Notably our code of conduct is based off Signalfire Arts residency, SV Seeker, and the Gathering for Open Science Hardware (GOSH).
You can DOWNLOAD the codes of conducts and safety waivers here:
from Signal Fire http://www.signalfirearts.org/, March 2017
The Digital Naturalism Conference
(“Dinacon”) seeks to achieve a collaborative spirit on all of our trips, at our
events, and in our communications as we highlight the unique and extraordinary
people who choose to join us. We do this by offering a space that fosters
creativity, resilience, and positive change in the face of challenging times.
At the core of Dinacon, we try to replicate in our collective space the world
we wish to see: one that is radically egalitarian and not oppressive.
Because of our efforts to bring
participants out to remote places, potentially pushing their edge of comfort,
our commitment to safety and our intolerance for oppressive behavior is taken
seriously. Despite our desire to maintain an anti-authoritarian ethic, due to
the nature of these trips there may be times that the committee members running
Dinacon ask for specific actions by the participants in order to maintain the
safety of the group. We expect such demands to be clearly articulated and
immediately followed. The committee reserves the power to remove a person from
the trip or the group with minimal deliberation if a situation is deemed unsafe
for any participant.
Dinacon is a non-discriminatory
organization that seeks to both support and empower its affiliates. All
participants are expected to maintain openness on basis of physical and mental
ability, socio-economic class, educational levels, regional origin, and
identity variance. We expect people to be conscious of privilege in respect to
ability, economics (class), race, culture, age, education, identity, size, or
regional origins in systematic practices and across all aspects of Dinacon’s
Participants are expected to use the
language preferred by a person in reference to their name, identity, pronoun,
physical and mental ability, etc as well as being expected to respectfully
educate others in the group about those preferences. All participants are
expected to promote and support considerate, inclusive language and remain
conscious of language’s possible effects on others in reference to systems of
power and privilege, accessibility, and cultural competency. We expect new use
of language when it has been identified to an individual or the group as being
offensive or oppressive.
Harassment and Assault
Dinacon has no tolerance for sexual
harassment or assault of any kind. Sexual harassment may include a range of
subtle and not so subtle behaviors and may involve individuals of similar or
different genders. Depending on the circumstances, these behaviors may include,
but are not limited to: unwanted sexual advances or requests for sexual favors;
sexual jokes and innuendo; verbal abuse of a sexual nature; commentary about an
individual’s body, sexual prowess or sexual deficiencies; leering, catcalls or
touching; insulting or obscene comments or gestures; display or circulation of
sexually suggestive objects or pictures; and other physical, verbal or visual
conduct of a sexual nature. Gender-based harassment, that is, harassment not
involving sexual activity or language (e.g., a male leader corrects only female
participants and not males) may also constitute discrimination if it is severe
or pervasive and directed at participants because of their gender identity.
We expect each participant to:
physical and emotional boundaries
explicit verbal consent before touching or engaging in discussions of an intimate
film or video people without their permission
the opinions, beliefs, and points of view of others
to make other participants comfortable
In the event that a participant feels they
have witnessed or experienced harassment or been assaulted by another
participant, they should tell a committee member of Dinacon as soon as
possible, no matter the time of day or night or situation. Dinacon will work
with the person to communicate and get consent on a plan forward. In most
instances, the person accused of harassment or assault will be given the
opportunity to explain their interpretation of the event before being removed
from the trip.
and other drugs
The use of alcohol and other drugs increases
safety risks significantly. It also puts our entire organization at risk. We
support an ethic of free choice, while expecting cooperation and individual
responsibility for the shared space. We expect that any choices made in regard
to controlled substances will be made with the safety and comfort of the group
in mind. We request participants with a history of addiction to share this with
the committee as part of your health information, as it will aid us in
understanding how to help you in case of an emergency.
NO BLAME WAIVER
By participating in DINACON,
I acknowledge that I will be engaging in outdoor activities that are
potentially dangerous, including but not limited to; walking, hiking,
backpacking, swimming, boating, kayaking, biking, and camping events organized
by other participants, volunteers, and members of DINACON. DINACON is a meetup
organization where artists, musicians, writers, biologists, technologists, and
others meet to participate in outdoor activities and residencies called Outings
The waiver of liability is
an agreement that attendance at these Outings are strictly voluntary and of my
own choice and that I agree 100% to accept personal responsibility for all and
any foreseen and unforeseen events that may occur during, including to and
from, DINACON Outings.
I understand that during my
participation in DINACON Outings, I may be exposed to a variety of hazards and
risks, foreseen or unforeseen, which are inherent in each Outing and cannot be
eliminated without destroying the unique character of the Outings. These
inherent risks include, but are not limited to, the dangers of serious personal
injury, property damage, and death (“Injuries and Damages”) from exposure to
the hazards of outdoor activities and travel to and from these activities.
DINACON has not tried to
contradict or minimize my understanding of these risks. I know that Injuries
and Damages can occur by natural causes or activities of other persons,
animals, trip members, trip organizers and assistant organizers or third
parties, either as a result of negligence or because of other reasons.
DINACON, its organizers,
assistants, volunteers, and Outing participants take no responsibility for me
and will not be held responsible for any injuries or accidents that may occur
during Outings. Outdoor recreation is inherently dangerous and accidents will
happen and that risks of such Injuries and Damages are a part of adventure
Outings. I appreciate that I may have to exercise extra care for my own person
and for others around me in the face of such hazards. In consideration for my
acceptance as a participant on Outings, I confirm my understanding that:
* DINACON does not
guarantee or confirm the qualifications of any of the organizer, or assistant
organizers, or members to lead or manage or set-up Outings or trips nor are
they necessarily trained to respond during an emergency by providing first aid,
CPR, or any rescue action. I further understand that on these Outings there may
not be search, rescue, medical facilities or expertise necessary to deal with
the Injuries and Damages to which I may be exposed.
* The Outings officially
begins and ends at the location(s) designated by DINACON. The Outing does not
include carpooling, transportation, or transit to and from the Outings, and I
am personally responsible for all risks associated with this travel. This does
not apply to transportation provided by DINACON during the Outings.
* If I decide to leave
early and not to complete the Outing as planned, I assume all risks inherent in
my decision to leave and waive all liability against the DINACON arising from
that decision. Likewise, if the leader has concluded the Outing, and I decide
to go forward without the leader, I assume all risks inherent in my decision to
go forward and waive all liability against DINACON arising from that decision.
Backpacking/hiking/camping/swimming/boating are physical activities involving a
large amount of walking and physical exertion. Participants must be in good
general health, free from cardiovascular and respiratory disease, and have good
exercise tolerance. I will get my physician’s approval before commencing such
* To the fullest extent
allowed by law, I agree to WAIVE, DISCHARGE CLAIMS, AND RELEASE FROM LIABILITY DINACON,
its officers, directors, organizers, assistant organizers, employees, agents,
and leaders from any and all liability on account of, or in any way resulting
from Injuries and Damages, even if caused by negligence of DINACON, its
officers, directors, organizers, assistant organizers, employees, agents, and
leaders, in any way connected with this Outings.
* I further agree to HOLD
HARMLESS DINACON, its officers, directors, organizer, assistant organizers,
employees, agents, and leaders from any claims, damages, injuries or losses
caused by my own negligence while a participant on the Outings. I understand
and intend that this assumption of risk and release is binding upon my heirs,
executors, administrators and assigns, and includes any minors accompanying me
on the Outings.
* This Agreement is
intended to be as broad and inclusive as is permitted by law. If any provision
or any part of any provision of this Agreement is held to be invalid or legally
unenforceable for any reason, the remainder of this Agreement shall not be
affected thereby and shall remain valid and fully enforceable.
*I have read the attached Safe Space and
Anti-Oppression Policy and agree to abide by the expectations. I understand
that I may be removed from a trip if the guides feel that I am negatively
impacting the physical or emotional well being of the group.
* I have read the No Blame Waiver and agree to voluntarily assume all risks of such Injuries and Damages.
Thus a person’s minimum costs will be less than $60 per day, or $295 for a 5 day stay including housing and meals! This is cheaper than just the cost of most hotel stays at most conferences! In fact it’s less than half the cost of staying at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort Hotel nearby which charges ~$130 USD per night
Flights are quite affordable from most of the Americas and Europe to Panama City. From Panama City is it just a short 45 min, $40 taxi ride to Gamboa.
Some typical roundtrip prices to give you ideas:
NYC - 300 USD
Denver - 300 USD
LA - 500 USD
San Francisco - 550 USD
New Orleans - 280 USD
Atlanta - 350 USD
Washington DC - 280 USD
Chicago - 280 USD
Toronto - 500 USD Vancouver - 480 USD
Quito - 470 USD
Caracas - 300 USD
Rio De Janeiro - 550 USD
Santiago - 700 USD
Lima - 500 USD
Amsterdam - 580 USD
Berlin - $560 USD
Frankfurt - 575 USD
Munich - 570 USD
Zurich - 700 USD
Barcelona - 540 USD
Ljubljana - 900 USD
Panama does not currently require any special vaccines to enter (unless you are coming from a fever listed as “at risk” of yellow fever. Yellow Fever was obliterated pretty good within Panama during the construction of the canal especially along the canal region (where Gamboa is).
The CDC reccomends all travelers to be up to date on
Hep A and Hep B
Malaria is not really present in the parts of Panama we will be located in, and Rabies vaccines are required if you will be handling mammals (such as bats).
If you will be doing other travelling outside of the Canal region you might want to look into Yellow Fever and Malaria risk.
We will be in jungle areas in the rainy season. Stuff gets wet and kinda stays wet. Keeping your clothes dry and fresh is a good way to keep comfortable and prevent things like rashes and skin or other bodily irritation.
Basic travel medicine such as anti-diarrheals, laxatives, nausea, and Urinary Tract and Yeast infection treatments are probably good to have on hand.
Panama is one of the more visa-friendly countries in the world. People coming from many countries do not need to get a visa beforehand.
This includes most of Europe, North and South America, Australia, and some parts of Asia and Africa.
Also if you have a multiple-entry visa valid for at least 6 months at the time of entry, or residency documents issued by any of the following countries:
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!
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.
I am part of a group or team, and I was accepted, but I am the only one who filled out any forms or paid any deposits.
Hey great for you! You have a spot at dinacon! Any of these other random folks do not though.
Oh, how do i get the rest of my group in dinacon?
Well you need to have talked with us and gotten it approved by us, but then also importantly filled out all the forms and paid fees for every single person in the team.
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!
Ok cool, so i have my kid with me what do i need to do for them registration-wise?
They will be just treated as another member of your team! So fill out a form for every under-18 year old (and mark them as part of your group on the welcome form), pay a deposit for all of them, and pay the fees for all of them.
What’s this rule that everything has to be open-sourced and shared?
Being good scientists, artists, 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.
These are the costs of living with us at dinacon in a world renown scientific village in the Soberania National Forest! These include access to potable water, bathrooms, and includes 3 daily meals of a vegetarian buffet with additional meat options.
or you can arrange your own stuff at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort Hotel nearby which charges ~$135 USD per night http://www.gamboaresort.com/default-en.html . We are not associated with them and cannot offer any support for these options.
*Camping Note: It is the Wet Season. Most field biologists out here don’t camp then. It will rain in a burst everyday, and hard! You need a decent tent/camping hammock. Our camping spots are also highly limited.
**IMPORTANT: IF YOU ARE NOT A LOCAL, DO NOT JUST PLAN TO SHOW UP TO GAMBOA and expect to find your own housing! It’s an extremely busy time of the year, and there is already a huge housing crunch. Unless you have definite, concrete arrangements, you will need to stay with us during dinacon.
*** It is highly recommended to join us for the meals, as dinacon is about bringing people together, and making stuff. We have expert chefs making food for you all day, which frees you to spend time connecting with each other, exploring the jungle, and working on your projects!
Daniëlle is an international field researcher, environmental educator, paraveterinarian, and soon-to-be tropical forester from the chilly Netherlands. Dani not only documents projects, but uses her skills as an adventurous polymath to help practioners solve problems and fully realize their goals in wilderness contexts.
In dinacon 1, she served as the excellent documentarian capturing everyone’s amazing projects and experiences!