Conference Philosophy

Motivation
Why am I putting on this conference for free? What’s my beef with current academic Conferences?

Academic Conferences have gotten kinda terrible. I like a lot of the people involved with them, and they do great work, but they get caught in a terrible, exploitative system. The whole system relies on the unpaid labor of busy academics to organize and run big logistical nightmares. The academics also have to create the content being “sold” by these conferences (the papers, and talks, and workshops, and reviews) and are then expected to pay large amounts of money for the privilege of being able to attend the things they provided all the work for.

In any other situation, people would find this totally ludicrous, but because of the system of tenure and fear instilled in academia, they go along with it anyway.  These conferences also manage to hit the price point where most middle-class professors can get these expenses covered by grants, which sadly means many poorer students and professors are unable to attend.

Many academics also argue that the big sin of these conferences is how they exist primarily to fuel the hotel-industrial complex. People have to pay outrageous fees to rent out boring rooms and eat expensive food in order to stand and talk to each other. Most gigantic conference budgets get sucked up by hotel fees. On top of this, most of the output of these elitist conferences (the papers) is finally locked away behind paywalls.

On average many folks how found the full cost of going to an academic conference at about $2500 USD. This includes the 600-1000$ price tag for registration, $500+ for hotels, $1000 for transportation.  Some conferences can be cheaper to go to, but many can be much more expensive!

New professors often go to at least 3 conferences a year ($7500). I wanted to explore what would happen if instead of dropping that money on myself, I used to to provide a free conference for hundreds of people?

Timing

A less philosophical problem with academic conferences, and more just logistically tricky, is that most conferences are held over a very short time (like 3-5 days). This means that if you are a busy person with many potential conflicts, you might not ever be able to attend purely from circumstance (For example, I haven’t been able to attend a CHI conference despite getting some proposal accepted for 4 years simply because of conflicts).

 

Summary of Problems to address

  • Exploitative – Powered by Unpaid laborers who then have to pay to attend
  • Expensive – only rich folks get to attend
  • Exclusive – generally you have to already be “vetted” with your papers to attend (not knocking Peer review! Just vetted networking)
  • Steer Money in not great directions – e.g. lining the pockets of fancy hotels and publishing companies
  • Restricted Time – Most conferences leave just enough time to get bored waiting for others unenthusiastic presentations to finish, and maybe grab a drink before heading back to all the duties one has. I think for good work to be done, and proper connections to be made in research, people need time to live and work together in a relaxing, exciting environment.

 

Solution

I can’t solve all these problems, but we can at least try to make something more interesting and accessible. We want to start luring these professors over to the side of fun, sharing, collaboration, and inexpensiveness. We want to connect people outside the walls of academia to free some of that valuable information trapped in those circles. My goal is to make a really fun and productive event that can accommodate non-academics while also incentivizing professional academics to join. Meanwhile we will focus on the theme of technology, natural interaction, and field biology.

 

What’s the budget like? 

Where you getting all your cash!? Why do you want a small budget? Are you using grants?

I anticipate a budget of about $10,000 USD, of which I plan to just spend $5,000 of my own money, $2000 from an adventure fund from past digital naturalist projects, and figure out a way to drum up the rest.

20K would be nice, but involving too much money might be distracting and complicated. Overhead will start shooting up once we get too much money as well! Let’s be cheap!

I wanted to use my own personal money for this project to prove that putting on a quality conference is not something that has to be super complicated requiring the blessing of large organizations. I also did not want to involve my own institution with this in case they might pose restrictions on what we do or how we do it. I have a decently paying job for the first time in my life, and I am happy to be able to share this money to create something new in the world that helps people learn more about technology and nature.

About half the budget I would like to steer towards scholarships and small stipends to get people to come. I want organizers to be paid as well as best we can.

So far we have spent $7000 on getting the location and all its amenities. Which is great and exactly the amount we had. Now we will be looking for people who want to chip in to help fund travel for less advantaged folks! Email [email protected] if you want to help out (or know people who do!)

 

Current spending: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1A7LjG9OeXGpmmKRdYQdCDdeIFuD6BXyb1ShGjNKFx5g/edit?usp=sharing

Other Nearby Conferences

There are several conferences aligned with the interests of our event! Many are on our side of the world. Because our conference is fluid, you can attend them all!

International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC5)

http://conbio.org/mini-sites/imcc5/

Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

June 24-29

 

Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC)

http://tropicalbiology.org/atbc-meetings/atbc-2018/

Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

July 1-5

 

Design of Interactive Systems (DIS)

http://dis2018.org/

Hong Kong

June 9-13

 

 International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA)

http://www.isea-international.org/isea2018/

June 23-30, 2018

Durban University of Technology, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

 

Deke Weaver

[June 8-18 ]

Nature Performance Art

Deke Weaver (http://www.unreliablebestiary.org/ ) is an award winning performance artist and trans-media storyteller. He currently runs a life-long project called the “Unreliable Bestiary” exploring our “precarious moment in natural history.” Through a series of performances, websites, and books, he creates an ark of stories about animals and our relationships with them.

Theme: During his stay at the Digital Natural Conference Deke will be available to discuss creating engaging performance art concerning natural creatures.

 

Madeline Schwartzman

[July 1 – July 8]

Madeline Schwartzman (www.madelineschwartzman.com,  @seeyourselfsensing)  is a New York City writer, filmmaker, and architect whose work explores human narratives and the human sensorium through social art, book writing, curating, and experimental video making. Her book, See Yourself SensingRedefining Human Perception (Black Dog Publishing, London, 2011), is a collection of futuristic proposals for the body and the senses. Her forthcoming book, titled See Yourself X: Human Futures Expanded (Black Dog Publishing, London), looks at the future of the human head. At DiNaCon, Madeline will make fun head prosthetics using the island’s natural treasures, Arduino and the human sensorium.

 

 

 

Kitty Quitmeyer

[May 20 – June 15] 

Kitty Quitmeyer (wellreadpanda.com) is a librarian turned professional yarn-crafter. Her interests lie in sustainability, knitting and crochet, books, and red pandas.  She has volunteered to teach some of her amazing skills during the conference. Perhaps you will be able to become a mobile knitter / hiker like her!

She has also offered to lead daily yoga and meditation classes, though she has a disclaimer that she is not a professional in any of these.

 

Craig Durkin

[ May 27 – June 9 ]

Craig Durkin (http://www.highcube.org/) is a renaissance man of design and fun adventure.

During the conference he proposes to lead mini-expeditions around the island while carrying a bunch of sensors to do 360 camera + GPS mapping + fruit/plant identification of trails on the island, and producing videos, imagery, and maps of things we find in the island.

Michael Candy

[TBD]

Michael Candy (Australia/Nomadic) is an incredible kinetic artist. He uses physical technologies to impart systems theory on ecology and sociology (http://main.michaelcandy.com). From making scale replicas of metamorphosis to remotely operated protest devices installed within the G20 exclusion zone. His devices empower and translate closed systems into tangible medium; a flooding river is given a voicea goldfish is at the mercy of a cocktail partycolours shine never visiblesynthesizers are controlled by an active volcano and in the Amazon mercury vapor rises above a golden statue in an illegal mining town.

He recently has been working on systems to interact between pollinators and robotic systems, e.g his synthetic pollenizer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJYHxtWfQmQ

Amit Zoran

[July 1-8]

Hybrid (digital, molecular yet local) Gastronomy.

Dr. Amit Zoran is Senior Lecturer at the School of Engineering and Computer Science at the The Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He holds a Ph.D. and a M.S. in Media Arts and Science from the MIT Media Lab, a M.Des. in product design from Bezalel, and a B.Sc. in Communication System Engineering from Ben-Gurion University, Israel. In his work, Dr. Zoran studies human-computer interaction, design, craft, and cooking, exploring the divergent realms of emerging computational design technologies and traditional hand-hewn skills.

Hybrid (digital, molecular yet local) Gastronomy: Digital Gastronomy is a culinary vision were traditional cooking is infused with new computational abilities (rather than replacing the chef with an autonomous machine). We will investigate how to deploy digital cooking techniques in traditional Thai kitchens, using local ingredients that we collect in nature, and integrate them into cooking via hybrid methods.

Andrew Quitmeyer

Dr. Andrew Quitmeyer is a hacker / adventurer studying intersections between wild animals and computational devices. His academic research in “Digital Naturalism” at the National University of Singapore blends biological fieldwork and DIY digital crafting. This work has taken him through international wildernesses where he’s run workshops with diverse groups of scientists, artists, designers, and engineers.  He runs “Hiking Hacks” around the world where participants build technology entirely in the wild for interacting with nature. His research also inspired a ridiculous spin-off television series he hosted for Discovery Networks called “Hacking the Wild.”