Update #6 – Wow! Applications over!

That was amazing! We got applications for over 250 people from every continent except antarctica (snubbed by the penguins!). This is such an amazing group of people with such diverse backgrounds and ideas.
The applications are closed now, and we will be going through them and trying to figure out how to accommodate as many people as possible!
Application Rundown
From a quick peek at the application summary, here’s some fun quick stats about people who applied!
We had people from every continent apply! (well except antarctica!) Most applications came from SE Asia, Europe, and North American.
Inline image 2
108 female-ish identifying applicants
28 non-binary / other
10 unknown
105 male-ish identifying applicants

Types of things you do
This was one of the coolest parts of this conference. We attracted folks with a crazy wide variety of talents and most people spanned multiple aspects of this conference based at intersections between interaction design, field biology, and art.
Over half the people identified as some sort of artist or designer, at least a third each seemed to relate as biologists or some kind of tech folks, and 13 of you were too amazing to be summed up in any of our boxes except that one box ūüėČ
now this is the trickiest thing for us people running this thing, how can we get as many awesome excited people as possible to join us. Earlier I had joked that i will have to do some heavy logistics in case 100 people signed up to come for one week. uh oH! Currently each of these weeks can only hold 30 people :/
Inline image 1
Awesome sponsored raised over $2500 USD! adding to our initial budget of just $6800 for renting out the place


This money is helping us out do things like
  • Provide a couple travel stipends to some cool participants from far away!
  • pay some documentarians to help us capture the whole event!
  • Add sustainability measures to our conference (like industrial water purifiers instead of using tons of plastic bottles)
  • and lots more!
So our conference is free! we got your housing covered, your food covered, and there’s not even “registration” fees. You just have to get there. At this basic level we have a big house we are renting (that can hold 10 people) and a big yard (that can hold 20). As of right now, these are the logistics we are planning for. There are several other cabins at Baan Mai, however that you can rent for ~45$USD per night. We are trying to see if we can rent some of these cabins, or more camping space at a reduced rate, but they can be slow to make deals with.¬†But if you are an applicant interested in paying for their own room/housing while at the conference, please send me a note!¬†This would potentially free up space for more participants to join us in total.
What happens after Jan 30?
  1. We will look over the applications! My goal is to try to get as many of you here as possible! We had a LOT of folks apply though, so we are rushing to figure out how much we can expand it if possible. Logistics are going to be our big challenge here
  2. Refine dates period- lots of people have asked me about changing dates, we may send out a more refined survey to learn exactly what days everyone is planning on coming
  3. We will send your official acceptances (or waitlistings) in February (will try to make this as soon as possible, but bear with us)
  4. Refine your details period
    1. You will need to fill out a form to make any revisions to your project proposals
    2. You can revise any of your personal details and contact info (we will only use the personal info you give us, so you can make up pseudonyms or whatever you want).
    3. You will also send in a photo you want us to share related to you or your project
    4. you will also send in a SUPER SHORT 3 sentence bio (most node leaders already have this taken care of.
    5. you will select a publication type – see below
  5. Publishing Projects -You will have a choice after you are accepted of how we publish your project on our site (the goal is to connect you all to each other, so we want to get started on that!).
    1. Public-Web / print, Public-Group РThis will be the default. We will list your projects and yourselves on our website in a way similar to how we have the node leaders listed at www.dinacon.org/people
    2. Anonymous-Web / print, Public group – If you want, we can leave your personal details or contact information off the website, and still leave up descriptions of your project and the timeframe you are going to be there (so maybe people can coordinate with you). You will still be included internally with our group mailing lists for better coordination.
  6. Waiver-  we will have a basic waiver you need to sign that just says you acknowledge that you are entirely responsible for your own self and safety and such.
  7. Code of Conduct: We will have a code of conduct you need to agree to about how you are required to be nice to your fellow people on the island (or we will literally kick you off the island!)
  8. Deposit Рas noted in the FAQ, we want to make sure those people signed up and accepted actually show up to claim the space we reserved for them . http://www.dinacon.org/faq  So we will have you give us a 20$USD deposit that we can give you back on the island (probably in baht).

Matteo Farinella and Pamela Parker

[July 5- 11] 

The Department of Amphibological Research

At DiNaCon, Parker and Farinella will collaborate on a playful drawing project in which¬†image recognition software will be (mis)used to interpret the natural world. Inspired by William Beebe’s historical team at the Department of Tropical Research, we’ll employ the new technologies at our disposal as a means for exploration and artistic discovery. In a digital game of ‘telephone’ we will use only computer-generated descriptions of the island’s flora and fauna to communicate with each other the as a basis for illustrations. The results of feeding natural observations through multiple human and computer¬†interpretations will create the basis for game of natural discovery with surreal and potentially revealing results. We will display the final drawings along with their AI descriptions as part of a small exhibition.

Matteo Farinella is an interdisciplinary scientist, illustrator and science communicator. He combines his background in neuroscience with a lifelong passion for art and storytelling to make science more fun and accessible for everyone. He is the author of the graphic novels Neurocomic and The Senses. He is currently a presidential scholar in Society and Neuroscience at Columbia University, New York.

Pamela Parker is a designer and artist interested in drawing connections and telling stories. She makes environmental graphic design work for exhibitions, installations for public spaces and urban play projects for fun. She spends a lot of time thinking about what makes a space into a place.

Maggie Kane

[June 24-July7]

Maggie Kane (http://www.streetcat.media/) is an experimental artist that specializes in the design and development of sustainable social systems via technology and accessible educational programming.

Streetcat is ~ A free knowledge + education advocate. Founder of feminist/ trans/ non-binary friendly makerspace. Recycled materials artist. Aspiring anime character.

Dinacon 2 Project:

Plastics Hacking! Let’s demystify plastics recycling on a micro-scale and explore various methods of creating new objects out of recycled plastic with various open-source + easily accessible tools.

Maggie is currently focused on developing sustainable educational and income-generating programming for community organizations in the Atlanta area. She serves as a Director and Chair of Activities and Culture for Freeside Atlanta, famously known as Atlanta’s original hackerspace. There, she develops and manages the weekly educational programming that provides free or low-cost classes and events for the community to learn about robotics, electronics, knitting, DIY arcade building, and more.

Update #3

Time is getting close! Applications only have about a week left! Here’s details on what’s coming up, and 2 incredible opportunities to go hop on a boat!

-Application deadline! Jan 30!

If you have applied yet, please do if you want to come! www.dinacon.org/apply

and help us spread the news for any last minute folks who want to join!

Рmid-con sailing adventure! 

–¬†a cool contingent of people including Jan (fellow NUS prof),¬† Miguel (fellow NUS Prof), and Yasu (Sound artist), are wanting to put together a little local sailing trip

They plan to “block¬†17-26 June¬†for sailing in Phuket, and plan to sail for 7 days sometime within that time.

We have already 5 of us, so would need just 3 more for an 8-person crew (which I think shld be easy to find, or otherwise we cld get a smaller boat for 6). I am very preliminarily calculating that the bareboat rental would be about 50ish euro per day per person, so about 350ish euro per person per week (but could be a bit more or less, and there might be other hopefully-small expenses, deposit, insurance, beer fund, etc‚ÄĒbut that remains to be researched).

http://yachtcharterinasia.com/yachts/isabella/¬†¬†¬†—¬†maybe something like her.”

If you want to get involved with this mini-expedition, the point person is probably: Jan Mrazek <[email protected]>¬† ¬†(they are also possibly considering a trip from around singapore to Phuket)

Alex Rogers

[June 3 – June 23]

Alex Rogers is a Professor of Computer Science at the University of Oxford where his research focuses on developing and applying artificial intelligence and machine learning within physical sensor systems to address real-world problems around sustainability. Recent work has addressed future energy systems, such as the smart grid, citizen science platforms, and environmental monitoring. Much of his current work is exploring how to use the tools of open-source hardware and software, the ethos of online maker communities, and emerging low-cost lost-volume manufacturing, to develop open tools for environmental scientists. With two PhD students he is developing the AudioMoth acoustic sensor (www.openacousticdevices.info) and using it to search for a rare insect in the UK and to monitor tropical forests in Belize for illegal hunting and logging.

Alex is a computer scientist and engineer at the University of Oxford exploring how to use the tools of open-source hardware and software, the ethos of online maker communities, and emerging low-cost lost-volume manufacturing (such as 3D printing and laser cutting), to develop open tools for environmental scientists. One example is AudioMoth (www.openacousticdevices.info); a low-cost acoustic sensor that can be manufactured for $25, compared to $1000 for commercial devices, that is being used to monitor animal species and human activities, such as illegal hunting and logging, in tropical forests.

At the conference, Alex will deploy these devices to perform an acoustic survey of the island, capturing the sounds of native bird and insect species, and will explore a variety of designs for low-cost submersible waterproof housings to extend the range of AudioMoth to the littoral zone.

Update #1 – Free Food!

Some Recent Cool things!

-100 folks! We reached about 100 folks already signed up to come to our awesome conference! That’s really cool! and we expect lots more folks to apply before the deadline Jan 30th!

– People renting their own bungalows- Some folks are renting their own bungalows which expands the conference a bit It looks like at max capacity we will be able to accommodate about 200 people for the 2 months we will be there!

-Free Food! An anonymous sponsor chipped in 1000$USD to help us hire a local chef to provide free vegetarian food for participants (and work with participants doing local-food based projects!) Sort of like we had at Pif.camp

-Other donations- we had about 300$USD worth of other donations people already pitched in to go towards sustainability measures for the conference, travel stipends, and documentation. If you know someone interested in tossing us extra money to sponsor these features for the conferece (or if you know folks who became incredibly rich with crypto currencies over the past couple months) send them over to www.dinacon.org/sponsor

-More node leaders- we have a couple more new node leaders enlisted to do public projects that participants can join in on- check them all out here: www.dinacon.org/people

-Next Steps- After Jan 30th, we will review the applications, and sort logistics, and hopefully send official acceptances a couple weeks after that!

Thank you! and help us keep spreading the word around! Applications are open until Jan 30th, so help share our conference www.dinacon.org
and its informative https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6sLuYeLH1Ho
and silly videos https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NZArUoSMDk0 with cool people you know!

andy and tasneem!

Elizabeth Bigger and Luis Fraguada

[July 1 – 7]

Elizabeth and Luis together operate Datable LLC [http://datable.net], a design and technology studio and consultancy based in Barcelona, Spain. Their work combines Elizabeth’s expertise in technical theater, tailoring and wearable electronics with Luis’ expertise in programming, 3d modelling, and interaction.

During the conference they have proposed to develop a general toolkit for contextual wearable devices. The project processes signals from the environment through computer vision and other sensors in order to produce a feedback in series of actuators resulting in expressions of illumination and perhaps other human perceivable media. The wearable will be an interface to both the environment and to the cache of data collected throughout its operation. The process of creating the project can involve a group of people committed to wearing and evolving the wearable throughout the course of the conference.

Irene Laochaisri & Hermes Huang

[June 11-22] 

Irene Laochaisri & Hermes Huang of¬†InsightPact will be coming from Bangkok to¬†conduct research on the conference’s openness in the frame of “situated openness” with inspiration from “decolonizing methodologies” of research. This means that we will critically examine the openness of the conference’s intentions, participants, activities, and geography in regards to contemporary and historical Thai society, culture, and context. We will invite participants to partake in Thai culture and history discussions, ecological empathy-building & awareness exercises, and conduct research alongside our team.

Our research will incorporate elements of a technique known as systemic constellations, which is designed to draw out intuitive and emotional data from participants as it pertains to particular questions, objects, environments, and avatars – this will allow us to examine the participants’ embodied and situated awareness of their place in Koh Lan through another lens (as opposed to through ‘just’ a cognitive lens). We are also curious to build open tools that allow us to engage the environment to stimulate and engage the physical human body to enhance systemic constellations and evoke other forms of intuitive and emotional data.


Conference Philosophy

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 ‚Äúsold‚ÄĚ 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?


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 ‚Äúvetted‚ÄĚ 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.



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 – 2018

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)


Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

June 24-29

Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation (ATBC)


Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

July 1-5

Design of Interactive Systems (DIS)


Hong Kong

June 9-13

 International Symposium on Electronic Art (ISEA)


June 23-30, 2018

Durban University of Technology, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa