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art

One True Thing


TL;DR

I’m asking you to submit a single sentence that tells your own One True Thing about working in tech for a unique performance at this year’s PyCon conference. Please click here to submit (takes less than a minute!).

Or, if you’re up for something more involved, to submit a longer proposal for the larger event.

Last Year

At last year’s PyCon I was one of several writers and performers at a Hatchery event called The Art of Python, which sought to encourage and showcase novel performance art that aimed to help technologists share their emotionally charged experiences of programming. I wrote and performed an original show titled Hello!!! … World? which outlined my own trials and tribulations in a series of vignettes on trying to get into programming without being around or knowing anyone personally who was a part of those communities. As a small taste, one vignette was titled on submitting a question to stack overflow.

This Year

This year I’m part of the team that’s organizing the event again. We are aiming to create a dramatic narrative around programming and programming culture that shapes so much of all of our daily lives (from our smart phone interactions to surfing the web to banking and even reading this post). We are interested in how fictional narrative, visual and performance art, and different presentation formats can lead to a new sort of self-consciousness and reflection on culture. All society is permeated by technology, whether or not someone is a programmer, and most people have had positive, neutral, and adverse interactions with technology (whether building, consuming, or indirectly being impacted). In short, technology is not a black or white issue, but instead a collection of frustratingly similar shades of gray.

The Zeitgeist is teeming with moral and ethical issues both in and brought about by computer technology―be it developers challenging companies’ practices that conflict with personal values, software licenses trying to append morality clauses, the increasing omnipresence of technology that enables controversial surveillance, or the seemingly endless push toward dark patterns in design.

Technologists face many ethical and moral decisions in computer science and software development. What was the situation? What was the ethical and/or moral discord? What decision was made? How did you come to that decision? What was the outcome for all stakeholders? How do you feel about it now? What might you do differently in the future? Why?

These questions take time to answer and are difficult to dramatize successfully to honor their truth.

An Old Technology

Storytelling is an old technology―a powerful medium―through which we gain empathetic understanding.

All culture is now technological culture to some extent. We believe it is important to integrate the stories of those making this technology to broaden their lexicon and ours. We must highlight their ethical struggles to bring greater transparency and self-consciousness to both technology industry professionals and the public at large. Hopefully this also inspires empathy for all people, and urgency for any obvious changes that result from our workshops and the resulting art.

From Audience to Creator

While our event this year will have unique and pre-rehearsed performances as we did last year, we will also have a workshop following the scheduled performances. During our workshop we will discuss collaboratively how a variety of issues have cropped up in the lives of the programmers participating, as well as the end-users who experienced the technologies. Everyone will have a chance to work with the other directors and playwrights in order to take these insights and begin to turn these stories into dramatic narratives highlighting the personal struggles of these developers that are building the technology that ends up on the front pages of our papers and the billions of tiny-screened pocket computers.

One True Thing

As a part of the planned performances we want to transition into our workshop with a series of real issues crowdsourced from the broader tech community. To that end, we’re asking you to share One True Thing with us so that we can share your truth at PyCon this year (and elsewhere) in a collaborative performance that we hope will inspire more art from technologists.

One True Thing is a performance comprised of single-sentence statements of truth crowd-sourced and eventually read out loud by members of a live audience as statements of someone else’s truth to be publicly shared and communally experienced.

Examples

Note: At the moment I’ve sourced these from technologists on Twitter. Obviously every group would provide their own unique takes, so these should serve only as an example.

Here are some example statements:

  • “Racism struggle does not belong to one race.” – @LambyTech
  • “Mentors are incredibly important for succeeding in tech” – @js_tut
  • “I always joke that someday I will quit the tech industry so I can code all day” – @sarah_edo
  • “Moral and political issues of tech aren’t moral and political issues because they are tech.” – @dingstweets
  • “A women in tech recently asked me if I had any advice & all I could think of was: have the patience to prove people wrong the rest of your career.” – @jessfraz
  • “When you ask a Deaf person if they can read lips, you are asking if you can put the burden of communication solely on them.” – @csano
  • “you tech people need to hang out with artists and creative folks more, seriously.” – @noopkat
  • “algorithms reflect the biases of the people who make them.” – @evacide
  • “So many of the concerns raised about tech today seem to conflate societal issues with the technology that makes those societal issues more visible.” – @mmasnick

Share your One True Thing

Please click here to submit your One True Thing (it takes less than a minute!).

Thanks for reading and for sharing your truth.