Digital Shoreditch Festival 2015 - Hackathons: Grassroots Activism or Digital Sweatshops?




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Published on May 11, 2015

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Hackathons are everywhere. They are promoted as a new kind of communitarianism, a new mechanism for collective creative expression and as a model of innovation and openness. They can also widen the appeal of science and technology, develop new talent and identify novel solutions to difficult technical, social and cultural problems. However many of these claims have not been tested. This panel will address several important questions: Who organises hackathons? Are they just a form of cheap labour? Are they a way for large corporations to outsource R&D? Why is there a lack of gender, age and non-technical inclusivity? This panel, sponsored by the RCUK Digital Economy Network, brings together practitioners, researchers and commentators to debate the theory and practice of hackathons.

Becky Stewart, Co-Founder, Codasign, @theleadingzero
Becky is an engineer and developer that works with artists and designers to bring art installations to life. As a co-founder of Codasign, she teaches how to use coding and electronics for creative projects. She attended her first hack day in 2009 and has been hooked ever since. Her favourite hack day series are the Music Hack Days and looks forward to attending her tenth and eleventh events this summer.

Ruth Catlow, Co-Founder and Artistic Director, Furtherfield, @furtherfield
Ruth is Co-Founder and Artistic Director of the Furtherfield online community for arts, technology and social change since 1997, now also a public gallery in the heart of Finsbury Park, North London. She works and plays with emancipatory network cultures, practices and poetics in arts, technology and social change. She also involves herself with art experiments, research and organisational developments, to engender shared visions and new infrastructures.

Gregor Endelmann, PhD Student, University of Nottingham, @UniofNottingham
Gregor is a graduate student at the University of Nottingham?s Horizon Doctoral Training Centre where he is studying for a Ph.D. in Intelligent Mobility and Disruption Response. He is also a UK leader for Major League Hacking the official sanctioning body for the world's largest student hackathon league. MLH sponsors include the world's best technology, consumer product and employment brands. Each semester, more than 50,000 developers, designers, and makers compete for their school?s glory at the 60+ official MLH hackathons in the United States, Canada, and United Kingdom.

Gerard Briscoe, Queen Mary University of London, @gerardbriscoe
Gerard is a researcher at Queen Mary University London and a visiting fellow at the Glasgow School of Art. He specialises in interdisciplinary research at the fringe of the computing sciences with the arts and humanities, business research, the social sciences and the natural sciences. His research interests include Digital Cultures, Digital Commons, Sustainability, Cloud Computing, Natural Computing and Digital Ecosystems.

Nela Brown, PhD Student, Queen Mary University of London, @nelabrown
Nela Brown is a PhD candidate at Queen Mary University of London?s Cognitive Science Research Group and a leader of G.Hack, an art & technology lab for female researchers focusing on sharing knowledge and developing interactive media projects through collaboration with other universities and industry partners. Prior to joining QMUL, she studied Sonic Arts at Middlesex University and designed sound for award winning national and international projects. She regularly speaks at conferences and technology events on topics ranging from sound design for different medium to hacking culture. She loves circuit bending, Campus Party, Music Tech Fest and Barcelona Music Hack Days. In 2013 she received a Highly Commended WISE Leader Award for promoting female participation in STEM through her work with G.Hack, WISE@QMUL, FLOSSIE and BCSWomen.


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