I went to New York City last weekend for the 9th Hackers On Planet Earth conference, held bi-annually in Midtown Manhattan. A brutal and humid heatwave, egregious revelations about Stop and Frisk, and a nearly completed new World Trade Center framed the conference.
I like HOPE as a con because of it’s unconference feel and it’s willingness to openly talk about political issues. While there, experiences and stories from local activists from Zucotti Park mingled freely with hackers from Montreal wearing red lapels to show their solidarity with the student protests. Live streamers from the Chicago NATO protests talked in depth about how the inner workings of a centralized control of a narrative.
Yet HOPE fulfills all the great technological aspects of a con, from Amelia Marzec demonstrating haptic technology for audio prosthesis to people distributing an insta-mesh operating system. My personal favorite hands on experience was learning how to pick the locks on a pair of handcuffs.
My favorite part of going to conferences like this is meeting and talking with people from other Hack/Makerspaces around the world about their perspectives, and sharing about our goals with LOL/Oakland Makerspace (as well as the perennial drama from Noisebridge). In particular, I got into some extensive discussions with some folks from Philly’s Hacktory, who were giving a panel on Hacking the Gender Gap (the slide deck linked is very much worth checking out). Among their work was making timelines of people’s positive and negative life experiences in technology.
The Hacktory’s efforts have led their space to become majority female! We talked about how we can have similar efforts in increasing other aspects of diversity in our communities alongside representatives from SudoRoom, as well as grassroots approaches of hacking our fucked education system.
Another great discussion was a panel on hackspaces and DARPA funding, moderated by Mitch Altman. On the panel was a rep from the Hackerspace Space Program that received a half million dollar DARPA grant. While the money and toys are certainly cool, one has to keep in mind that projects deployed by DARPA will not just be used against people in distant lands, but also on American Citizens. As was seen many times at the conference in talks given by law enforcement and ex-NSA, machine learning technologies are going to aggregate data in real time mass surveillance of every single american citizen on a scale never seen before, and actively deployed against american political activists. How are drone and space technologies going to deployed in urban skies throughout the world, and how will they be plugged into existing technologies? These are all questions we will have to think about much sooner than later.
All in all, HOPE and NYC as usual delivered and delivered big!
Trip Report from HOPE 9