Tag Archives: DWebCamp

DWeb Fellows: Where Are They Now? (Part 1)

Guest blog by ngọc triệu from the DWeb Camp Core Organizing team. 

Since the program kicked off in 2019, the DWeb Fellowship has welcomed 62 fellows from more than 20 countries across five continents, spanning North America, South America, Asia, Europe, Africa, and Oceania. 

Recently, I had the opportunity to reconnect with some of the DWeb Fellows from previous cohorts. We caught up on how we’ve been since our last encounter, delved into our current projects, and reminisced about our shared experiences at DWeb Camp.

In this post, let’s join Stacco (Fellow 2023), Remy (Fellow 2022), and me in our conversations below!

*Please note that the conversations have been edited for length and clarity.

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Q1 ngọc: Thank you for taking the time to chat with me today! Can you start by introducing yourself and sharing what you’re working on right now?

Stacco: Hi, yes! I’m Stacco from DisCO.coop, which is the project I represented at DWeb Camp 2023. DisCO is a cooperative intersection of feminist and anticapitalist responses to a lot of things like DAOs, what we want to do in the workplace, and how we want to spend our time productively. And it’s also a critical approach to designing technology. DisCO was founded in 2018, but it came out of the experience of a cooperative that we founded on distributed principles, called Guerrilla Media Collective. And a lot of the stuff that we prototype in Guerrilla Media Collective with economics and governance have led into DisCO.

Remy: Hey there, I’m Remy, from the 2022 cohort. I’m currently working at the Open Technology Fund as a programme specialist. I’ve worked kind of on an array of projects, but we get a series of applications that focus on circumventing Internet censorship in authoritarian contexts, whether that be research projects, community, convenings and so on. 

Q2 ngọc: What’s one thing from DWeb Camp that you’ve taken with you into your current work?

Remy:  When reflecting on my experience at DWeb Camp, I find two significant takeaways: 

The first one being that, at that time, I was coming from a very academic space. So, most of the work that I was doing was really focused and consolidated within academia, which was a fairly small realm of people. It was mainly archivists that I was working with, so we had kind of a narrow lane and scope. 

However, upon engaging with the broader web community, I was exposed to a diverse array of individuals working on directly related projects, each with intersecting identities and roles. I remember meeting a speculative fiction author, and I was like: “Wow, this is kind of an interesting addition to this cohort of people that I don’t think I would have naturally included in a conference!”. I also got to unlearn what a conference is and looks like, you know, I’m going to show up with my little briefcase and give my presentation, because that’s what academia looks like. And then coming in, it was a much more kind of relaxed vibe and open conversation with an array of different people. So I thought that was really interesting and opened my eyes like, wow, we do need to include more people in these conferences that we’re at, because designers play just as big a role as researchers and developers. 

And then I would say, the second thing that I learned was really what it takes from the ground up to develop a mesh network. I always kind of come back and think about that — all the love and time that it takes, and the patience to care for these systems. It really got me on a whole journey about thinking of systems of care, and what those look like in technical spaces.

Stacco: Following DWeb Camp 2023, I invited brandon (Fellow 2022, 2023) and mai (DWeb Fellowship Director 2019-2023) to Spain for a meeting called “DisCO Remastered”, which mai covered in an article. From this experience, we developed two prototypes, including one called “community supported digital commons,” inspired by the principles of community-supported agriculture. We have people who are more conscious about the food they eat and where it comes from. So how about we have that type of consciousness for the digital tools that mediate our daily lives? Having community funding and accessibility for digital commons is very important to ensure fair compensation for labor and improve accessibility to technology. 

Additionally, collaborating with brandon, we aim to explore cooperative alternatives to platforms like Spotify, but going much further. What if the musicians could develop their own technology with torrents? What if they could take full control of their work and earnings? 

Also for me, I really love the diverse age ranges, genders, sexual orientation, and provenances of DWeb Camp, especially among the Fellows. The Fellows was a super varied group and it was really fascinating to engage with people whose experiences differed from mine. I’m like, “Oh, your background is totally different from mine, let me find out about it!” There was like this commonly held space, and that really inspired me. When I was writing the introduction for our newly released website, I was actually thinking of the Fellows! 

Q3 ngọc: We’re gonna get a little bit retrospective here, what motivated you to apply (or reapply) for the Fellowship? Did the program meet your expectations and were you able to accomplish what you set out to do as a Fellow? 

Stacco: Yeah, absolutely. So the first time I couldn’t go. The second time, I applied again because I wanted to get a taste of what the decentralized community is like. More than the projects, I wanted to see what the humans behind them are like. There were a lot of contradictions which I also saw at Camp that were very interesting: There were projects which I had no interest in whatsoever, and there were other projects that I found really interesting. There’s also humans that I wanted to meet. I had been collaborating with brandon from Resonate Coop for four years and it was a great chance to meet him in person. It really was maybe like the best week I had last year. I was really, really happy. And I was really happy because of the human connections. 

With brandon king, I did a presentation that was quite successful. It was very great because we spoke about technology in a critical way and we mixed it with music, the audio, and the video. Then we left all the devices behind and we walked into the forest. That was really special. Some of the human connections that were fostered have carried on. That’s the quality time that you can only get, especially post-pandemic, by sharing a physical space. 

We were also really privileged. If you think about it, at least for the Fellows, for a week, we didn’t have to think about money or anything. We ate, we slept, we walked, we rested, we played guitar, and we danced. And that took money to do. Only that didn’t come from Mars, but money, which is like a pittance compared to some of the budgets that are being handled. So it makes you think, well, with about the distributions of value, what would life be like if it was more like DWeb all over? 

Remy: I remember, I found the Fellowship through a mutual colleague who worked at the Internet Archive. And at the time, I was really interested in the Internet Archive because I was working at a small human rights organization. We were using the Internet Archive all the time and I thought it was a really cool project. I was interested in finding out who these people that run it are and what does it look like?

And then the Fellowship popped up. At that time, I had been inhabiting a tiny little bubble that no one else really understood: I was a master’s student caught between an archivist school and public policy and people were kind of looking at me cross-eyed for talking about distributed archives or decentralised archives. So when I found out the Fellowship, I was like, wow, here’s a group that I really like and admire, and they are talking about the same thing I’ve been talking about. That’s kind of what motivated me — maybe I can learn from a lot of these people who are probably much more developed in the work than I am, and I can share this small use case that I’ve been doing and working on. 

When I read the blurb about DWeb Camp, I was like, it’s a group of people going to the woods and talking about tech. I thought it didn’t even seem real. I was wondering, like, is this real? I didn’t have much of an expectation rather than a feeling that I am going to meet really interesting people that are really smart and working on interesting projects. And then I was pleasantly surprised by how many projects I had been aware of, there were projects I’d written about in my papers as things to look at, and then I was able to meet them at the DWeb naturally. 

I mean, you’re just chatting, and then you were like: “Your project sounds really familiar. What’s it called?” And then you were like, “Whoa, that’s crazy. I was writing about your project!” I was just shocked that I was naturally coming across those people in the space, it felt like a very surreal moment. I got to meet Mark, who’s the director of the Wayback Machine. And subsequently, I’ve seen him so many times at other conferences that we’ve been to. And it’s always like, I just get so excited and happy and like, want to give him a big hug. It takes me back to that special time that we all spent together. 

ngọc: What’s one piece of advice or recommendation you’d like to share with the future cohort? 

Remy: Well, that’s a good question! I’d say, be confident in your ability and skills that you’re bringing and know that it’s a space of people that want to collaborate and work with you. It can be incredibly intimidating, walking into a space where you don’t know anyone and sometimes it feels like maybe there’s pre-existing communities of people that already know each other, but have the confidence to just walk up and start talking to them and know that it’s a very open community and everyone is really welcoming.

It just sometimes takes the courage within you to make that first step forward and just walk into a circle of people and say: “Hi, this is who I am.” I know it’s always easier said than done, but I have thought that that was when the most natural conversations happen. And you know, be kind to yourself. A lot of these conferences can feel like a marathon sometimes and it can feel like you’re missing out on this or that, but the experience is always there so if you’re feeling a little bit overwhelmed or burnt out, just step out. Some of my favourite moments from Camp were sitting with the Fellows and making buttons and just giving ourselves a second to breathe outside of everything else that was going on. 

So be confident, be courageous, and be kind to yourself when you’re there experiencing it. Another thing that I found really helpful was journalling. I journaled two or three times a day to help remember how I was feeling and what I was doing. And that was a really interesting experience to look back and read on. That would be my tips for people going to DWeb. 

Stacco: I’d advise people to not go crazy and try to join every talk or session at Camp. Just be where you are and you’ll find interesting people to talk to and interesting projects to collaborate on. While you’re there, make yourself known. In addition, don’t be shy and don’t be afraid to challenge people in a friendly way. The most special thing are the Build Days, when you’re setting up camp and we’re getting to know people. Don’t miss it, that’s my recommendation! 

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Thanks to Remy and Stacco for joining the conversation and sharing their experience as a DWeb Fellow. 

We’re currently at the final stage of reviewing all 2024 Fellowship applications. Stay tuned to meet our new cohort in June!