— Der Inventing Room!

Rocket rain

The 29C3 was my 9th Con­gress in a row. I found it, on dif­fe­rent levels, both pret­ty good and pret­ty bad. I have never felt so uncom­for­ta­ble on a Con­gress, at the same time I’ve never met so many new peop­le. The orga­ni­za­ti­on, the tech­no­lo­gy, the loca­ti­on, the talks, the assem­blies, were all super nice, and the cri­ti­cisms that I still have to level affect that not at all.

The ques­ti­on for me is, what signi­fi­can­ce the inci­dents actual­ly occur­ring have for various atten­de­es: inci­dents like sexist mode­ra­ti­on, the reduc­tion of women to head­less bodies, or the hacking of Asher Wolf’s blog.

For the majo­ri­ty (I would guess) such events are litt­le things, if they are noti­ced at all. Even if you find them ugly, they don’t tar­nish the ent­i­re event. They have the signi­fi­can­ce of a bro­ken pla­te in a com­mer­ci­al kit­chen: it hap­pens, but it’s not signi­fi­cant. It’s just a blip.

For many other peop­le, and I inclu­de mys­elf here, the­se events car­ry a dif­fe­rent weight. They are indi­vi­du­al cases of cho­le­ra on a crui­se ship, or dog poop on the hem of the wed­ding dress: the ugly blips makes the over­all situa­ti­on dan­ge­rous or into­le­ra­ble.

Peop­le I che­rish stay­ed away from 29C3 from the begin­ning, felt very uncom­for­ta­ble the­re, and/or left ear­lier than expec­ted. (And it doesn’t help to point out that it was much wor­se 10 years ago.) It’s clear to me: this is not a situa­ti­on I want. I feel con­nec­ted to the Con­gress, and the­re­fo­re could not help but push for stra­te­gy and plan­ning to hap­pen while I was still at the event. About 100 peop­le sho­wing up at the­se so-cal­led #policc­cy mee­tings pro­ved that the­re was a real need for action here.

I hope that out of the bicke­ring and the fury of the last few days, a con­struc­tive situa­ti­on has emer­ged for the plan­ning and exe­cu­ti­on of 30C3. In any case, I’m pre­pa­red to con­tri­bu­te more, in both time and ide­as. The CCC is not a homo­ge­nous enti­ty: I have expe­ri­en­ced several ugly actions by „seni­or“ mem­bers, but at the same time I’ve also tal­ked with orga­ni­za­ti­on mem­bers of many years‘ expe­ri­ence who gene­ral­ly sha­re my con­cerns. The­se are the posi­ti­ons we must streng­t­hen.

Just two sen­ten­ces on the Cree­per Move Cards: The inten­ded point was mis­sed, and I am now no lon­ger con­vin­ced that action in this form was a good idea. I hope that in the ongo­ing and upco­m­ing dis­cus­sions, the card cam­pai­gn and the lar­ger con­cerns (name­ly, that the Con­gress has a pro­blem with sexism) are trea­ted sepa­r­ate­ly. The necessa­ry dis­cus­sion is now under­way, and I don’t real­ly mind whe­ther the cam­pai­gn that brought it about was suc­cess­ful or not.

What pai­ned me during and after the 29C3 can be rough­ly divi­ded as fol­lows:

Cliques and exclusion

Many never tired of con­struc­ting a „us“ vs. „them“ men­ta­li­ty: „You come here to us and do […]“ one orga­ni­za­ti­on mem­ber accu­sed the Flau­sche­ria. The silent appro­pria­ti­on of the majo­ri­ty for indi­vi­du­al opi­ni­ons seems wrong to me, espe­ci­al­ly in light of the strong and high­ly-pri­zed sen­se of indi­vi­dua­li­ty in hacker cul­tu­re.

The Con­gress con­sists of peop­le. Wit­hout them, it would just be an empty buil­ding with color­ful spot­lights. All we have here is a „base“, from which vol­un­te­ers sign up to get invol­ved in dif­fe­rent ways, not a hier­ar­chy. All of us can pro­bab­ly lar­ge­ly iden­ti­fy with the goals and the self-per­cep­ti­on of the club, but we do not always choo­se the same methods of imple­men­ta­ti­on. No one should be pre­su­med exclu­ded based on whe­ther they feel this group of hackers are „us“ or „them“.

At the end of the afo­re­men­tio­ned dis­cus­sion, fasel asked an astu­te ques­ti­on of the orga­ni­za­ti­on mem­ber invol­ved: „Who will throw you out if you behave in that way yours­elf?“

Lacking solidarity

During the Con­gress, the­re were several state­ments from fema­le hackers, on Twit­ter and in lon­ger texts, that they had (always) felt com­for­ta­ble at the Con­gress, and had not expe­ri­en­ced or noti­ced any discri­mi­na­ti­on. We should be hap­py about that, and not doubt it.

What’s mis­sing here, howe­ver, is the lack of soli­da­ri­ty with peop­le who have not been so lucky. To me this sounds too much like „It’s your fault,“ one of the most ins­idious mecha­nisms of invi­si­bi­li­ty of soci­al pro­blems. „I am a woman and I was not bothe­red, the­re­fo­re such inci­dents must have cau­ses that are per­so­nal to you“ is a fatal fall­a­cy.

This is not a rare phe­no­me­non: The­re are ple­nty of suc­cess­ful women who claim that femi­nism is unne­cessa­ry and ever­yo­ne has to  accom­plish life on her own — as they did them­sel­ves.

It should also be clear that state­ments like „I feel 100% safe here“ get applau­se from the wrong peop­le. In par­ti­cu­lar, the­se words keep being given as evi­dence that the vic­tims of discri­mi­na­ti­on must be mista­ken.

I would like to see fema­le hackers who feel com­for­ta­ble at the Con­gress col­la­bo­ra­ting to ensu­re that ever­yo­ne has the oppor­tu­ni­ty to do the same.


Mem­bers of the CCC don’t like to be told: Trust us, we’re alrea­dy on it. It makes them sus­pi­cious, and when they see this in socie­ty and poli­tics, they bring up important cri­ti­cisms. Blind­ly trus­ting an aut­ho­ri­ty or con­trol­ling body is not an opti­on.

So it looks very stran­ge for Frank Rie­ger to say exac­t­ly that about awa­reness, during the final event: We care, we’re working on it. The peop­le who left Hacker Jeo­par­dy becau­se of sexist mode­ra­ti­on surely don’t trust the orga­ni­za­ti­on. And if you don’t trust an aut­ho­ri­ty, you’ll take things in your own hands (if only out of self-pro­tec­tion). If that’s not hack­ti­vism, what is?

At the same time it is clear­ly impos­si­ble to stand at a public podi­um in the role of a CCC rep­re­sen­ta­ti­ve and make a pri­va­te state­ment. Frank had said of the Cree­per cards, that in his per­so­nal opi­ni­on, „we do not need such a thing.“ The sum­ma­ry on (Ger­man IT news site) hei­se online runs this as the offi­ci­al posi­ti­on of the CCC. I’m rela­tively sure that Frank will not cor­rect them on this.

External perception

I had pro­blems with the argu­ment during the Policc­cy mee­ting that a public dis­cus­sion of inci­dents, for examp­le on Twit­ter, could have nega­ti­ve effec­ts on the Con­gress, that the event could come across as wor­se than it is and the­re­fo­re even keep peop­le from atten­ding.

That pis­ses me off. If I’m fee­ling down, I real­ly don’t care about some­thing as abs­tract as per­cep­ti­on. It comes far too clo­se to things like self-cen­sor­ship, „keep calm“, and lack of trans­pa­ren­cy. The CCC  is always right up the­re, in the fray, rea­dy to laugh at media fails and leaks of other orga­ni­za­ti­ons.

It is cer­tain­ly not an easy task for the Con­gress orga­ni­za­ti­on, in par­al­lel with an event, to deal with the per­cep­ti­on of that event and inde­pendent­ly respond to com­p­laints and dis­pu­tes. But to ask for restraint just for the sake of the oh so nice event won’t work.

Owning up to our own mistakes

Things I’ve heard: We have no pro­blem. It’s alrea­dy got­ten a lot bet­ter, what about it? We’re on it. When you go to a hacker con­fe­rence, you have to expect this stuff. We have a poli­cy.

Things I’d like to hear more often: We have a pro­blem, and we want to sol­ve it. It’s got­ten bet­ter, but still not good enough. We would like to take care of it, plea­se help us do that. The­se things should not hap­pen at a hacker con­fe­rence. We need to enforce our poli­cy bet­ter.

In future

I’d love to see a deba­te about all this. In hacker­spaces, in the Club, in the media and bet­ween all of us. And I would be hap­py if the result were not only a bet­ter Con­gress in terms of a safe 30C3, but also a dis­cus­sion at the event its­elf. What does this self-per­cep­ti­on of hackers mean? Whe­re do we begin if we want to make spaces safe? How do we deal with peop­le who want to work against the­se goals?

As a side note, I lear­ned that the queer folk at one mee­ting dis­cus­sed forming an Assem­bly (or several) in order to be more visi­ble and to have a safe haven in 2013. This is gre­at. I also hope to have suc­cess with my goal of making the awa­reness team more clear­ly visi­ble at 30C3.

One of the best tweets during 29C3 came from Lot­te, who sug­gested this the­me for the 30C3:

Mein Mottovorschlag für den 30c3: Shooting the messenger.

My sug­gested mot­to for 30c3: Shoo­ting the mes­sen­ger #29c3

This, of cour­se, refers to the fee­ling that many have had during the Con­gres­ses: It’s not the sexist inci­dents that are the pro­blem, it’s tho­se who point them out.

Sar­casm asi­de, I think this is a very good idea for signa­ling, and is exac­t­ly in line with the con­fe­rence topics: Wiki­leaks will be on the table in 2013, whist­leb­lo­wing as a topic is still important. Also, the CCC and the hacker com­mu­ni­ty was and is often cri­ti­ci­zed for its stan­ce in favor of the dis­clo­sure of secret ploys, even though the outra­ge should be direc­ted at the actu­al per­pe­tra­tor. As a fol­low-up to „Not my depart­ment“ (oh the iro­ny), I could ima­gi­ne no bet­ter mot­to than „shoot the mes­sen­ger“.

Trans­la­ted by Nói­rín Plunkett for Ada Initia­ti­ve.
Ger­man ver­si­on (inclu­ding links to others‘ blog posts and several comments)

1 comment
  1. […] Rocket rain: “The ques­tion for me is, what signi­fi­cance the inci­dents actual­ly occur­ring have for various atten­dees: inci­dents like sexist modera­tion, the reduc­tion of women to head­less bodies, or the hacking of Asher Wolf’s blog. For the majo­rity (I would guess) such events are litt­le things, if they are noti­ced at all. Even if you find them ugly, they don’t tar­nish the ent­ire event. They have the signi­fi­cance of a bro­ken pla­te in a com­mer­cial kit­chen: it hap­pens, but it’s not signi­fi­cant. It’s just a blip. For many other peop­le, and I inclu­de mys­elf here, the­se events car­ry a dif­fe­rent weight. They are indi­vi­dual cases of cho­lera on a crui­se ship, or dog poop on the hem of the wed­ding dress: the ugly blips makes the over­all situa­tion dan­ge­rous or into­le­ra­ble.” […]

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