Your code is political

This session is facilitated by José María Serralde Ruiz

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About this session

Our session begins with US, thinking about Web and cybernetics and the

possibility of approaching them from “the intersectional”. Then, WE,
open web people will bring case studies where planning, coding, proposing tech empower communities only if planned for code inheritance and life cycles: thinking about persons and think in context (gender aware practices, digital inclusion) and free-culture licenced for long term openess.

Goals of this session

To promote the discussion and issue a position document from comments and explanations rethinking web coding practices; situating them as political positions depending of what matters most to a community from an intersectional point of view: understanding privileges, differences and cultures in opposition to the common perspective of an always-objective computer science.

Your code is political

Session outcomes

Gitlab respository for presentation, scripts and supporting material:

-  MozFest2019 session on community-based rather than enterprise-based software development methodologies.
- Proposed to pursue healthier web-development projects through code and web literacy in opposition to expert-based full-stack maintenance.

Introductions: throw your paper

This session’s scope and goal (7 min)

Attendees were asked to introduce themselves answering the questions:

- Why did we show up here?

- What do we have in mind?

Each should throw a paper aiming a cookie box, without standing-up. Some did have that box quite near. That was proposed as a way of situating ourselves: even without knowing it, we were randomly situated in a certain kind of privilege EVERY time.

(NOTE: I probably needed to emphasise much more on that explanation; due to location problems not everyone got in time to the session. Thought that broke the ice.)

My thoughts:

I was really thrilled by such a diverse group, but, at the same time, a very strong commitment and ideas related to my proposal. I was really happy to know myh idea was definetely not mine but a community-shared concern. This was solely the set of introductions and we were already on-topic. That was really exciting.

Activity: Brainstorm alert! What is political? (3 min)

  • Motivation quote shown:

    La política está fundada en el modo de querer-vivir-propio de los seres humanos, que representa finalmente una voluntad-de-vida.
    – Enrique Dussel
    20 tesis de política (Argentina 2012, 23-25)

    Politics are founded on that way humans want-to-live, that finally represents a will-of-life.
    – Enrique Dussel,
    20 tesis de política (Argentina, 2012, p.23-25)

  • Attendees came up with the following words (some of them):

    • community, rights, decision-making, ideology, consciousness, awareness, change, policy-making

My thoughts
: We all built up a very concise approach to begin with. We were all pretty faimiliar with politically-aware tech. So we wrote those brainstromed words at our paper board haveing them handy for the whole session. Rather than a warm-up, this worked as a framework. I was feeling pretty comfortable as a facilitator.

Discussion: Group split, frustrating webdev (5 min)

(5 minutes)

- Proposed trigger: Last or most memorable frustrating web project development or deployment experience. Could be yours as developer, yours as the one needing a website, or someone elses.

- We wrote short ideas around our experiences in cards.

- Then we clustered those cards detecting relations. We came up with a lot of community / social related problems and very few solely technical related problems. Even tech related problems as absurd deadlines that end-up in tons of unmantained code, was all about 

My thoughts
: this took around 10 minutes. But it was really fun. Participants came-up with a huge set of ideas. What was really useful was that concepts I was expecting to appear like: “we did have no money”, “we did have no time”, were kind of out of the discussion. Basically because they are so evident and constant, that even those received a different approach from us; we were all talking about people. Problems were about people not-being-considered being developers or part of the beneficted communities. Even everytime we mentioned “methodologies”, the basic aim of this session, thoughts around them were trivialised in favor of conflict-management, lack of developer and community contact, power abuse from project managers etc. Pretty therapeutic.

Explanation: Where Your code is political came from

This session derives from the in-class hard work done by feminist and technologist Irene Soria, who has been done thorough work within academic and activist circles in Mexico, regarding tech, privacy, safety and critical-tech awareness and literacy (i.e. workshops, classes etc.)

We have got beautiful feedback from amazing participants and students through the years. I have worked with Irene in designing courseware and class-plans and so we wrote an essay for guiding MozFest session aims. I grounded and tailored these ideas to build this probably extremely concise session, for gathering thoughts and participation from mozillians around one of Your code is political first possible technical campaign: campaigning for politically-aware developers and strong community-based methodologies for Web projects.

After all those session-coaching sessions, including a movement organization talk, I decided to create an idea and community-thermometer session where we are could share and celebrate our socially-aware tech approach and identity, aiming to build a movement for socially aware webdev methodologies through web-literacy: each project should be a Web masterclass for both communities and developers.

Discussion: design an imaginary project (20 minutes)

- Participants were asked to develop an imaginary web development project in pairs considering it to be:

  - Benefecting a non-profit or...
  - A community empowering proposal, or...
  - A project for culture & arts, or...
  - What else?

- We explained our projects to the group, barely but necessarily speaking about a method to develop it.

- After they designed their project, they were asked to press ENTER at my laptop, who was running a simple BASH script picking a random country. So, that previously developed project had to be designed at an specific country.

- Discussion was built around the specifics of developing in that country and what kind of non-colonial, intersectional approach should we have to build that community-based and not developer / paternalistic based.

My thoughts
: it is amazing how many “global south” countries were at the list. We were 8 at the room and only two projects developed in countries from Mercosur, or European Union or any huge economic adscription. Therefore, this let us get through the Deepening face seemlessly.

Deepening: Current methodologies

- We really covered this point at the previous discussion. The outcome was: we don't really have to talk about previous methodologies; being agile or whatever was all about understanding an building the project.

- I only brought the concepts of:

  - Current webdev methodologies: based on models of transformation
  - Most probably in 3-stages:
    1. GET client's needs or whatevers
    2. DEV client's needs of whatevers
    3. GET client's feedback
    4. GOTO 1 (Remember to KILLSIGN / QUIT everything when you feel we can't go on)

Activity: The world upside down

- Providing we did have to begin late (11am session was hard), we did a wider talk rather than an specific activity on this:

  - If common 3-staged methodology was not efficient, what would a community based methodology?
  - I proposed the world-upside-down strategy: let us put that 1, 2, 3 in reverse order.
  - Probably renaming it:
    1. IMMERSE into the community to DEVELOP the concept
    2. GET opinions and suggestions as feedback 
    3. CREATE code
    4. GOTO 3, community is developing, no further feedback needed. (Still KILLSIGN / QUIT until resources last, or when goal is achieved. Bugtracking was done during the process.)
  - Use _Participative observation_ anthropological techniques rather than client's needs.
  - Do accompainment not mantainace.

Conclusion: ending quote and comments

> "To build community requires vigilant awareness of the work we must continually do to undermine all the socialization that leads us to behave in ways that perpetuate domination."
> -- Bell Hooks 
> -- _A pedagogy of hope_ (USA, 2013)

Building a movement towards better community-based webdev