Now is the time to radically redirect the future of tech. To think tech otherwise is to move away from binaries of tech or not (though we may sometimes need to make that judgement), in favour of how we could make tech differently, in the service of our collective and sustainable well being.
Building on a shared sense of urgency in the face of pressing challenges like climate change, mass surveillance and misinformation, our collective began to organize in 2019 in preparation for a workshop at the 2020 Participatory Design Conference (PDC'20). The event, called “Computing Professionals for Social Responsibility: The Past, Present and Future Values of Participatory Design” brought together more than 30 scholars, practitioners and activists to discuss what values and social responsibilities are held by the technology community. Participants in this workshop wrote about the responsibility not to design, the need for a new CPSR, the role of Participatory Design in algorithmic design, and how values are negotiated in the making of new technologies, among other topics. As a result of the energy and community built at the event, we organized a follow-up workshop as part of the 2020 Computer Supported Cooperative Work conference (CSCW'20) called “Collective Organizing and Social Responsibility''. We approached questions about ethics and politics in socio-technical systems, the role of public policy, and the importance of collective action. Authors wrote about abolitionist frameworks within scholarly work, Design Justice in contact tracing technology, and the frictions created by "participating" with those in power among other themes.
These two gatherings made it clear that organizing and actively naming injustices and unfairness within the technology sector is an imperative for our community. One direct response is the most recent report: Defund Big Tech, Refund Community: Anti-Trust is Not Enough, Another Tech is Possible. In it we synthesize several of the challenges posed by the way that the private technology sector is currently organized, and put forth a proposal on how we can all collectively address them. The writing of the report also highlighted our desire to expand the body of work around critical technology, to share the communal energy created by the output of all these collective spaces, and to make that available to a broader audience. We are excited to announce this next step, an open-access publishing community: Tech Otherwise.
Our goal with Tech Otherwise is to create a space for activists, practitioners, citizens and scholars to share their work around critical technology themes. We inaugurate this space with the collection of 30 contributions received as part of the PDC'20 and CSCW'20 workshops, along with the Defund Big Tech report. We will publish new submissions on a rolling basis, and all contributions will be peer-reviewed by members of our community. If you are interested in submitting your work here, please send us an email to [email protected].