Birth of A DiscoTech

Diana J Nucera & Nina Bianchi

In 2007, the first media lab was built at the Allied Media Conference in response to a need for a tactile learning space. The Allied Media Conference is a laboratory for media-based solutions to the matrix of life-threatening problems we face. The media lab was,and still is, rooted in connecting conversations to hands-on activities that give people the opportunity to practice collective problem solving and collaborative media making. For this initial media lab, AMC organizers did a call out to the Allied Media Projects network to
bring as many media-making tools as possible. Portable recording studios, radio transmitter kits, cameras, lights, audio recorders, a green screen, spare computer parts, and computer loans created the first AMC medialab. It was essentially a “potluck” of technology and media-making knowledge. Together we created a genuine collaborative, collective learning environment that was accessible to all skill levels, ages, and learning styles. This all happened because people took the time to listen to each other and share ideas.

In 2009, the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition formed to apply for broadband stimulus funding. A set of principles were born that revolved around the idea that communication is a fundamental human right. The DDJC decided that,whether we received the stimulus funding or not, we would work together to ensure that the skills and tools needed to communicate in this digital age are accessible to our communities.

In order to do this, we identified the need to create a space where people can discover technology together, learn at their own pace, and learn from people who are accessible and understand the context of their neighborhoods and communities. Reflecting upon the first AMC media lab, we knew that community learning spaces were possible, they just require us to activate our local network and allies to bring them to life. At that point, DiscoTechs, short for Discovering Technology, were born.

DiscoTechs have the potential to provide a positive and hopeful experience for youth and seniors, creating a platform where we can teach and learn with each other in ways that allow us to investigate ourselves and our communities. This creates pathways toward solving problems collectively rather than waiting for others to solve them. The DDJC finds great joy in producing DiscoTechs. We hope to share this joy with you.

In this Zine we have articles from our friends in DC, organizing tools, thoughts from organizers, and DiscoTech station modules. This edition of our zine provides a glimpse into our organizing processes in Detroit and DC — while there is a structure behind our DiscoTechs, they are also wonderfully organic and should be flexible to meet the unique needs of all sorts of communities. This is only one way Digital Justice can be put in practice  we encourage you to try it out, play with the ideas, and share your experiences with us by commenting on our website (detroitdjc.org), striking up a conversation, writing an article for our next zine, or even attending the Allied Media Conference. HAVE FUN and make some digital magic happen!