We’ve compiled some of the documentation coming out of the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition‘s last DiscoTech (Discovering Technology Fair). Dig through this exciting collection of DiscoTech video, audio documentary, articles, and photos. Also, get ready because we are doing it again: the next DiscoTech will be held April 15, 1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), 4454 Woodward Ave.
Detroit Future Media alumni Patrick Geans and Mike Polk worked with DFM Program Coordinator Imad Hassan to produce a sharp video recap of the DiscoTech which was held February 26 at the the Mt. Elliott Makerspace in the Church of the Messiah on Detroit’s eastside.
Jennifer Guerra produced an excellent radio segment on how Discotech uses technology to foster community. The segment was broadcast on Michigan Radio (91.7 FM Ann Arbor/Detroit). Listen here.
Leticia Miranda, research associate at the Open Technology Initiative, documented how DiscoTechs give Detroiters the opportunity to “take part in shaping the future of technology”:
At the fairs, participants take part in interactive workshops and explore the impact and possibilities of technology within their communities. …The fair attracted roughly 150 local residents while about 30 volunteers ran workshops, served food, and answered questions
DiscoTechs are not only innovative in their goal to maximize and expand Detroiters’ technological skills, but also in their structure. The fairs are organized with separate “stations” in a large room led by volunteers with expertise in different technologies and their applications. At the most recent DiscoTech, participants learned how to make stencils, use social media, and disassemble a desktop hard drive. In a corner of the room, participants watched and discussed The Internet Is Serious Business, a documentary produced in 2008 by the People’s Production House and Center for Urban Pedagogy, about the technologies and policies that shape the Internet. At another table, two volunteers hosted a consultation station on privacy and answered questions about how to protect yourself online.
The DiscoTech offers a vision of the city where people of color are encouraged to engage in technology on their own terms. The inter-generational room of mostly Black Detroit residents painted a stark contrast to the sobering statistics around the digital divide. Rather than allow themselves to be seen as victims of federal communication policies that limit their digital participation — or as passive recipients of more recent digital inclusion policies which can be alienating or condescending — people of color at the DiscoTech actively armed themselves with the technical skills to ensure they won’t be left behind in the digital age. At one station, a 10-year-old girl taught an elder how to solder electronic components to a circuit board.
Michigan Citizen columnist Shea Howell was inspired to write about “Digital Justice and our future” after participating at last month’s DiscoTech. Shea writes:
Last Sunday afternoon [Feb. 26], I watched the future take shape. I went to the third DiscoTech, put together by the Digital Justice Coalition. DiscoTech is short for Discovering Technology Fair. The fair includes more than a dozen hands-on stations where people can learn everything from how to set up an e-mail account to how to fix a computer. …[T]he fair attracted hundreds of people, mostly young, and all engaged.
The first thing I saw when I entered the bustling room was a group of young men working on windmills. Like everyone else, they were completely engrossed in their projects, testing out their design and construction of the blades.
Just past the windmills there was a table crowded with people. The table was heaped with blinking LED lights. Before long, it became clear the lights were being soldered to small battery discs, creating powered jewelry. The creators were mostly young women, learning about electricity, battery power and soldering irons. Over the course of the afternoon, most people managed to get a pin or two for shirts and caps.
In a far corner of the room, another group gathered to watch and discuss a short film called “The Internet is Serious Business.” The film gives people a good sense of what the Internet really is and the issues communities face in using it for positive change.
Nina Bianchi has a collection of photos and video from the DiscoTech here.