Here are a few steps we like to take when organizing a DiscoTech:
1. A Shared Vision
We begin our DiscoTech conversations about two months in advance, and begin by asking ourselves a series of questions that help identify intentions for the event. Some of these questions include
- Why a DiscoTech?
- Where should the DiscoTech be and why?
- What skills and tools do people want and need?
- What skills and tools do people have that can be a part of the DiscoTech?
- What is currently happening in this community and how can a DiscoTech support it?
2. Build It Together!
DiscoTechs can be big events that can take a lot of work. If everyone pitches in and collaborates, they are a breeze and fun to organize. Below we’ve listed some roles that have emerged from our experiences in Detroit.
- Station Managers: These are the people want to organize a DiscoTech station. A station is similar to a table at a science fair — each station focuses on a unique drop-in activity.
- Greeters: We have found it’s important for participants to be welcomed as they enter a DiscoTech. Greeters are the people who welcome participants, help them navigate the DiscoTech, and solicit donations or surveys.
- Graphic Designer: This is someone who is really into making signs for the stations, fliers to promote the event, and any visuals the stations might need to be really awesome.
- Host: This is someone who encourages people to explore and keeps people updated on movie screening times or raffle status.
- Facilitating Organizers: This is a team of at least two people that help facilitate the collective vision of the event. They send out logistics and reminder emails to station managers, gather equipment and supply needs, and make sure outreach is happening.
- The Disco DJ: Spinning disco music at a DiscoTech pumps up the fun factor about 10 notches! There’s nothing like soldering and learning about the Internet to sweet disco tunes. Dancing from one station to another helps participants retain information.
- Documentation Manager: It’s important to document the event with photos, interviews, and video. The Documentation Manager works with others to arrange as many types of documentation as possible and makes sure that the videos, photos, etc. become accessible after the event. In Detroit, we’ve created a series of video documentaries and oral history narratives, and have all of our photos posted to a shared Flickr account.
3. Flyers and Outreach
Once you’ve created a shared vision for your DiscoTech, it’s important to start spreading the word at least one month before the event. In Detroit, we created this flier which clearly explains, as an infographic, what a participant can expect to experience. Our colleagues in DC have noted how helpful this flier was in explaining the event, and have since modified the basic structure to meet their organizing needs. It is important to distribute the fliers in print and digitally, as print often reaches communities that are still communicating offline. You can distribute fliers at community events, schools, libraries, recreation centers, local businesses—even dollar stores! Digital fliers can be distributed through social media, blog posts, and email.
4. Get Creative, Use What You Have
DiscoTechs are are collective organizing tools that bring out the assets of a community. This is what makes them beautiful and special. DiscoTechs thrive when people take the time to think and work together. We’ve
found that there is room for several ideas to take shape in the science-fair-style format. As a starting point, gather some friends and colleagues and ask each other:
- What is something you know about technology that you are comfortable sharing with others?
- What would I like to learn by sharing and exploring with others?
You might not have to go that far! If someone
says “I know how to use my phone well,” they can do
a station that shares that knowledge with others. If
someone says “I kind of know Facebook, but I want
to know more,” they can have a Facebook exploration
station where people share FB tricks with each other.
Anything is possible and together we are geniuses. Be
creative with the resources that you and your colleagues
have right in front of you
5. What Happens After a DiscoTech?
DiscoTechs are a great community-organizing tool, as well as an organizer-organizing tool. Reflecting on the event is a way to keep the DiscoTech community together. Discussing the future while reflecting on the past is a productive way to build upon and create new relationships.
Here are a few questions we often find each other with after a Detroit DiscoTech:
- What stations do people enjoy? Why?
- What worked? What didn’t work?
- What recurring questions emerged?