AfroTech plenary poem read by Nikky Norton Shafau

Really enjoyed Afrotech festival and I really enjoyed Nikky’s poem at the end of the festival. Its always interesting to hear which bits are picked up on twitter, in blogs and if you are lucky in poetry. So cleverly pieced together and made into a

As you can somewhat annotate on soundcloud, I added links to my slides mentioned in Nikky’s poem.

Nikky also recorded a bunch of interesting interviews with people like myself during the 2 days of the festival. Well worth listening to for some interesting insights.

Afrotech Fest 2018 keynote: Diversity and the joy of being different

Ian Forrester at Afrotech 2018

The slides are now public on google drive (unusual but I do tend to create and edit them on google slides to be honest) and of course in the usual place of my slideshare presentaion. Its a long one but I could do it with all the videos a tad over 30mins.

They are thought provoking and full of references to some excellent research worth reading and digesting.

Massive thanks to the organisers and the audience for bearing with me through the keynote of 106 slides…

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Talking at Afrotech festival 26th Jan 2018

Afrotech Fest 2018Afrotech fest 2018I haven’t been blogging much recently, mainly because I am writing 3 different presentations. My first big one is for the Afrotech festival, which I have the absolute joy of keynoting at on Friday 26th Jan. I spoke at a much small one in Manchester awhile ago and you can see the presentation here.

When Florence asked me to talk, I jumped at the opportunity and its turning out to be quite a festival. Love the fact its being arranged by 6 amazing black women too.

The festival is a response to the underrepresentation of black people in the technology industry – especially those who are marginalised in additional ways – as well as tech conferences and festivals being too expensive for many to attend. We want to create a festival that is intentionally diverse and inclusive of those often excluded.

We look forward to welcoming you, whatever your age, gender, class or ability. Whether you’ve never written a line of code or regularly contribute to a huge project, Afrotech Fest is for you.

Tickets are available now, if you are in London end of this month (Jan 2018). Get yourself down to Richmix to discuss and see the future.

If you think this is just for the blacks.

We welcome people of all races, ethnicities and cultural backgrounds to attend Afrotech Fest.

So no excuses!

Little diversity changes in the valley?

Nancy Lee

Google’s head of diversity, Nancy Lee, is retiring from Google after several years of leading the company’s global diversity and inclusion team

In Google’s latest diversity report, we saw that overall representation of women went from 30 percent female in 2014 to 31 percent female in 2015. But the overall percentage of black and Hispanic people did not increase at all, with overall representation of blacks remaining at 2 percent and Hispanics remaining at 3 percent. In 2015, only 4 percent of Google’s hires were black and 5 percent of its hires were Hispanic.

It’s not clear who will take over as head of diversity or when Lee’s last day is. Google declined to comment for this story.

Although still (at the moment I write this) not confirmed and this isn’t a criticism of Nancy’s initiatives. But its not great news and looking back at the afrofutures talk I gave a while back, little seems to have changed when it comes to non-white or non-asian people in tech. I would have hoped the increase in women would be higher too, especially with all work and attention.

Seems little is going to change in the valley, at least for diversity and inclusion. I’m sure we will find out about Nancy’s difficult position very soon.

Interview about Black Culture Applied to Technology

I did a interview off the back of the Afrofutures talk I did in Manchester last year. Its part of a group of interviews on How We Get To Next. Its a good interview and thanks to Florence Okoye for the great questions which leads into my thoughts on black culture, diversity and growing up in a ever-changing world.

Ian @ BarcampLondon5 - Day 1

I was invited to do a interview off the back of the Afrofutures talk I did in Manchester last year. Its part of a group of interviews on How We Get To NextIts a good interview and thanks to Florence Okoye for the great questions which leads into my thoughts on black culture, diversity and growing up in a ever-changing world.

Here’s some interesting parts, although I have to say the whole thing is good and worth reading in full.

A little background on what made me the person I am today.

I kind of knew I was different from other people at an early age. Yes, there was the challenge of being one of three black people in a junior school, but I also found out I might be dyslexic. Friends could tell you I didn’t quite fit in — though I wasn’t a misfit. I was popular, kind of sporty, but also geeky and fiercely independent in thought. This meant I tended to find my own way of doing things, and therefore my independence was tied to use of technology. It was only later at university that I learned once and for all that I was dyslexic, and my coping strategies existed around technology.

Remembering the first time I created a webpage for my graphic design course and the conflict I faced. I feel this is similar to the perceptive media idea; its a new medium and we should/could treat it as such.

There was a key moment I will never forget when learning about the web and creating HTML pages. I did one of my design projects as a website and my college lecturer asked me to print it out. I tried to explain and pled with her that this was a different medium and printing it out made no sense. I think it was that moment when I started to side more with the tech.

The effect of dance music/culture on my life, and the start of my distaste and distrust of popular culture… If I was answering this again, I would add something about being you’re self, not what others want you to be. This certainly speaks to my inner fire for independance.

I hate popular culture. It winds me up [to] no end! I was a geek but never got into fantasy or really into science fiction. I found it too stereotypical and formulaic for me to take seriously.

I also was massively influenced by dance/rave music, which was a very different culture. I remember hating mainstream radio for not playing rave music. The mainstream press was vilifying ravers and this new culture.

They say house music is a feeling, but it’s a whole culture which didn’t get its dues till far later, and even now it’s been watered down and packaged up into something boring and generic

A little but on how I see [I don’t see as such but my mind connects them] the world as one hyper-connected system full of interesting emergent structures and challenges. It hard for others to imagine but I’m imagining its similar to the way synesthesia feels for people who have it. Its just the reality, and it only people telling you again that you are wrong, which makes you dobht.

I see everything as connected. It’s just the way my mind thinks, being dyslexic. I see technologies which are not ready for the mainstream, technologies which break rules and change the centralized power structures. They are ignored or rejected till they get too big and the incumbents have to face up to them or outlaw them, as it breaks their fragile business models.

This is classic innovator’s dilemma stuff, to be honest.

What excites me… open collaboration with open minded people, as too much effort is wasted settling peoples egos.

There are lots of interesting trends in store for the future. I don’t like to dream about [them]; instead, I follow the Alan Kay quote, “the best way to predict the future is to invent it.” Instead of inventing it, which makes people imagine people in basements doing funny things alone, I would change the last part to collaborate.

Now if only I could adapt this into my Linkedin profile…

Dope: Its hard out here being a geek

Dope

I watched Dope on Sunday afternoon only a few hours before I gave a talk about the lack of black people in the technology sector at Afrofutures.

Malcolm is carefully surviving life in a tough neighborhood in Los Angeles while juggling college applications, academic interviews, and the SAT. A chance invitation to an underground party leads him into an adventure that could allow him to go from being a geek, to being dope, to ultimately being himself.

There is much I can say I loved about the film which currently has a rating of 7.5 on IMDB (stick that in your IMDB party game)

Warning mild spoilers ahead

Malcolm and his friends are teenagers growing up in LA, they are geeks, play in a rock band, get picked on at school, etc. You would be forgiven for thinking – “this is the start of a typical hollywood coming of age film..
The big difference is they are black americans and living in a culture which doesn’t encourage geekness.

The film starts with the excellent point of, looking at the definition of Dope.

  • Slang for an illegal drug (you got any dope?)
  • A stupid person (you are such a dope!)
  • Affirmation of something’s greatness (that is so dope!)

These themes run through the whole film and connect everything. Malcolm attempts to try and avoid being pulled into the society which surrounds him. There is no doubt this is a coming of age film but the class discrimination and racism really lifts it way above the rest. Even when Malcolm is forced into the world of drug dealing, he uses his brain to get out ahead of the crooked society.

I won’t lie, dope reminds me of some of the dilemmas I faced while growing up (of course to a far lesser degree). I use to think everybody faces these things but it seems not.  The conflict of being geeky and not wanting to make the mistakes others fall into featured in my mind a lot. I came out on top but like Malcolm, there are things which I won’t forget and certainly shaped my personality.

The presentation I did for Afrofutures is here., the link with Dope comes in about slide 18. I certainly feel its not good enough to blame the tech sector alone. No, we got to look at the the way things shake out in the culture too. Yes there is a big lack of black people in tech, especially in higher positions but also the culture doesn’t exactly encourage people to embrace our geeky side. Its almost discouraged I feel.

This has lines or connections I believe with the fact their are amazingly senior black people in many other professions including law,  financial services, pharmaceuticals, etc. But very few in the tech sector, especially at CEO level.

I know this is all a massive generalisation but from what I have seen growing up, it was a fight to be openly curious, interested and switched on or as I prefer, geeky. I imagine lots of black people bury it and ignore it. Or it gets beaten out of you at some point verbally or even physically. You literally have to fight. Some give up fighting and forever regret doing so for the rest of their lives…

When looking at the diversity figures, in every case I found. White people were followed by Asians people.  You only have to look at the CEO of Microsoft and Google to see this in full effect. From a outsider view, their culture encourages geeky people. However in black popular culture (generalising again) I am almost embarrassed by the negativity to being geeky and different.

Its was depressing to research but it was worth it because its out there now and its a start of a important conversation for me.

I can only hope the next generation will see right through all this all and make positive strides ending up with a diverse workforce. Originally I was going to submit this to Singleblackmale but I didn’t feel it was the right place to host this at this stage. Maybe I’ll do a more critical blog for them in the near future.

As the tagline to Dope says: Its hard out here being a geek…

Afrofutures in Manchester next week

060/365: Afro Halo

Manchester is running Afrofutures next weekend

Afro Futures UK, a collective of researchers, artists, programmers and activists exploring new ways of examining blackness and futurism. We are hosting an  FREE all day Afrofuturist Conference and Exhibition on 10th October 2015 at MADLAB with a special rosta of speakers and workshops from the USA, Europe Africa and the UK.

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