A brief thank you and overview of HASTAC2023, a look back at the cancelled HASTAC 2020, and a note of gratitude to all who contribute to the “invisible labor” of an organization that has never charged dues nor never, ever sold or misused the personal data of its community in any way. Pictured is “1055113200,” an art installation by Nikki Stevens and Molly Morin that literally “has the receipts” and materializes all that invisible labor into a beautiful, playful, interactive weaving. HASTAC2023 is all that. Thank you everyone. It’s a wrap!
Monday morning. 500+ HASTAC’ers have left the gorgeous Pratt Institute campus, home of HASTAC2023, “Critical Making and Social Justice.” I hope that the organizer of all of this, Chris Alen Sula, leader of the wonderful Pratt team, is sleeping in today, happy that it all went so well, all the panels, speakers, art installations, demonstrations, performances, events, meals, snacks, swag–all of it, and despite an environmental crisis on opening day. Thank you, Chris, and Pratt Institute for a spectacular HASTAC conference, our first face-to-face since May 16-19, 2019, when we gathered in Vancouver at the University of British Columbia, for “Decolonizing Technologies, Reprogramming Education.” It was joyous and inspiring to all be together again, to exchange stories of how we had fared since the last time, to commemorate and commiserate, mourn and celebrate, and–especially given how many young scholars were at HASTAC2023–to look ahead and vow, together, to work towards making a more just future.
Last night, I had dinner with one of HASTAC’s cofounders, Anne Balsamo, of the University of Texas at Dallas, and we talked together about the sadness of the long-planned, exciting, bountiful, and then cancelled conference that was not to be because of the pandemic. HASTAC 2020, “Hindsight, Foresight, Insight.” I found this sad announcement on HASTAC Commons: “The conference organizing committee had hoped to postpone the conference to Fall 2021, but as we consider the continued uncertainties around vaccines, travel, and budgets, we have decided that the most responsible course of action is to cancel.” Heartbreaking words. We thank everyone at UT Dallas who worked so hard only to have their plans dashed, and we thank the 16 scholars and artists who had agreed to be part of the plenary structure and then had their plans altered too. Such is the world we have lived through together. It is crucial to remember all that hard work, the disappointment, and also the difficult, responsible judgments everyone made over the last few years in order for our community to be safe.
In the fall, we’ll be sending out a new RFP to see who might want to host the next HASTAC conference. All proposals are vetted by HASTAC’s Steering Committee and Advisory Board members and then the institution chosen takes it from there, with constant meetings with HASTAC’s administrators and with HASTAC central leading the communications effort. But the work, the planning, the topics, and all the local arrangements are undertaken by the institution itself. It’s an enormous labor, a labor of love and commitment. Again, our thanks to this year’s team at Pratt and to all the previous conference organizers and leaders, all those who read and rated paper proposals, all those behind the scenes who did the labor without which nothing happens.
Speaking of labor! Pictured here is “1055113200,” an art installation by Nikki Stevens and Molly Morin that literally makes visible and material 20 years of HASTAC’s invisible labor. HASTAC has never charged dues nor used its user’s data for any commercial, profitable practice. Ever. We are open source and committed to an ethical digital data community. That means we’ve been supported by institutions, by grants and foundations, and by thousands of hours of invisible voluntary labor. This incredible installation literally “has the receipts.” It “weaves together receipts for the innumerable hours that people have given to create and sustain HASTAC. While this work is infused with data about countable events—website content, comments, commits—it also resists individualization, illusory precision, determinacy, and commensurability. Instead, it offers wholeness through patterning, playful imagery, the work of weaving, careful repairs, draping, wrinkles, folds, and so on in an effort to acknowledge the many uncapturable ways people have contributed to this community. The work was woven using a custom-built loom, to which it is still attached. As you participate in the weaving, you are putting physical form to everything we cannot count.” These artist-scholars also spent a year mentoring current HASTAC Scholars who were building installations—yet more volunteer labor for our community, yet more art, collaboration, thinking, community, patterning, playfulness.
There it is! “Critical Making and Social Justice.” HASTAC2023 is a wrap. It was beautiful. I can’t wait to see what comes next.