Why Community Tech Matters to Me

Graphic image featuring a photo of a city street and a photo of an wireless antenna

by Rumi W. [they/xe]

Sometimes it's hard to write about why organizing really resonates with you and makes you want to be involved in whatever fashion you can. It's even harder when you see within organizing a possible future that should be more common in the world and isn't due to a number of different forces. So many of them are systemic, so many have to be drastically changed in order for anything new to come to fruition.

But, with that in mind, it makes it all the more important to enjoy and appreciate those trying to build something— something that aims to bring access and ownership over what seems to be needed by so many people – and bring it into the community at large.

I had been supportive of the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition for a few years, but actually experiencing a DiscoTech and seeing what it’s like and how they functioned really spoke to me. I benefited from being able to get online through some of my younger days. It made things easier for me and I can not take it for granted. I still have many questions about what happens online and how it works, not to mention how it was built. I just find myself thinking about how a lot of the Internet came from research institutions and before that was built to support military purposes. The legacy of those origins reflected in how technology and information build up these massive controlling systems remains harrowing to me.

From there, the question was “what could I do, what can I do?” I wanted to believe in people being able to get resources for themselves and do what is best for their community in whatever way they see fit. And I still feel that way, especially in terms of wanting to support learning and growth. People should be able to recognize information they've always had and be able to treat that info as something really worthwhile and important for survival.

Maybe that's why when I was looking through some of the resources about re-building tech, about community tech, something stirred in me that I'm still wrestling with to this day. I know about these large institutions and what they have been doing with information, what they have been doing with data, and how they have restricted access and transparency. I'm making a point to try and learn about these continuous impacts that are detrimental to so many people. It's enough to keep me quite irritable on a regular basis, honestly. Along with well… *gestures to systems at large.*

The idea of people being able to have sovereignty, intervene on their own behalf, and share networks with each other is something that is inspiring to me. I like looking over the examples of this work locally and those that have branched out as a result of work being done here.

Because of this learning that I've been passionate about and didn't know where to direct it, I really love what community tech networks could be. I know there are material reasons why it's not nearly as common as it should be, but I feel like continuing to try. Continuing to wrestle with questions around power, around building out access, influence, and control. Tech is not going to solve everything, but if there is a way to connect people to resources that help them and encourage them to do things their way, then we should go for it. I think my aim at this point is to be able to contribute in whatever way I can as time goes by.