Where did this idea come from?

Several of the organisers in the hackathon have been engaged with conversations around social justice and data feminism; in part through the Crisis Interrogatives collective and the Critical AI and Data Justice in Society course offered at Aalto University in spring 2021. It was in these spaces that we also started engaging with Catherine D’Ignazio, American author, artist, software developer, hackathon organiser, professor, and all-around fantastic human. Catherine co-authored the book Data Feminism with Lauren Klein, and is also one of the organisers of Our Feminist Futures, our sister hackathon in the US organised by a group of researchers at MIT. When we saw that they were organising this hackathon, we were instantly intrigued. However, as you had to be a US resident, we could not participate. This is when Nitin Sawhney suggested we organise a hackathon here in Helsinki. We were immediately inspired, quickly got in touch with the team at MIT, and before long we had brought together a team to organise the Feminist Futures Helsinki hackathon.

Something that also made this an extra interesting project to do exactly here in Finland is the fact that there is a very established innovation scene with various events and companies attracting a lot of international attention. We would argue, however, that those spaces are still very exclusive in nature, and are not always welcoming to a broader range of people and experiences. There is also a tendency to try to fix big societal struggles with apps or other forms of technology, but we wanted to challenge this approach (#techwontbuildit), and instead focus on long term perspectives. We have a lot of participants who have never participated in a hackathon before, and who were even a bit sceptical about the concept, but we hope we’ve been able to show them that the format can actually facilitate a lot more than what we’re used to seeing in the Silicon Valley type of hackathons. For example, this hackathon runs for 2,5 weeks to allow more time for people with work and care responsibilities. We have also prioritised getting the participants to listen to a plurality of voices by having different mentors.