I'm just coming back from the Chaos Communication Congress, a four day event just after Christmas. It was my fourth one in total, and now the third in a row (the first being 25C3 as a smol girl).
It's hard to describe the C3 (abreviation for the congress, opposed to the CCC, the club). Some call it a "hacker conference" which is...in some ways accurate, but often doesn't manage to capture what it is. Not to mention relies on the external definition of a "hacker" to describe it. Other's call it a "tech event" or "tech conference" which really isn't accurate either. There are lots of artists and non-tech people represented and I feel these experiences shouldn't be ignored.
The C3 has been in Hamburg for quite a while but was forced to move last year due to the congress centre there being remodeled (read "torn down"). After remodelling the venue would also not be suitable for the event anymore, meaning that a semi-permanent move had to be initiated.
I didn't enjoy last year's Congress.
Not only was it plagued by loads of logistical problems and bad adaptation of the new space, there were political issues around the organisation of the event and how decisions were made. Last year's congress showed off that the CCC (the club) had a problem with apoliticality.
I've been rather loud about the apolitical or centrist parts of the hacker movement. Conflation between the terms "maker" and "hacker" have further undermined the movement with capitalist and neoliberal ideas.
That isn't to say that everybody in the hacker scene needs to be continously aware of all political implications of their actions at all times. Danger arises from people who don't feel like political action is important at all or who represent centrist, capitalist and neo-liberal viewpoints. This includes refusal to take action against climate change or supporting the police, regulatory bodies and disregarding free software movements for reasons of convenience.
I'm taking about these things in rather vague terms because I want to avoid drawing a definite line that people can't cross. Really, I would argue that there's many ways to be a hacker. I see issue and a danger to the movement, when people attempt to "leave politics out of hacking" entirely.
This includes fighting capitalism and discrimination against minorities. Hackers, by definition, are the political left! Anyone who isn't and still claims to be a hacker has successfully co-opted the word and is attempting to undermine the movement for their own political gain.
It's not always obvious how the existence of apolitical hackers impacts the movement or the technologies that they build. But just like Tech in general has racism and sexism problems, so does the hacker movement. Society does, really. There's no way to remove a community from time and space. "Stuff" happened before we got here, and pretending that it didn't, is dangerous.
I could talk about the impact of apoliticality on technology and communities that are being built for a very long time but I really don't want to today. Instead I want to focus on something else, something more positive.
A very political congress
I very much enjoyed this year's congress!
Maybe in part that was because of the people I was attending it with this year ( 😉 ) but in no small part, it was also because of the general atmosphere around the event. This isn't something only I noticed. I had conversations about this with others, who apparently also noticed this change from last year.
The first thing you saw when entering the venue was a huge Antifa flag, setting the tone of the rest of the event. Apart from that there were a lot more assemblies this year, many were dedicated to squatting, anarchy and fighting capitalism. There were a few queer assemblies, scattered around the hall, making it so that queer and leftist representations weren't all bundled in one spot but were present all through the venue. Even purely technical assemblies were surrounded by antifa flags and anarchist stickers and flyers. This changed the atmosphere quite significantly.
It wasn't perfect. Just like last year, it was plagued by logistical problems, some smaller, some larger. There were people who had their stuff stolen. There were speakers who made problematic jokes on stage. There were still apolitial and centrist people present. In fact, there were people complaining about C3 "having gotten so political", which really is a good thing. We want the centrist and right-leaning "hackers" (read: libertarians) to feel uncomfortable.
But despite all that, the air, the general atmosphere of the event was different.
I welcome this change. And I hope that it sets a new tone for the CCC and the C3 in general. I would very much enjoy going back next year and finding out that the event had become even more overtly anarchist.
Because we shouldn't forget our core motivation as hackers: being gay, and doing crimes!
The only downside from 35C3? I don't really know what to think about birds anymore...