Closing Keynote with Cyd Harrell

The Civic Digital Sphere. There are many lessons for digital practitioners from the pandemic, and even more questions. Cyd will bring together stories from safety net services, courts, and vaccine rollouts to ask how practitioners across the public sector can work together to lay the groundwork for a more resilient & rich digital public sphere in the future. Track:Plenary/Keynote


Unknown Speaker
Hello, everybody. Thank you for coming. Welcome to the keynote, the closing keynote for MCM 2021. With Cyd Harrell, my name is Max Evjen. I'm coming to you from oakiness, Michigan, the ancestral traditional and contemporary lens of the initial habeck three fires confederacy of Ojibwe, Odawa and Potawatomi peoples. There was a that was that on land that was seated in the 1819 Treaty of Saginaw. I am a white male with glasses in a home office wearing a black shirt. I would just like to tell you all about this great keynote coming up, called the Civic digital sphere. The description is that there are MANY lessons for digital practitioners from the pandemic and even more questions SIG will bring together stories from safety net services, courts and vaccine rollouts to ask how practitioners across the public sector can work together to lay the groundwork for a more resilient and rich digital public sphere in the future. Sid is well known, well known in the industry and government for her creative approach to UX research and service design since 2012, working with the Center for Civic design Code for America and 18 F. Excuse me, as well as independently. Sit has held multiple executive and judicial branch agencies in the US apply research techniques and user centered practice to serve to serving the public. Her book, civic technologist practice guide is an onboarding guide and Survival Manual for tech people joining the public sector work when not at the office helping public servants use design for good citizen mentor for mid senior UX practitioners their favorite tools or metaphor and the physical duct tape. So with that, I'd like to hand things over to Sid and for this wonderful commit such

Unknown Speaker 10:01
acts. Thank you so much for the kind introduction. I'll do the traditional digital folder roll here while I share my screen and hopefully you are now seeing a keynote slide that says infrastructure for a good in parentheses digital future. Hi, I'm Sid Harrell, and I am coming to you from San Francisco, greeting you from unseeded remai to show Loney land and I'd also like to acknowledge that this year for the first time I became a payer of the unicorn land tax which is for settlers living on what is now called the San Francisco peninsula. I'm honored to be able to talk to you about possible futures for digital institutions. Before I go forward. I want to acknowledge that all of you have made it to the final day of a online conference, perhaps one of MANY online conferences you've attended during this very long lasting social upheaval and trauma that we have been going through. I am a civic technologist and that means I spend an enormous amount of my time trying to square this circle, that in the 21st century, we might interact and connect with centuries old governments, courts, arts institutions, traditions of medicine using software that might have been updated last week. And devices like this good old one that have only been around for maybe a decade and we might be using connectivity that has only really been ubiquitous only really in urban centers. And that is spotty across a lot of the globe for maybe a decade and a half. So Neal Stephenson's sorry William Gibson's wrong cyberpunk author William Gibson's classic insight that the future is here already and it's unevenly distributed applies very much to the present that we experience. But in trying to design mostly services that are important to constituents of various governments that they might interact with in ways that the government had no capacity to imagine as little as two decades ago. So within the career memory of people that I meet and know. I run into a lot of interesting challenges about the digital and I want to start just by sharing something interesting that happened to me earlier this year. I call it a museum memory because to anyone who was in San Francisco before about 2010 This wall covered with stickers to the extent that they are sliding off of it in long chains at the edges is iconic, and I encountered it in a place that was not a museum, but that was a public place. And I was surprised and delighted to find it where I found it. So this is actually a callback to a famous feature of the Exploratorium, a San Francisco Discovery Museum that's aimed at people of all ages. And that before they switch to a digital ticketing system, so there's a little chunk of the digital obliterating a tradition, there was a sign that every week or so was cleared of stickers, but that people would take the sticker that functioned as your past to be on the building and stick it to this sign on the way out and it would often look like a person or an alien would be very colourful, covered in stickers and all colors. But this sticker wall that I encountered on the right is actually part of what in my professional life I call a multi channel service design. And it's for a very serious government function. Let's look at the multi channel part. So this is from the massive vaccine site at Moscone Center in San Francisco. If you chose to do your civic duty as I did and get a COVID vaccine, one of the first things you would do would be to use a website, which you could use on your computer and I did because I have access to a computer to make an appointment. And then you would get another digital element, which was a ticket that existed on your phone as a QR code that someone would read when you eventually went to stand in line at a physical building to get your vaccination. There were some other digital elements in the building, particularly nice inclusive one here with a digital sign that was just enormous rotating text and all of our commonly used local languages in San Francisco County.

Unknown Speaker 14:54
And then there was the very undigested part where you sit on a plastic folding chair and a ginormous convention hall with there's the sticker. It's about what time you're allowed to leave because you haven't fainted after getting the vaccine. Then you get another paper piece. This little vaccine record that's so important. And finally at the end as you walk out, there's a kind of Thank you area that lets you take a fixed selfie with a cutout of Dr. Fauci and reminds you of the San Francisco community object that was so iconic by letting you do something with that sticker. And of course it extends a little further and that being the kind of extremely online person I am, I took those two photos and posted some digital social proof on social media to encourage other people to go out and get their vaccine. And then a few months later, I was able to get a California credential that sits in my apple wallet on this device. Interestingly about the credential on the right for the first several weeks, I had it. There wasn't anywhere I could really show it as a very nice little service to get a signed and verified official record. But the Tech had gotten out ahead of the policy. And it may have been because the governor of California was facing a recall election and might have hesitated to put the policy piece of a statewide vaccine mandate into place so that it would be useful to have this credential. It's still a patchy state San Francisco requires that I show this in several places. And when I do I remember this whole experience of having gone through doing my civic duty and seeing these cool callbacks to pieces of the community that I remembered that even my 16 year old daughter who had visited the exploratorium when she was a small child before 2012 remembered and was excited to see. As civic technologists. We basically want public digital goods to be as good as the ones made by commercial entities. So there's no reason that getting a COVID vaccine or getting food aid if you need it or even signing up for a library card, or getting a business permit can't be as well designed as something that Google and Amazon produce. And importantly, we want public digital infrastructure and the entire public sphere to be as supportive and welcoming and ethically better than the commercial digital sphere. Have a fairly explicit goal within our profession to build modern digital capacity within governments and help the people who run government agencies do well by their publics with the tools that are now available. One thing was kind of a truism is that technology isn't usually the biggest problem. You can have the coolest digital technology around and you might be able to make a better service with a simple website toolbox that you could have had in the 1990s If your service is really well attuned to what your public needs. I particularly like this screenshot which is famous in my field which says if you apply digital to a thing that's broken, you'll have a broken digital thing. And something else that I've recognized over a decade plus of working with governments is that I thought when I was a commercial designer that I was really in the center of design decisions being made in the world that affected people and I was 100% Wrong. Public servants make more design decisions and often more consequential design decisions than everybody out there who thinks of themselves as a designer, and they do it every day in making a plaza more welcoming or making a form letter shorter or creating a way for people to interact with officials and multiple languages. That's exciting. And one of the things that it really connects with for me and connects with this very kind invitation to come and talk to people who are vastly smarter than I am about arts and culture, about the slightly boring area of government institutions. Is that true public service designs. That is how we do or don't experience belonging within our core institutions. And it's heavy and weighty and how the digital plays into it is also very murky.

Unknown Speaker 19:39
This is not in San Francisco, because San Francisco isn't this old, but I wanted to add in a piece of public art. This is from the statue of John of new promo UK on the Charles Bridge and Prague. It's been there around 350 years and over time, the dog naturally, a very good dog has been polished by people who pass by and pet the pet the cute dog on the statue. It's a very interesting picture of persistence for someone like me, who thinks about changing institutions and how things become perhaps more prominent over time and the character or in the actions of an institution through the way that the public slowly influences it. Notice also that the reason this image is in this deck, I have never been to Prague but I found it on an image service. And for all I know there may be a Pokemon gym or an ingress point to smartphone based Augmented Reality video games that people can play. There may be those associated with the statue as well. It has now a digital life where it can charm and amuse someone on the other side of the world and also illustrate a point in San Francisco a little earlier in the pandemic a lot earlier long. Before there were vaccines. We were gifted something by local arts institution, a critical one. This I'm not going to play it for you but as I performance of a song called truly brave, sung and synchronized via modern digital technology by the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus. While each of these men was in isolation, figuring out how to use the infrastructure of the internet and of cheap cameras and video conferencing and sound editing to create a choral version of the song to gift to a city that was in pain. particularly appropriate institution to consider sharing this as part of their role. As you may know, it's an institution that was devastated during the previous biggest pandemic and in recent history. If you haven't seen this famous photo, it's a photo of the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus performing live in 1993. There are six men wearing white shirts and they are the men who had survived from the membership in the 80s Everyone else in the chorus is wearing black. The losses to the AIDS pandemic were incredibly profound and the resilience of that institution and its survival to contribute to the city's ability to withstand the pandemic that we were going through in 2020 was extremely important and enabled by very pedestrian kinds of digital infrastructure as well as its status as an institution. And when we think about a healthy digital future, not just any cyberpunk future that one could imagine those institutional memories from places that have existed pre digitally, or in the early days of digital form some of the ground that that healthy future requires. And if I take the silly little cartoon city here on on unseeded land that I started with and start to fill it with the things that really make a city work. We have a lot of shops and commercial pieces. We have cafes and hospitals. We have museums and other arts institutions surrounding those seats of government and all of these are designed to last but when we need to change them, when hospitals suddenly needed to care for an enormous number of people with one disease and care for other people, perhaps via Zoom in a way that they hadn't done before. When the chorus needed to sink all its members in different places around the city when cafes suddenly each needed to deliver croissants and coffee at a window instead of at tables inside and still feel like they were supporting a community that required thinking about how the institution's core values work through in a new digital frame.

Unknown Speaker 24:25
So I said at the beginning that in the 21st century, we interact with long timescale institutions via short timescale technologies. I want to acknowledge that a lot of my colleagues in the tech industry talk about a different kind of scale, of sort of scale of reach, without differentiating very closely between the importance of the things they're talking about so you can have anything from a fad you know, like fidget spinners. Although those are an assistive technology for some folks, there was quite a vote for them with everyone for a couple of years ago, and to an institution like the government of the United States that employs 3 million people and affects not just the people within its boundaries, but outside. But I think also as we think about how long things last in, in their scale, we may have fads products with companies and then we have traditions, even little ones like visiting the Exploratorium and sticking your sticker on the sign that becomes an alien that can affect us profoundly when they get called back in a different context. In the field of digital design and architectural design before that, there's a lot of talk about the idea of PACE layers that we can work on certain things at a certain speed and other things at a faster speed. This is a version borrowed from Jorge Uranga, his excellent book living in information that helps me think about where we're dealing with an institutional layer and where we're kind of dealing with the concerns of design. And one of the things about working closely with governments and courts is that I'm often called to work into the institutional layers. So let's say we have a court I want to talk about a foundational infrastructural idea of the court because it's something that I've needed to change in the digital sphere. In doing work to help the California courts better serve constituents who aren't able to access a lawyer. That seems like kind of a mouthful. But are the key pieces of legal practice? uncontroversial? Almost unquestionable is the idea that anything we deliver must be accurate. You can get a lot of trouble if you're part of the legal world and you miss on accuracy in working to figure out how to help a broader public access the courts to pursue their rights in the way that they needed to. We discovered that accuracy was often seen as kind of a blocker to the way that we wanted to communicate to people using modern digital means. And there's nothing wrong with accuracy. But we eventually ended up in a long whiteboard session trying to unpack what accuracy meant. If you have a form, this is a typical court form. This one happens to be if you need to file. A parentage are what's more traditionally called a paternity case. That has been carefully carefully designed by committee and checked for accuracy. When you go to a digital design that goes for short text and easy readability, you can lose some of the technical accuracy. And this is scary and disconcerting because it seems to attack one of the core values of an institution like not just a court but like law and when we had our whiteboard session unpacking the idea of what accuracy really meant. We figured out that in legal training, accuracy has a lot to do with being both comprehensive and precise. And that it was specifically those efforts that were leading people to write and talk in a way that was extremely difficult for a typical California just a regular member of the public or a more vulnerable member of the public. Maybe somebody whose English is not a first language to understand. And taking the next step when we started to ask whose accurate understanding we're aiming for. We were working at a deeper layer and actually adding a useful piece to that paste layer at the bottom or we're talking about

Unknown Speaker 28:58
scrolling back a couple. Those institutional layers the purpose and the governance are both involved in the accuracy thing. But if we are framing, we need to write so that a typical Californian takes away an accurate impression from what they see in our not just our digital presence but our digital existence. Then we've reconnected to that core value given it a new angle, and permitted the institution to persist over time while meeting its constituents in a new digital space.

Unknown Speaker 29:34
So if we

Unknown Speaker 29:36
go into our city again, and start to think about what's underneath the city, there are certain infrastructures that support all of those great institutions that make the city a good place to live with. We have a subway tunnel under the main street. Maybe we've got broadband lines, maybe we've got pipes that bring water that maybe we don't think about maybe we've got sanitation trucks that come once a week and take away the refuse so that disease doesn't spread. And we've got all the rest of these institutions that are supported by this infrastructure. One of the best things I read in 2021 was a piece by an engineering professor named Deb chatra called care at scale. And she asked the question in it, how do we build towards an infrastructure of care and she talks about she is able to be a professor because of where she was privileged to live. She doesn't have to spend time and energy looking for fuel for cooking or heating or for water that's all delivered to her home by her municipality as part of a statewide network. That is there. For everybody who lives in Massachusetts. And when we think about what we need to deliver a digital future that isn't just digital, but is better. We need good infrastructures, because those are what allow institutions like museums like courts, like hospitals, to provide abundantly for the members that they want to deliver. Not just services but a sense of membership and belonging to. The thing about infrastructure right now is that it can be unevenly distributed as William Gibson said also poorly fitted and outdated. This comes from a project I was privileged to work on last year looking at a technology strategy for the California Executive Branch. There are about 230,000 employees of the State of California and we discovered that a significant percentage of them couldn't easily hold a video call with a colleague in a different department and to boot quite a few of them didn't have the basic building blocks to set up a digital service on their own. Something for the public. That the public might newly need. That cool vaccine service that San Francisco had it's underpinned by a 30 person digital team. Those people make up a key piece of infrastructure for the city and county. They put together the government versions of these experiences for us. And I'm intensely conscious that few cities have access to this kind of resource. But yet we each expect our cities to deliver things that are just as good as a major city with a team like this for San Francisco can and I'm guessing that with public sector institutions as a whole be between what a really major museum and a local historical museum and perhaps a you know, a small museum about the life of one person have access to in terms of infrastructure, there's enormously wide variety. So in civic tech, we like to imagine a future where very simply, every government agency, you can share data with another and maybe they can build a new digital service in a week with internal resources without hiring somebody or paying a lot for extra stuff. But what that really means is that the the service motivations and creativity of the public servants who make all those design decisions are unlocked and supported with digital tools to allow them to offer their members abundant services and an inclusive experience. There are MANY visions of the digital future being promulgated right now that I am scared of. They're usually by people who are more excited about technology than they are about communities. And they fit into I would say something like a cyberpunk dystopia. mode, where we are pretty constantly surveilled, where we can't rely on institutional systems where we might need private currencies or private armies, or private education's taken to the extreme. I don't think these are the ones that we want, I think we want the ones that come from resilient existing institutions that include together government, the arts, medicine, that our public health structures, our art structures all work together, to bring us back together into a better community.

Unknown Speaker 34:32
So another favorite reading from this year came from one of my favorite science fiction writers Malka older who writes actually optimistic near future stories that are mostly about governments. And in a recent op ed in the New York Times, she talked about how institutions start as new ideas, and sometimes they're controversial in the beginning. The idea of building a pipe to everybody in Massachusetts, as mentioned in the other article, may have had a lot of contention around whether the state should invest in that. But if institutions get enough adherents, they get put into practice, and people believe in it, and they act as if they believe in it, and that supports it over the long term. And as we just begin to start to approach the end of the pandemic, there are so MANY things that we want to shift to continue some of what we've been doing some of what you've all been talking about over the last three weeks of this digital conference. And when I first wrote the slide about what we want and civic tech, I didn't quite know how to write an analogous slide for what you might want my colleagues and another public sector space, but I think so what we really need is to be able to imagine a future where the public spirited creativity of all of you, and the museum's that you work with can flourish because you have the infrastructure, you have the pipes, you have the pieces you don't have to think about to do the things that offer your public, those great and public spirited experiences. And I hope that going forward as we come out of the pandemic as we come out of the conference, that the idea of public infrastructure and the if the importance of the digital experience and the connections of the whole public sphere will be something that you can take with you. So thank you very much.

Unknown Speaker 36:47
Thank you so much. Thank you very much said

Museum Computer Network 36:53
really good, thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Yes. Thanks. All right. Well, here we are. I just wanted to hold on a sec. I just met need to make a little adjustment on the sharing my screen here. All right. Can everyone see that? Yeah. So all right. So here we are. We made it on from all of us at MC N Thank you for attending MC in 2021. Obviously, the format of this conference was quite different from previous years but know that it was very much by design. When we started planning for the conference earlier this year, we didn't know if we'd be able to meet in person, let it know if it would be safe. So we knew it would be virtual again for sure. But we also knew that we needed to make some changes to the format to account for new living and working conditions during the pandemic. You know, working from home, managing virtual spaces with Grace even though we're all passively exhausted from being always on, Zoom fatigue. Google meet fatigue, Microsoft Teams fatigue, fatigue period and that blah, feeling that Adam Grant nicknamed languishing, and so much more. So we introduced some pretty bold changes this year, shorter days, shorter session duration we introduced six main tracks organized in digital practice areas. We added daily and a global recap. And we also added a global track to the program inviting museum check professionals from four global regions to share their experiences from their perspective, their respective perfect regional perspective. We hope that you've enjoyed the program, the connections you've made in the conversation you've had throughout the conference. As always, we'd love to sorry, I'm having difficulty Yeah. As always, we'd love to hear your feedback. And here's a link to the conference survey which will be emailed to you by the end of today. For those of you who have attended a conference, and we're always thinking of all the ways that we can bring the knowledge, camaraderie and expertise you've come to expect from the MCM community to you in a format that makes sense. So please share your thoughts with us and we're here as we're continuing to look at as we're looking to continue eriously improve we'd like to thank our sponsors. This conference would never be possible without the help of our sponsors, and especially thanks to all of them who have joined us this year. Also, thank you for the Knight Foundation for their continued support. We've accomplished a lot this past year. We've introduced a brand new member portal. We migrated our sakes from base camp to the member portal. We retired the MCL the old listserv and launched the MCM forum on groups IO. And we were able with the support of Knight Foundation, partially to produce our first annual virtual conference last year, and this year working on improving the mentorship program and launching an online resource platform for the entire museum community. All of this is made possible thanks to Knight Foundation, and their generous support. I think there were 208 speakers presenters this year. So really a huge shout out to all the speakers, panelists and track leads you were if you aren't already, members, and we sincerely hope that your exposure to this community will make you want to join us and help keep this valuable resource for the sector. Also a special thanks to our MANY international presenters who generously shares their perspective for what is digital now in their respective regions. We hope that you've enjoyed the conversations. Another huge thanks to all the volunteers of the conference program committee. You are the messenger of the voice of the MCM community from planning the theme, to reviewing proposals, hosting tracks and so much more. Thank you to each of you this conference would exist without your ideas and input. I'm behind the scenes. These are the volunteers who helped the help desk and to address and resolve your concerns throughout the conference. Yvonne

Unknown Speaker 41:38
sure and I'd like to jump in and say a huge thanks to Eric and the MC N staff and contractors who make MCs happen year round, not just during conference season. Thank you.

Museum Computer Network 41:50
Thanks. And in return a huge thanks to the small and mighty EMS. The the I'm sorry to the the board and who are also volunteers. And now I lead Seema Rao, her new VP and President elect to share some quick thoughts about what we might expect in terms of events next year.

Unknown Speaker 42:13
Hello, everyone. Um, I wish that I had a crystal ball like all of you probably do, but I don't know where this pandemic is going. And sadly, it's really not clear what the situation will be tomorrow, next month, let alone a year from now. So with that in mind, we really need to get together collectively as a community. And think about that. So I go back to what Eric said, we have a wonderful survey. Thank you to Ana who put it into the chat and we will email it to you as well, because we'd really like to understand what all of your financial situations are your institution's travel policies, so that we have a good way to make sure we meet your needs. And I'm going to turn it back to Yvonne.

Unknown Speaker 42:56
Thanks, Sima. Could you forward to the next slide, please. All right, closing send off. So a big big thank you once again to everyone the presenters, the volunteers, the participants, the sponsors. First timers long timers everybody for your support and contribution. I really think that it was a fantastic program. And so thank you, to everyone to make that happen. If you could advance to the next slide, please. Thank you. And then to that end, I'm really happy to announce that the 2022 mentorship program is now currently open for applications you have from now until November 24 to submit an application. Mentorship is a program that is a benefit of membership. So again, if you are not an MCM member, please consider joining us for the ability to take part in this fantastic program. Next slide. And with that final pitch to please fill out this survey, tell us all about your MCs 2021 experience. I personally will be reading every single one of the responses. And so make sure that you let your thoughts be known to us and with that. Just a final send off be well and we hope to be meeting again very soon. So thank you all.

Museum Computer Network 44:10
Thanks, everyone. Take good care. Thank you so much.