Public Engagement in Deep Space

by Paul Gilster on June 11, 2013

Congratulations to Icarus Interstellar, which with five days to go has easily surpassed its goal of raising $10,000 on Kickstarter. The campaign supports the Starship Congress to be held in Dallas August 15-18 at the Anatole Hilton Conference Center. It is described on the Kickstarter page as “…a forum where scientists, physicists, engineers, researchers, urban designers, representatives from international space programs and present-day commercial space operators, as well as popular and well-known interstellar speakers and space journalists share their visions for how the future of spaceflight and interstellar exploration is to unfold.”

The Kickstarter description also includes a quick refresher on Project Icarus itself, the main goals of which are:

  • To design a credible interstellar probe that is a concept design for a potential mission this century;
  • To allow a direct technology comparison with Daedalus and provide an assesment of the maturity of fusion-based space propulsion for future precursor missions;
  • To generate greater interest in the real term prospects for interstellar precursor missions;
  • To motivate a new generation of scientists to be interested in designing space missions that go beyond our solar system. [our emphasis]

Crowdsourcing a Space Telescope

And while we’re on the subject of Kickstarter, which raises public money through donations small and large, I’m seeing 19 days to go on the ARKYD space telescope project from Planetary Resources. Kickstarter works by letting you run a campaign with a definite time limit — the project is funded only if the goal is reached within the deadline. Planetary Resources already has $851,000 pledged toward a goal of $1 million in the service of a publicly accessible space telescope. It’s clear the funding mission will succeed, as have 43,000 other projects since Kickstarter’s 2009 launch, involving 4.2 million people in over $650 million in donations.

arkyd100

Image: The ARKYD 100 is the first private space telescope and a stepping-stone to near-Earth asteroids. This space telescope, utilized in low Earth orbit, represents the next milestone on our technology development roadmap. Credit: Planetary Resources.

With a 2015 launch in prospect, the ARKYD 100 makes Planetary Resources’ hunt for asteroids a reality to the public, some of whom, for a pledge of $99, will be able to use it to look at the object of their choice. A wide variety of rewards are available for pledges at many levels, including the prospect of having an asteroid named after the benefactor. But the real kick is to put public contributions large and small together to get a working scientific instrument into space. A $25 pledge nets you an image of yourself displayed on an ARKYD viewscreen as it orbits the Earth.

With a Web and mobile app on the way to handle photo uploading and retrieval as well as mission tracking, Planetary Resources has done a superb job of anticipating what it will take to energize students and build careers. But I like especially the philosophical aspect behind the project. The ARKYD 100 shows us that all of us can become a part of an ongoing effort to develop space resources, with contributions from all over the planet. I can see why there’s a rush to get this project funded as phase 1 of the larger goal of asteroid mining.

Currency and Deep Time

I can’t leave the subject of fundraising for worthy science without mentioning The Long Now Foundation’s ongoing effort to raise $495,000 in support of its Salon building project. Long Now is transforming its existing museum at Fort Mason Center in San Francisco into a showcase for the long-term projects it supports. Already the home of receptions and other small events, as well as a steady stream of students, tourists and other visitors, the museum now needs renovation to create a gathering space that incorporates Long Now artifacts, a two-story crowd-curated library, and an updated A/V system to support its public outreach.

longnowclock

Image: The dial of prototype 1 of the 10,000 Year Clock, a vital part of the effort to expand human thinking to time-frames well beyond a single lifetime. Credit: Long Now Foundation.

The donation rewards here, like those for ARKYD, range across the price spectrum and include everything from exotic teas to flasks with the Long Now logo and a variety of unique spirits. What projects like these illustrate, though, isn’t easily captured in a material reward. For much of the public and for too long a time, science and exploration have become matters done by others, things to read about or watch on the news. Crowdsourcing is one way to get the public involved not through an obligatory tax but a voluntary contribution chosen out of personal interest in the subject.

We have many signs all around us that dedicated individuals can do things and make a difference in science. Maybe the most obvious example is the ongoing work of amateur astronomers who, with off-the-shelf equipment, are making a serious contribution to the exoplanet hunt not only through their own observations but also by working with images and light-curves made available on the Internet for close scrutiny by volunteers. Now through crowdsourcing, young people with a few dollars and genuine enthusiasm can feel themselves to be a part of this wave of public engagement. Exciting projects like these are well worth their attention.

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{ 29 comments }

Tibor June 11, 2013 at 16:31

Paul,

I cannot resist to cite the last paragraph of my argument in our Long Bet #395:

“The Internet has channelled enormous power into collaborative work in a historically unprecedented way. For example, it has already helped in forming of numerous new organizations which aim at long term thinking, inclusive this Long Bet site. Within these, web-based interstellar advocate groups – like Centauri Dreams, the Tau Zero Foundation and peregrinus interstellar – are growing. I believe that such a collective power of Earth’s citizenship, together with fast technical development and compelling motivation as mentioned above, will support the birth of the first interstellar mission soon.”

I would like to point at Icarus Interstellar’s Tin Tin Project as well:
http://www.icarusinterstellar.org/projects/project-tin-tin/

And I hope to be “the one to pop the Champagne cork when we meet seventeen (- now twelwe -) years from now in Budapest to seal the deal.”

Anyway, it will be a great fun to see You here in Budapest!

Ad Astra & Cheers,

Tibor

PS: for “newcomers” a must-read: http://www.centauri-dreams.org/?p=5265

will June 11, 2013 at 17:11

I don’t understand – is ARKYD 100 already in space or not ?

Doug M. June 11, 2013 at 18:39

Well, let’s check out the schedule: http://www.icarusinterstellar.org/congress-schedule/

The conference has 30 speaker slots and six keynoters. As of today, a few speaker slots are still TBD, but all the keynotes are filled. A total of 27 speakers have signed up (some doubled, so there are still 6 empty slots). How’s the mix looking?

Well, it’s impossible to be certain of ethnic composition from a list of names. That said, photos of about half the participants can be found on the II blog: http://www.icarusinterstellar.org/blog/. And of the ones that we see… well, it’s looking like 100% white, 90% guys again.

No question about the “guys” part; of the 33 speakers, including keynoters, 32 are male.

On the plus side, skimming the photos and a few CVs, it looks like the median age is not that high. Mid 40s by the look of it. That’s great.

– Here’s an open question for the forum. Has there ever been an interstellar conference that /wasn’t/ overwhelmingly white and male? Not a trick question; I’m sincerely curious.

Doug M.

ljk June 11, 2013 at 22:38

Perhaps this is of some relevance:

http://chroniclesofharriet.com/2013/06/11/were-here/

Eric June 11, 2013 at 22:42

Doug,

I was curious about your question, so I typed “India” and “interstellar conference” into Google, and repeated the query for “China”. I figured this would be an overly specific query, but one of the first hits for the Indian query might be of interest to you:
http://www.icarusinterstellar.org/interstellar-travel-highlights-in-spaceup-india/

You might say that doesn’t count as an “interstellar conference” but that seems like quibbling to me. This photo gives an idea of the male to female ratio of the participants:
http://www.icarusinterstellar.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/SpaceUp-India.jpg

Eric June 11, 2013 at 23:29

Doug, one more comment: I think you’re interested in engaging a larger portion of the general public, but there is the academic world to consider too. The International Symposium on Space Technology and Science is an annual conference in Japan. If you check the paper archive ( http://archive.ists.or.jp/ ) , there are tons of papers on sails (solar, magnetic, etc). Not surprising, given Ikaros. It is hard for me to imagine all those experts on sail technology getting together and, after hours, not talking about interstellar travel!

Darth Imperius June 12, 2013 at 1:02

Hey Doug M., is there any particular reason why you feel the need to inflict this kind of haranguing on the good people of this blog? What exactly are you insinuating? Is there some moral significance to these demographic observations? I know people here are generally tolerant of your kind, but I don’t have that problem. I’ll say what many of them are too polite and browbeaten to say: get lost! The project of space exploration needs big thinkers and great minds, not petty guilt-mongers and racial bean counters. If anyone wonders why our civilization has trouble achieving great things these days, look no further than Doug M. Stop thinking so small, friend!

Karen Anderson June 12, 2013 at 2:02

Doug M.: This white female does keep trying. Saw a bunch of y’all at David Brin’s San Diego afterparty, but knees weren’t fit to attend the sessions. Won’t be able to attend San Antonio, for the same reason. Unfortunately.

Michael June 12, 2013 at 2:49

What is your ultimate goal Doug M, racial, cultural, genderal, intellectual and linguistical communism! where we are one race, one culture, one gender, of one thought and speak one language so as not to offend anyone. One of mankind’s strength’s is our differences, competition drives evolution.

Do you also post promoting a unified humanity on the Women’s Institute’s website, I see their Directors are mostly female and white! or on the Indian space programs one, I see they are all male and non-white.

‘And of the ones that we see… well, it’s looking like 100% white, 90% guys again. Doug M ‘

If they are all white, who are a minority in the World wish to speak let them, it is just their right as any other race/culture or genders. If they put the effort in let them speak it should not be down to quotas because someone might be offended.

‘Now go back under your bridge, the shopping trolley is missing you’

Peter June 12, 2013 at 6:49

I would guess no, but that doesn’t imply discrimination. I haven’t attended any of these conferences, but if you asked those that did and whether other races or sexes were treated differently, I think the unanimous answer would be “No”.

Paul Gilster June 12, 2013 at 9:34

Tibor writes:

And I hope to be “the one to pop the Champagne cork when we meet seventeen (- now twelwe -) years from now in Budapest to seal the deal.”

Tibor, great to hear from you, and thanks for reminding us of the ongoing interstellar bet! It will be a pleasure indeed to see you in Budapest (but surely sooner?), no matter who winds up winning the bet.

Paul Gilster June 12, 2013 at 9:37

will writes:

I don’t understand – is ARKYD 100 already in space or not ?

It’s still under development. More here:

http://www.planetaryresources.com/technology/leo-space-telescope/

Mike Mongo June 12, 2013 at 9:44

First, thanks to Paul for this article—another in his long-standing support of the science of interstellar space exploration and its related by necessity corollaries.

Second, in reply to Doug M., the answer to your question, “has there ever been an interstellar conference that wasn’t overwhelming white and male?”, the answer is yes. As a matter of fact, I commented on this at last year’s 100 Year Starship.
https://twitter.com/MikeMongo/statuses/246998333959327744

For many this is a non-concern. I am not one of those people. As an openly-bisexual person whose wife is [not my own skin color], matters such as preference, race, creed, persuasion, gender and ability & disability play into my thinking. Clearly it did in my tweet from 100YSS last year. Of all things, this is what I thought was 100YSS’ greatest success.

What I need—and what I strive for with my contributions to Starship Congress*—is a happy medium. Somewhere between trying and failing is succeeding. The simple view is that “Scientists who are male and Caucasian comprise a disproportionate percentage of the researcher population. This results in same group unconsciously reinforcing the status quo.” The specific of that outlook may be a little trickier that that.

For instance, in my work I must get the job done (whatever that may be). But in working with peers and associates, as it turns out my job is also to speak out and make sure that I am included in their world view. How I manage this is by speaking out and making corrections where necessary. For instance, at recent space conferences, I had the opportunity TWICE to explain why the f-bomb (it may not be the one you are thinking) is unacceptable in most professional dialogs—it was a heated explanation, to say the least—and that to use the expression ‘gay’ as a pejorative is absolutely unacceptable.

As I stated, standing my ground on these matters are not merely my responsibilities, they are as I explained my opportunities. People are not naturally bigoted or discriminatory, it is learned behavior. As the saying goes—and it is certainly one I adhere to—”each one teach one”.

This is why 100YSS was so refreshing. Whatever else, the variety of individuals and of minds at that conference was one such with whom I could live on a spaceship with. In fact, this may be 100YSS ultimate purpose: to be a prime example of what the first large crew of a large spaceship will be like.

That said, by inviting representatives from ALL the interstellar organizations, Starship Congress may be what the first large interstellar spaceship’s governing body will be like. And then with work, it will change to meet the reality of our diverse populations. If you want to be part of deciding that future, in addition to contributing with ideas, I encourage you to physically attend Starship Congress. Our interstellar future will not meet us until we do the work to meet it.

*Full-disclosure: I am creative strategy director for Starship Congress.

Doug M. June 12, 2013 at 11:27

@ljk, that’s great! Yeah, black fandom has had a long uphill struggle. The internet has made it possible, not only for people to find each other, but to share common experiences — that “I thought I was the only one” thing he mentions.

@Eric, the SpaceUp conference is indeed encouraging! Not only was it a diverse group with a lot of women, but based on the photographs it was a *young* group as well. That’s great! We need more of that!

Of course, SpaceUp took place in India.

Doug M.

Doug M. June 12, 2013 at 11:56

@ Eric, you write “I think you’re interested in engaging a larger portion of the general public”.

That’s a big part of it, yeah. In the long run, the interstellar project will need public interest and public support. So there’s an optics issue. If it’s seen as the weird hobby of a bunch of aging white dudes — fairly or not — then it’s never going to gain traction.

Another part is, I think the interstellar field is dangerously restricting its talent pool and its ability to recruit new people — especially in the US. If the faces that get presented to the public are overwhelmingly white and male, that’s sending an implicit message. Maybe not an intended message, but a message nonetheless.

Peter, you point out that people at conferences are probably treated the same once they’re there. Perhaps! Right now I’m interested in the question of why they’re not there in the first place.

Doug M.

Doug M. June 12, 2013 at 12:11

@Mike Mongo, several good points. Hey, really glad to hear about the 100 YSS! See, it’s possible. Proof of concept!

100 YSS is funded in large part by federal grants — a big one from DARPA, and a smaller one from NASA. I’m guessing that might have helped, and I mean that in a good way.

Starship crew — right, precisely. If you’re going to invite people into a vision of the future, it has to be a vision that, at least implicitly, *includes them in it*.

As for being creative director for Starship Congress… okay, now I’m curious. If you’re comfortable discussing it: is anyone doing any sort of outreach there? Or is it the more typical “we posted notices and calls for papers, whoever shows up shows up” pattern?

Doug M.

ljk June 12, 2013 at 12:57

Science fiction authors attack sexism amid row over SFWA magazine

SF writers’ association draws stinging criticism with chainmail bikini cover and articles praising Barbie and ‘lady editors’

guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 12 June 2013 09.24 EDT

http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2013/jun/12/science-fiction-sexism-sfwa

Marc June 12, 2013 at 13:12

Doug M,
To keep this constructive… Please suggest names for young females and minorities that work in these areas that we might have overlooked. The criteria I look for (without regards to sex or race) is that they have published in the peer review system (indicates they can endure the rigor), and write on topics more forward-thinking than their peers. This includes science fiction too.

Doug M. June 12, 2013 at 17:45

@Marc, I don’t think it would be appropriate to name particular individuals on a public forum. But if you’re interested in doing outreach, here are a couple of quick thoughts.

1) The American Astronomical Society has a Committee on the Status of Women in Astronomy. It holds periodic conferences, and also has intermittent “town halls” and presentations at astronomical conferences. You can reach them at http://www.aas.org/cswa/. They also have an active blog at http://womeninastronomy.blogspot.com/. If you reach out to them, I don’t doubt they’ll have plenty of good suggestions, and possibly some names to contact as well.

2) The American Physics Society has a similar committee on Women in Physics; their page is here http://www.aps.org/programs/women/. As with the astronomers, there are lots of resources, including links to their e-mail mailing lists, social media, and the like.

3) You could do the same with a wide range of professions, including every sort of engineer imaginable. Take, say, aerospace engineering. Google “women aerospace engineers” and… pow, here you are: http://www.womeninaerospace.org/ and http://www.womeninaerospacefoundation.org/foundation/.

4) The American Astronomy Society, bless them, also has a Committee on the Status of Minorities. If you’re looking for serious astronomers who have published in peer-reviewed journals who are also minorities, they know where to find them. http://csma.aas.org/

5) NASA is full of people who are interested in space. Many of those people are women or minorities. Many of them have web pages. Here’s one for Latina Women at NASA: http://oeop.larc.nasa.gov/hep/lwon/. There are others, both official and otherwise, pretty easily found with google.

6) As to science fiction, why not contact the SFWA? For all its various problems, SFWA is a pretty functional organization. And the outgoing President, John Scalzi, has tried to be sensitive to these sorts of issues. If you contacted him, I suspect he’d be delighted to help.

7) Finally, the folks over at 100 Year Starship seem to have done a remarkably good job assembling a diverse group to run their organization and to present at their conference. Apparently, this is reflected in the attendance, which was (I’m told at second hand) both younger and more diverse. So, why not drop them an e-mail?

Doug M.

Peter June 12, 2013 at 21:05

@ Doug,

The factors are so complex that I think it would be pointless to ponder them. So long as it’s not because of discrimination, and I think these days we can all agree that that isn’t an issue, I don’t see it as much of a problem.

I could speculate by saying that space doesn’t appeal so much to women because their instincts gravitate their thoughts more to home and safety (though that would probably be seen as sexist). Also, engineering is probably more hardwired into the male psyche…

As for ethnicity, space and scifi tends to be a cultural manifestation of rich highly developed (white) countries that can afford such pursuits…but we’re seeing now that other countries come on board the global economy that the interest in space exploration probably doesn’t have a racial bias. It happens regardless when people have enough free time to allow it.

ljk June 13, 2013 at 10:08

In my recent Centauri Dreams article on the book Civilizations Beyond Earth and the need to diversify the thinking and professions in the SETI and METI fields:

http://www.centauri-dreams.org/?p=27889

I brought up some suggestions that might help in this particular situation.

SETI even today “suffers” from being dominated by astronomical scientists and engineers. As a result the focus has been largely on detecting (and sending) radio transmissions from alien beings who are assumed to live on Earthlike planets circling Sol-type stars and behave at least when it comes to SETI and METI much like us. Half a century ago that might have been bold thinking, but it is pretty limited and limiting today.

In our fifty-plus years of SETI programs and a handful of METI efforts, we have yet to detect one verified signal from an alien society. Is this because there is no one out there to talk to? Or are we simply not being diverse enough when it comes to figuring out how real aliens might think and act and exist?

Civilizations Beyond Earth presents a range of papers and subjects that go beyond radio SETI and the other traditional assumptions of the field. While I did not investigate the ethnicities of the various authors who contributed to this work, I did not that there were more women than usual in such efforts. They also came from backgrounds not normally found in most SETI programs. They made some very insightful points that even if they do not “bag” us an alien any time soon, will at least go a long way to getting us out of certain paradigms long entrenched in SETI.

I get the feeling people here may feel “stuck” and out of their comfort zones that they have to run out and find some non-white non-males and hope they want to come to a starship conference whether they have any background or interest in the subject or not.

Instead how about doing for starships what needs to be done for SETI: Invite folks from different from relevant disciplines to participate in the effort. SETI has benefitted from the involvement of sociologists, anthropologist, biologists, and historians who know a thing or two about how different cultures interact with each other. The same will go for our plans to reach other star systems, especially if we want to send humans there in person.

So let us focus on diversifying our expertise and I believe the requested gender and ethnicity diversity will also follow.

Paul Gilster June 13, 2013 at 10:13

Doug M. writes:

Finally, the folks over at 100 Year Starship seem to have done a remarkably good job assembling a diverse group to run their organization and to present at their conference. Apparently, this is reflected in the attendance, which was (I’m told at second hand) both younger and more diverse. So, why not drop them an e-mail?

Doug, the interstellar groups are all volunteer. They almost have to be given the constraints of time and budget. Rather than remaining anonymous, why not get involved yourself by volunteering to one of them? That way you could discuss these issues openly with the people who are arranging future conferences.

Tau Zero has no conferences in the works, but obviously several other organizations are active. Here’s a list of places to volunteer:

http://www.tauzero.aero/interstellar_organizations

Doug M. June 13, 2013 at 10:48

@Paul, thanks for the kind suggestion. I was a member of the Planetary Society for a while but left — mostly because I had kids, which dramatically cut down on the time available to be active. I still have the kids, and also I’m currently living in a small developing country that doesn’t have any interstellar organization. So for now my involvement must be limited to these sorts of discussions.

As to the pseudonymity, it’s a very thin fabric indeed; anyone who really cares can find me in a few moments easily enough.

Doug M.

Doug M. June 13, 2013 at 12:16

Oddly enough, SFWA President John Scalzi just posted this on his blog a few hours ago: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2013/06/13/pledge-matching-today-for-the-carl-brandon-society/

Go figure.

Doug M.

Athena Andreadis June 13, 2013 at 19:28

People, you know Doug’s point about the narrow parochialism of these events & organizations is correct, otherwise you’d not be so defensive (“Girls’ brains just aren’t wired for rocket science!”). I’ve discussed this in the past and it’s not worth my time/effort to do so again. Here’s a reprise with relevant links.

C June 15, 2013 at 1:01

Actually people on this blog aren’t really being that defensive. Everything I read was constructive and admitted the complexity of why white males seem to dominate the area. Everyone is polite and all for getting everyone involved into this important community. And not to be PC, but interests and socioeconomics are the biggest factors. It’s not that difficult to figure out. As for the intent of the community – I don’t know anyone of them personally but I have read them online and watched them and videos and these are the last people that would discriminate.

Rob Henry June 19, 2013 at 17:59

Yes C these differences in groupings within intellectual pursuits occur without any intentionality. In most card and board games, men and women do approximately well, but in chess women are so much weaker that they have separate national and international championships. Judit Polgar caused a sensation when she once achieved a ranking of tenth in the world as measured by the male rankings. If you know anything about the chess world, I won’t need to note that she is the only woman in the top hundred.

As to why that is, I have no idea. All that I know for sure is that an attempt to balance it enforcing quotas in chess would be deleterious to the quality of play at the highest level. Perhaps it is for similar reasons that the statements made by some can sound to others more defensive than constructive because they have removed them from that context of how the human world really is.

Doug M. June 28, 2013 at 8:01

chess? really?

following that logic, Armenians must be more intelligent than the rest of us, because they have more grandmasters per capita than any other nation. (They’re closely followed by fellow superhumans Icelanders, Georgians and Serbs.)

China is 1/6th of the human race. before the 1980s there had only been one Chinese chess grandmaster and no Chinese citizen had ever broken into the top 100. then the Chinese government decided that China needed to become a world power in chess. today there are 30 Chinese GMs and seven Chinese players in the top 100. both those numbers are expected to double in the next decade. did the Chinese change genetically after 1980?

subsaharan Africa has only produced one grandmaster (Amon Simutowe of Zambia, 2007). is this because Africans aren’t good at chess? or would a Chinese-style program in, say, Nigeria deliver similar results?

women’s chess has always been the weak sibling, with much less funding, attention, and support. even the Soviets hardly cared about it. the situation has improved a bit in the last generation, though there’s still a huge gap. unsurprisingly, almost all the female grandmasters have emerged in the last generation. that said, it’s still going to take decades for the difference in support and resources to be eliminated — if it ever is.

anyway. there are a bunch of words I have never once mentioned: racist, discrimination, bigoted, or quotas. you guys bring this stuff up. nobody is proposing “enforcing quotas”. plenty of professional organizations have managed to dramatically expand their female and minority membership without needing to resort to quotas. the term you’re looking for is “outreach”, and much of the time it’s as simple as writing an e-mail.

Doug M.

Bernd Jendrissek June 29, 2013 at 0:10

The tone of most of the responses to Doug’s comments tell me that he’s absolutely nailed it. There’s something going on here, but it isn’t necessarily active discrimination. (I think it’s not just not necessarily that, I think it’s highly unlikely to be that.) The subtext I read here is something like, “We know there’s a representivity problem but we don’t like to think about it, and we certainly don’t appreciate you pointing it out.”

Maybe people in this interstellar community don’t want to grapple with these sociological issues because they see this as their refuge, a sort of holiday from having to make all the right politically correct utterances they have to make in their day jobs. This is a volunteer-driven community; there isn’t a “boss” telling people what to do. Doug’s pointing out that there’s clearly a Great Filter acting here sounds too much like that “boss” – that faceless memo from HR that talks about things that are utterly boring and seem only to distract from the real business, the space stuff!

I think there’s some soul-searching to do. (Not necessarily a guilt trip (unlikely).) Perhaps an identity crisis to work through: is this a group of friends with a common interest that happens to be interstellar studies, or is it an interstellar studies community whose members happen to be friends?

When I look at amateur radio meets, I see the same pattern. A bunch of almost exclusively older, white men. Almost none of whom explicitly (nor necessarily implicitly) harbour a discriminatory thought in their minds. Yet the whole culture is “rigged” (in quotes, because I find it unlikely that anyone deliberately designed it to have this outcome) to appeal to old (white?) men: a BBQ with lots of meat and little vegetable matter, and a beer for everyone and little else to drink. Imagine, as a man, visiting a knitting club, if you happened to be interested in knitting itself. Would the copious exhibits of (pink) frilly knitware and elaborate flower arrangements on the tables encourage you to visit the club again? I know I would find it a little… bored. I’d just keep knitting by myself, and the world would be (if I could knit) poorer for not knowing my particular knitting style.

So it isn’t just about not having bikini girl calendars hung on the walls at the events. It can be subtle things; unintentional things; things that aren’t even unreasonable to do. They’re just also things that might lead to some unintended consequences – like squandering the interest of some currently under-represented demographics.

So you want constructive suggestions? Sure thing. Think about your informal get-togethers after formal proceedings. I read a lot about these pub lunches/dinners, they sound very cozy and all. But what is that atmosphere like for someone who doesn’t “fit in” in that sort of environment? I won’t say stop going to the pub after the day, but at least think about it. And consider the kind of pub you go to – how you decide what to do, and where, specifically, to go. Who is driving that decision – and who isn’t?

(Irony: normally I’m one of the people wondering, “Ugh, who called the Internet social justice police?”)

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