ISTAS13 Conference

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To be perfectly honest I now consider the idea of planning and convening any further international conference as a shoe in compared to the extortionate amount of time I spent assisting as Publicity Chair for the 2013 IEEE International Symposium ‘ISTAS’13’ on Technology and Society - Smartworld: People As Sensors conference which was held at the University of Toronto, Canada in 2013.

Literally hundreds of unpaid hours meeting online or building the main event website.

I recall work at the Australian National Data Services (ANDS) at the time and using a great deal of my time that I should have been occupied at work instead running Skype calls with the conference Committee which was comprised of my Supervisor, Professor Katina Michael and a number of characters from IEEE and other fields of technology orientation.

After a brief meeting with the Chair of the Committee I noticed glaring anomalies with the proposed running of the event, the budget, the venue, the catering company and a number of other logistical nightmares. In my discussions with my supervisor and at her invite I was nominated to the Publicity Chair and proceeded to connect the event to activities I was across from a number of other networks via the Internet. After a few failed attempts at meeting as a committee we discovered the the Chair was in fact on holidays and that unravelled a series of correspondences and ultimately a vote of no confidence in the Chair. Fairly unprecedented I’d imagine for a beast as big as IEEE.

ISTAS'13 was:

  • a year of planning and funding granted to travel to Toronto via Washington;

  • a year filled with many Skypes calls;

  • the formation of the event website which started in Squarespace and migrated across to an IEEE sites location;

  • blogging to Uberveillance.com through that time;

  • almost a month away from family;

  • meeting a whole range of stakeholders and delegates;

  • a media statement distributed;

  • ...and all of this overlapping with my work with IEEE SSIT setting up their new website.

 I was also presenting, working, travelling, authoring and so on through this time and so without a timeline I’m scrambling for where this all fits together. I’ll need to get that operational in Scrivener and match it to the archives I have in the Lacie drive I think. That way I can also update from Figshare and Archive.org and so on all the various things that make up the PhD….that timeline I think will be critical.

In participant observer mode, often standing well away from conference events I noted a number of what I consider to be important ‘human’ relational issues which at times overshadowed conviviality and substantiated the skeptical manner in which techno evangelism is then treated.


“… I have now observed first hand humans who have ‘become the camera to the detriment of their own human relationship with the world’ as I’ve overheard stated from senior academics and world leaders in privacy protections who made statements in conversation with me that “… amongst a greater Veillance community these borgs are looking mostly in at themselves unaware they are proponents of the very same panopticon they sought to escape”.


Obviously I won’t name them here but read the thesis and you will figure out who from the interview transcripts. For instance, as noted by a number of delegates who writhed in mirth at Professor Steve Mann’s bear hugs and adulations of prosaic acronym enriched monologue visibly frustrating Marvin Minsky, the ‘charades’ and obvious self aggrandisement continued during the Keynote presentation by Gordon Bell, Emeritus Researcher at Microsoft.


“… I must admit I did feel personally (when out of my role as Publicity Chair) particularly towards the end of this huge investment of human assembly that the epic grandeur of the great old hall at Toronto University where the main presentations were held seemed lost on a large group of cyborgs focussed on the end of humanity and the beginnings of technological Singularity, as if history had no place in their rush to get to a future devoid of humanity. Then I looked around and noted that it wasn’t the fanfare and spectacle that mattered, rather that in one place we had all the protagonists of those who are listening beyond corporeality, seeing beyond a computer vision and sensing their way forward as humans connected with culture and Country.”


Ray Kurzweil was preaching about reaching immortality and yet history is littered with those who have done so largely forgotten as the reality of those they could have emancipated lay prone at their human feet. We all know…well it seems those who are human first know, that immortality is reached through legacy, by helping others, not by pursuing one's own quest for immortality. Pursuing immortality is futile because it is our responsibility (I’m learning!) to leave the planet so others can benefit from what we gave back, not took out.


“... This assertion of a Veillance community resonates in sharp contrast to many of those who claim that sousveillance is nothing more than another extension of an already burgeoning state surveillance. A great tension is evident and as evidenced in the interviews in comparison to the participant observer activities, principally those who endorse sousveillance as an act of recalcitrance; those who dismiss anything which circumvents a surveillance state; those who view such technologies as ‘disfiguring’ humanity and as very evident during the ISTAS’13 proceedings those who don't rightly care what the social or ethical outcome is of their own activities using these wearable computing technologies provided there is a profit margin.”


“… Commenting on his attendance at the ISTAS’13 conference at Toronto University, Canada, (Danaylov, N. P. 4) makes the observation that “… the ratio between attendee and amazing presenters and people at this place is unmatched (…) I don’t really care what you think of people like Marvin Minsky and whether you approve of their theories or you do not (…) go and have a drink or dinner with them and see who they are and what they are as real human beings. I think that’s very revealing and a very enriching process and it’s very interesting learning experience (…) being able to meet people like Thad Starner, Marvin Minsky even Steve Mann.” (Danaylov, N. P. 4)


Access the Media Statement [ HTML ]

Download the UOW Media Release [ PDF ]

Visit the event website [ HTML ]

Visit the IEEE ISTAS13 Archive website [ HTML ]

Download the full conference proceedings [ PDF ]

Access the full conference proceedings [ HTML ]