"Building better technology, together": An Interview with The Recompiler's Audrey Eschright

"Building better technology, together": An Interview with The Recompiler's Audrey Eschright

Last week in an indie feminist science and tech magazine singularity, we teamed up with The Recompiler for a pledge matching day. The Recompiler is a quarterly digital and print feminist hacker magazine that applies an intersection feminist lens to technology, exploring topics related to data collection, infrastructure, security, and the tech industry itself.

Audrey Eschright, editor and publisher of The Recompiler, has first-hand experience in the tech industry as a software developer, as the founder of Calagator, an open source community calendaring service, and as co-founder of Open Source Bridge, an annual conference for open source citizens. In 2015, she launched The Recompiler, and she is currently running a Kickstarter campaign to fund the magazine’s third year. Coming off of a month long fundraising campaign, we know what a stressful and chaotic time it can be, so we are grateful for Audrey for taking the time to answer some questions for us about herself and The Recompiler.

What motivated you to start The Recompiler?

After working in the tech industry for over a decade, I felt there were some major ways we were misunderstanding the need for diversity. There’s a phenomenon I’ve heard called “corporate feminism”: you have women in tech breakfasts, special awards and profiles, and a lot of talk about getting more women in the industry. What you don’t see, often, is an intersectional perspective (Which women? What about trans men, men of color, men with disabilities? Do we even know that gender isn’t a binary?). You also find there’s an enormous pressure on people to act as experts on their own exclusion, and almost no interest in acknowledging that valuable participants leave all the time. That’s not why I learned to program, you know? I wanted to make things, not teach people how to listen to me in meetings. The Recompiler gives me an opportunity to display the tech industry I want to be a part of.

How does intersectionality shape the framework on your content?

A big part of it is that I assume that who we are affects what we create in every way. I’m always trying to figure out what I’ve overlooked and how we can better represent that.

What does it mean to make technology intersectional?  

That everyone has a voice, not only the majority. Certainly not just by social coercion, which happens, there’s a lot of pressure to play nice and not make a fuss. That we build things that solve real problems, from the enormous range of needs and interests people have.

What are some major themes or topics that you like to explore in the magazine?

The difference between how things are supposed to work and what actually happens.

Roadbumps in our learning processes, and how we get past them.

The social impact of bugs and security vulnerabilities.

The fun of creating things.

In addition to the quarterly magazine issues, you produce a bi-weekly podcast. Would you tell us a little bit about the podcast?

We did an episode about how your toaster was trying to kill you, and I think that’s pretty typical in some ways. The podcast is a mix of interviews with contributors from the magazine and news/commentary episodes with me and Christie (the host). We spend a lot of time talking about the downside of technology, and how big of an impact things like Facebook and data collection companies have. It’s not meant to be a total gloom fest, but I think both Christie and I believe the industry has avoided taking responsibility for the impact of what we’ve created, and that individual contributors need to be more informed.

This year you published a book titled The Responsible Communication Style Guide, a style guide for covering identity. Why is a style guide for identity necessary?

While each of us is an expert in our own personal identity and experiences, we need to know how to talk about other identities in a respectful way. Even for those of us who have tried to do the research, we’re not always up to date with changes in how different groups of people want to be represented. So the Style Guide is a tool to help us understand those things and give us the language to communicate better with each other.

What are the key topics that you cover in the style guide?

We focused on five areas: race, gender, sexuality, health/wellbeing, and religion. We also included essays on some common issues we encounter, like when to use person-first language, how to ask questions about someone’s identity, and how to talk about gender transitions.

Going into year three, you are running a Kickstarter campaign. What are your goals for the magazine for the upcoming year?

I really want us to have more stability, which is hard when I do it all myself, so one of my big goals is to pay an editor who isn’t me to work on each issue in 2018. I also want us to work on including more perspectives from outside the US and Western Europe.

You are the only staff member of the magazine. How in the world do you do it all?!

Haha, I don’t! I try to be very organized and on top of things, and I could give you an extensive list of tools. But the secret, honestly, is that I learned that some deadlines are meaningless and if you drop a task that no one else cares about, it’s fine. It helps that I get to create the structure and the plans for what we do, and I’m always changing things based on what’s working and what isn’t. I think it takes a huge amount of self-awareness and stubbornness, but I love it.

Also, I have an awesome partner who makes sure our cats get fed and that we have clean socks.

If you like the work that we do here, you will also enjoy The Recompiler. We are both working toward building a better feminist future—us, by looking to science’s past, and The Recompiler, by building better tools and stronger communities in the present.

Stay up to date with The Recompiler:

Subscribe to receive quarterly issues

Sign up their newsletter

Listen to their Podcast

Follow them on Twitter

And last but certainly not least, back their Kickstarter!

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