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On Diversity and Localism at Superscript

Looking back on last weekend’s Superscript, we’re pleased that so much of what we intended with the conference came to fruition. We hosted an incredible array of thinkers who are daily engaged in innovating within digital arts media. We represented cultural platforms, large and small, which aspire to national and international reach with their online […]

Superscript 2015Looking back on last weekend’s Superscript, we’re pleased that so much of what we intended with the conference came to fruition. We hosted an incredible array of thinkers who are daily engaged in innovating within digital arts media. We represented cultural platforms, large and small, which aspire to national and international reach with their online projects. And we achieved a compelling mix on stage, bringing together voices from different disciplines, geographies, races, and perspectives to shed light on the conference’s central concerns. Superscript has been a rare and wonderful opportunity to bring an extraordinary group of people at the leading edge of online arts publishing to Minneapolis to speak, and we couldn’t be more grateful and pleased with how those conversations unfolded.

But we know that the mix on stage last week left out some key voices—a fact that we’ve heard online, in tweets, and in person at the conference itself. While we featured speakers of many backgrounds, there were no African American panelists on stage, and the only Twin Cities residents featured were Walker or Mn Artists staffers.

We take criticisms of the makeup of Superscript panels sincerely, as input for if and when we do this again (and we hope we do). And we’d like to underscore: the degree of racial diversity reflected on stage was not the result of a lack of awareness, personal investment, or effort, but due to far more mundane issues including, notably, scheduling conflicts with invited speakers. The choice to feature non-Minnesota panelists was just that, a choice. Our intention was to be a good host, to bring thinkers working far away—from LA to St. Louis, New York to the UK—to Minneapolis for our community to meet.

Did we make the right choices? Not sure. Is there room for improvement? Always. Given the enthusiastic response to this inaugural presentation of Superscript, we’re hopeful that we’ll have many more chances in the future to bring in topics and speakers less in evidence in this first iteration of the event. The thoughtful responses and critiques currently circulating in person and online around the conference sessions and its related essays and blog posts seem to us a very good place from which to launch these questions and conversations going forward.

In closing, we’d like to share a key part of our thinking about Superscript: it’s not just a conference for 300 people who could join us at the Walker for three days in May. We intend it to be an ongoing conversation sparked by a conference—and informing any future iterations of it. To this end, we strove for accessibility to the ideas presented and created a platform to expand the discussion and include more voices and vantage points. Our three-camera live webstream (made available online today) brought the conference, for free, to people all around the world. Our Superscript Blog Mentorship program—featuring a truly diverse group of emerging writers and arts editors—gave opportunity to new bloggers, while providing context to the conference for those not in attendance. And the Superscript Reader, the conference’s online editorial companion, is featuring an array of voices and topics not addressed on-stage, including, among others, An Xiao Mina writing on the ways artists can use the Internet within social movements, Art of the Rural’s Matthew Fluharty on how the Internet can help us draw a new map of the art world, and ARTS.BLACK’s Taylor Aldridge and Jessica Lynne’s consideration of privilege, race, and criticism, to name a few. We’re proud of those efforts, and we’re ever striving to do better.

We’re so grateful to all of you who have participated in Superscript, at the Walker, online, and in your own writing. And we’re eager to keep the conversation going to make Superscript—the conference and the discussion that surrounds it—even better.

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