Please read this important letter from the ELO Board of Directors. You can download a pdf here.
Dear Members of the ELO Community,
As the recent letters addressed to our community and the open forum hosted by the ELO Board of Directors have both highlighted, members of our community have questioned the ability of the ELO organization to effectively address issues of equality. We acknowledge an urgent need for our organization to foreground inclusivity by extending support of marginalized colleagues and by amplifying their roles within ELO governance and activities. As members of the Board of Directors, we pledge to center this work and to respond to the community discussions with action.
This year, the ELO Conference is being organized by a three-part international collective for the first time. The goal of this effort is greater inclusivity and accessibility across time zones, as well as increased visibility for the global work of the field. However, we recognize that this new organizational structure has brought with it communication challenges, and the work that has been most visible at this first stage has centered white and male curatorial contributions. While the overall exhibitions themselves showcase the art and energy of diverse creators, and we do not wish to render that significant art and labour invisible, we take responsibility for not making this diversity more visible to the community.
The conference organizers have taken proactive steps in recommending ways for the Board to improve the inclusivity and transparency of the 2021 conference. To support the distributed teams in their efforts, the Board has asked ELO Vice President Caitlin Fisher to serve in a new role as Global Conference Coordinator. In this role, she will work to facilitate clearer communication and transparency in the Conference moving forward. Additionally, the Board is assisting efforts to diversify Conference review committees: Claudia Kozak and Erik Loyer are joining the Platforming Utopias curation team, and Caitlin Fisher and Anastasia Salter have joined the program committee. We recognize that the circumstances of the pandemic have created unequally distributed consequences for participation and submission in the conference processes this year. The Board will work to assist the Conference team in reaching and centering diverse voices in Conference keynotes and events.
Institutionally, we note that the organization has outgrown its current models for governing structures. To that end, the Board will be conducting a review of the bylaws and working towards a new process for governance that will involve the full ELO community in the process of selecting its leadership body. Rather than asking a dedicated group to work on these challenges, we view it as a central challenge that the Board can and will address to ensure accountability and transparency to the community on all future decisions. We hope to continue to build on the progress we’ve made in initiatives such as the Electronic Literature Collections, the ELO Fellows program, and the ELO Awards in order to craft inclusive collectives and transparency in editorial and award processes.
We also note that the inclusivity and accessibility of our 2020 conference was greatly increased by reliance on digital platforms. The challenges of the pandemic presented an opportunity to address this long-standing community concern, and we commit to continue building on this success. The call for conference hosting in 2022 will ask for proposals for a hybrid conference, to enable both a return to in-person community (with significant attention to accommodating disability of any sort) and continued access for those seeking to participate virtually. We hope these efforts will enable the community to grow not just in scale, but in inclusivity. We will strive as a Board to lead conscious reflection and institutional change by committing our resources to this work.
For the sake of transparency and accountability, the ELO Board commits to dedicating time during its First Fridays and Town Hall meetings to ongoing discussion and updates for the community on our work in progress concerning equity, diversity, and inclusivity in our community. Our goal is to have a sustained, constructive dialogue with our community that leads to positive change. We will also publish and enforce a code of conduct based on the one we used in our 2020 conference (https://elo.cah.ucf.edu/conference-behavior/) to all our social media platforms, conferences, and events. We hope our community will engage in collegial, good faith, even generous discussions with the Board, with Conference organizers, and with other members of the community to help us achieve that goal.
We conclude by expressing our gratitude for the people who have volunteered their time, money, and talent to building this organization and community over the last 20 years. We thank the team for the 2021 ELO Conference for their hard work to make this virtual, global meeting a gathering place for all of our community. And we thank our community members, who by expressing their concerns have placed their trust in our ability to listen and do better.
And we will.
The ELO Board of Directors