Why I’ve Declined Your Kind Invitation (and why you should try again)

An Open Letter to everyone who’s recently invited me to speak at their event.

I really want to attend your event. It’s probably very close to my current interests – technological citizenship, ‘smart cities’, the Internet of Things, ethics and communication rights.  There are probably really great people also coming to this event, people who share these interests and with whom I’d have amazing discussions and maybe even collaborate with in the future.

I know that if I don’t attend your event all of these opportunities are lost.

And yes – I’m still working on the kinds of things that caused you to invite me. My book proposal on technological citizenships is out for review. I have a paper on open source knowledge and IoT/citizen science projects that’s nearly published. I’m as enthusiastic as ever about meeting and working with cities, communities and activists who are using data and sensing technologies to tell their own stories and change the governance of their cities and communities.

But getting that work done is difficult. At the moment I’m a solo researcher – attending your event might help me meet more collaborators, but it also takes time from reading, writing, interviewing and putting together grant proposals. Not to mention leading a new MSc programme in Data & Society – and organizing my own events as part of this.

I also have full time teaching responsibilities, and a young family with another parent who also works long hours.

Right now, I’m not attending your event because I’m committed to getting the serious work done – researching, writing and thinking carefully so I have something significant to contribute. I know that this has some risks, but I want to take time to understand what’s happening and what’s at stake. I’ve decided not to spend my time running from lecture theatre to airport and back to pack in all of the experiences I can. I hope this makes my work better – and more important for all of us.

So please – don’t assume that since I’ve declined this time, I’m not interested.

Please invite me again. Share your event feedback. Let me know what you are working on. Maybe together we can find a way to advance our research without exhausting ourselves.