Outside Looking In: Working to Reshape the Cultural Memory of Tech

Accepted Session
Short Form
Scheduled: Wednesday, June 21, 2017 from 4:45 – 5:30pm in B302/303


This presentation talks about how the culture of technology is built around the cultural influence of those who've come first to the table. We'll look into how these narratives are made, what we can do about it, and the best ways these narratives can be challenged to make tech more open and accommodating to those on the outside.


The promise of many online communities is that we have equality of opportunity—that because we’re online, the only thing that really matters is that to become one of us, you have the technical skill and the patience to help make your community’s dream a reality. All those barriers that divide us in the real world are supposed to magically go away, at least online.

But it’s not easy. Our own human biases will still naturally make their way down to how our projects—online or not, open source or not—ultimately behave. This manifests in many forms, chief of which are our struggles with bringing more women and people of color on board our projects, in things like how Wikipedia has a systemic bias towards “Western” topics and cultural norms, gaming’s hostility to women, or the “bro” culture of major tech companies and the rise of the cult of the entrepreneur. As our projects become ever more globalized, we need to take them into account, and while we’re making some progress, we still have a long way to go.

This talk looks at the idea of “cultural memory” in technology, where projects are imbibed with a particular imprint of the dominant offline cultures that gave birth to them; more specifically, the cultural context to which the creator(s) of that technology was/were raised in. We’ll look at how this works, how we can challenge these dominant narratives, existing trends, and how we can make our communities more diverse by making these cultures more accommodating to people from different backgrounds.


tech culture, cultural memory

Speaking experience

I have delivered presentations at Open Source Bridge four times now:

* "Sharing Beyond 'Sharing': Fostering an Open Sharing Culture in the Philippines" (http://opensourcebridge.org/sessions/939) in 2013
* "The Promise of Collaborative Magic" (http://opensourcebridge.org/sessions/1224) in 2014
* "Why Relationships Matter in Community Building: Experiences from the Philippine Cultural Heritage Mapping Project" (http://www.opensourcebridge.org/sessions/1654) in 2015
* "How NOT to run your organization into the ground: lessons from Wikimedia Philippines for open source" (http://opensourcebridge.org/sessions/1724) in 2016

I have also previously presented at Wikimania 2011, 2013 and 2015, and I was likewise part of a panel discussion during Wikimania 2010. I also spoke at AlterConf San Francisco last year.

I was also a competitive debater in my spare time, having participated in various debating competitions, public speaking contests and the like throughout high school and college.


  • Wikimedia conference 2013 portrait 092


    Josh Lim has worked at two startups, and is currently the community manager at the Racket Room Collective, a coworking space in Metro Manila. He is also a longtime Wikipedia editor, having edited since April 2005, and was the President of Wikimedia Philippines, the Philippine local chapter of the Wikimedia Foundation.

    Since 2011, he has taken interest in analyzing social relations on the Wikimedia projects (and, since then, with online communities and Internet research in general), and hopes that he can contribute something meaningful to the discipline somehow.