Public Interest Hackathon to Create a New Future for Sex Tech

Author Zahra Stardust
Date 2 February 2022

A virtual Sex Tech Hackathon will be held from 11-13 February 2022.

The event will bring communities, industry and researchers together for a three-day workshop that will re-imagine the future of public interest sex technologies.

The term ‘sextech’ has been applied to dating apps, health and wellbeing trackers, sexual entertainment platforms and services, and networked sex toys.

But regulators, activists and researchers internationally have raised concerns about the ways these devices are designed and how they handle their users’ data.

Dr Zahra Stardust, event organizes says “The hackathon presents a unique opportunity to collectively imagine fresh ways to approach both sex and technology.

Where data is collected consensually, where technologies are designed collectively, where businesses are governed accountably, and where benefits are distributed equitably, then sex tech has potential to address some of the big global issues of our time.”

Designers, technologists and sex educators will collaborate to invent new sex technologies that respond to the needs of marginalised communities, have collective benefit, and take an ethical approach to collecting, storing and sharing intimate data.

Participants will create open-source designs and pitches that will contribute to new research into the ways that ‘big data’ can be used for sexual and reproductive health, wellbeing, rights and justice.

Participants from Australia and abroad will compete for industry prizes, including:

  • a speaker spot and expo space at SxTechEU in Berlin
  • a scholarship to attend SexTech School, and
  • vouchers for sexual happiness business Lovehoney.

The event is led by researchers from the Australian Research Council’s Centre of Excellence for Automated Decision-Making and Society, in partnership with global technology consultancy Thoughtworks and private training academy SexTech School.

Participants will work with industry mentors and will hear from experts including Samantha Floreani from Digital Rights Watch and Eliza Sorensen from Assembly Four, a collective of sex workers and technologists.

A panel of community activists will inspire participants to envision inclusive, accessible and accountable sex tech. Speakers include:

  • Kathryn Gledhill-Tucker, Nyungar technologist and digital rights activist,
  • Jax Jacki Brown, disability and sexuality educator,
  • Nic Holas, grass roots HIV activist,
  • Sage Akouri, from LGBTQIA+ non-profit SPEAK, and
  • Sai Jaiden Lilith, sex work organiser from Vixen Collective.

SexTech Hackathons have been previously held in Europe, London, Singapore, New York and Melbourne, but this is the first to explicitly focus on public interest technology.

Participants will be guided through speculative design exercises using the Transfeminist Tech Oracle Cards, a tool to help collectively envision future technologies.

Expressions of interest are open until 4 February for people with diverse skills, expertise and knowledge and big ideas for the future of sex tech.

Contact: Dr Zahra Stardust, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Centre for Automated Decision-Making and Society, Queensland University of Technology: zahra.stardust@qut.edu.au