Towards "Why Do We Gather?"

We have been thinking a lot about that “G” in GOSH recently. Sometimes the “G” stands for how “Globally” our community has grown, and mostly used as “Gathering”, as we are now in the process to prepare and plan in more details the upcoming GOSH2025 in Bali, Indonesia.

In our discussions within the working group, we have many times pointed out a need towards shaping some kinda refreshed framework, purpose, format, together with the larger community about “Why Do We Gather?”. A question that I have personally put a lot of brains into over the last couple of years, also in other actvities I have been involved, although no concrete answer was found yet.

We are now preparing an event / or a series of events to go deeper into that question. This post being more of teaser of what will come up soon. And any feedback, comments, inputs are very welcome!

We are now, @laola @briannaljohns @OSHWA @ez_laine @YKH @dusjagr to prepare such an event, on which form we havent decided. First notes can be found here. It will also be a super interesting opportunity to share with the wider community the results of the recent survey we have collected concretely about earlier GOSHs and future visions on how it should develop.

But also a step back to look more broadly into the “The Art of Gathering: How We Meet and Why it Matters”, a title of an interesting book by Priya Parker I recently read.
Quote: "The comings together of friends, family, and co-workers have the potential to change the way we connect, the way we understand ourselves and one another, and the way we live. Yet, too often, we’re on autopilot using the same tired formats. We forget to plan for, or fail to even consider, the human connection at the center of it all — the real magic behind a successful group event. I began noting that so much of our gathering intelligence and culture focuses on stuff — “the food is perfect” or “wow, what a beautiful venue.” — while the ingredients for a connective collective moment were lacking. What if we first designed a gathering where guests were brought together in a meaningful way, and then we filled in the logistics? "

We are working on inviting experienced “Gatherers” from outside of our community and organise a series of discussions and brain-pickings. Suggestions welcome here!

I have shared some personal links, experiences and thoughts once in a post more than a year ago.


While we should look outside of our community for advice, I think it is also worth acknowledging how well GOSH already does at gathering.

In my experience pre-GOSH, most science gatherings were dominated by one-to-many talks. A form of communication that has almost no benefit from being in person or even live. This is followed by questions which, were predominately not real questions, but a performative act in which the questioner attempts to highlight their own opinion in a sentence vaguely formed as a question. The only actual gathering happened at mealtimes, or in local bars. However many people would find comfort in only interacting with people they already see daily. It seemed that the only worthwhile aspect of an academic conference that actually required in person attendance was going to the pub after, but just travelling to a location to drink is not a valid business expense!

GOSH was nothing like this. Unconference sessions, icebreaker sessions, actively curating an engaging atmosphere for new people. The entire event was focussed on Gathering, on connecting like minded people and creating an effective and welcoming space for productive discussion. These sort of connections and discussions are almost impossible to achieve online. Online events are fatiguing, GOSH is invigorating.

I know everyone in the working group knows how good GOSH is already. I just think it is highlighting that we do something well, even while working on improving it.


Thanks for your flowers! I totally agree, and also think it’s exactly because many of the organizers have been experienced outside of scientific conferences before, hosting large activits meetings, curating art exhibitions and throwing parties or music festivals.

The question i wanted to pose here in this thread is not so much about “How” we do things during the gathering or “What formats”, as we have quite some inputs from the surveys and earlier anectrotes.

The question is “Why…?”

We hope by finding out more about that “Why?” question, this will guide us to make upcoming gatherings even more successful! Thus learning from other people how they developed a format of a gathering from the why to the how, where and who successfully.


We are starting now with a small series to investigate this question more deeply and share it in some kind of “synthesized / summarized” form to the wider community in the future.

Here is a description and some input readings to reflect upon

Tomorrow, Saturday, 11. May, we will meet in-person with small focus group to discuss and share experiences of gatherings, formats, purpose, memories, to explore that “Why…” question, and how to have this cleared out in the beginning, maybe makes a gathering an unforgettable experience. We look beyond the “inner GOSH circles” to learn and reflect on what we have (successfully) been doing during our gatherings. Please comment and add to this thread about interesting sources, or people to invite for future similar dialogues!

There will be a moderated online dialogue, where we invited Agung ‘Geger’ Firmanto from Lifepatch, Yoygakarta ID and Paula Pin @pin , various labs and community in Spain and global.

You are welcome to join to listen to our discussion!
We will record and summarize our works and share with the community in the following weeks.

Time: 18:30 UTC, Sat 11. May 2024
Duration: 30 min moderated dialogue, 15 min questions and inputs

Go to the white area of the lab near where you spawn to join the jitsy room.


I think we had a great time discussing our theme of “Why do we gather?”. Thanks alot to @laola hosting the group and bringing together such a diverse round of people.

Thanks also to our remote inputs from Geger and @pin. I did record it, but sadly the first 15 minutes the audio is missing. I will share a edited version later.

Laura and Marc try to summarize some insights from the discussion from our notes and scribbles.

  • “Cos it’s needed” quote end, pin!
  • “Recombination” - “Transformation” - “cross contamination” (a bit like evolution and reproduction, recombining genes)
  • “Learn together” - even more important to have time and in-person gathering, when we deal with “matter” aka hardware. Open → learn, share etc. needs time for workshops and doing stuff
  • “Survival” - keep connections alive
  • “Recognize ourselves in the others”
  • “Feel connection” - “not to be alone” - “give strength and support” - “reinforce our identity”
  • “To eat”
  • “Strengthen the movement” (both towards the community and towards the outside)
  • “There is no other way”
  • “To tackle hard goals” - “cannot be reached alone”
  • “To grow”
  • “Gathering is not that unusual because we always gather”, Geger!
  • “Why always relates with how”

On the hackteria wiki is another documentation of our small event, photos and further reading texts. Please comment if you have other inspiring sources to think and reflect upon.

I hope to organize another one coming up in ca 2 weeks, together with @nanocastro and @ffederici .
The format of a small group of 8-10 people including a little remote hybrid input was great. Not too much work needed to prepare and easy to focus in such a small group on a “single” topic.

I hope some of the other GOSHers present can add / contribute to this thread with their own reflections of the discussion. @naikymen


Would love to get involved…picking up from the discussions we had about an EU-summit of sorts. Can I join you ?


Hi Marc! Thanks for writing up and sharing it, I’ve been disastrously busy with other things.

I’d just add the view of gathering as a healthy practice. Perhaps most of the issues we face every day are related to apathy in cultures, and actively seeking to gather surely helps keep it at bay, while doing nothing lets it grow.

Then there are all sorts of things that will only happen if we gather, and many are in your list already. :slight_smile:


We gather because meeting IRL is much different than a virtual meeting. There is much more out-of-band communication, more opportunity to let the discussion meander naturally, more space and time for serendipity. It also encourages small groups and in depth discourse without a predetermined end time. Virtual meetings tend to favour the opposite, such as one-to-many communication.

Gatherings also permit groups to discuss during a low key activity, traditionally chores, but could be anything informal and not mentally demanding, like a stroll or a meal or playing cards.

Gatherings can be structured to play to these strengths. I think the Shenzhen gathering did better in this regard, than the Panama one, which was more agenda focused.

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