About

Using a metal chop saw in welding class at Yestermorrow Design Build School in Vermont

I’m Steph Alarcon.  I am a bike riding, tree hugging, science fetishizing, turntable loving unix geek from Philadelphia, living in Berlin.  I like using technology for social and environmental justice, and I’m always on the lookout for awesome projects and professional positions.  Here’s my resume.

I’ve been a sysadmin/devops engineer for a good long time. Most recently I worked on Measurement Lab, a collection of tools to measure Internet performance. It is a consortium of research, industry, and public interest partners, notably the Open Technology Institute. M-Lab’s flagship publication is a really interesting study of network speeds at “interconnections”, or the places where different ISPs trade traffic.

Prior to working on M-Lab, I did an internship with OTI, working with their mesh networking platform, Commotion.  Before that, I was a server slinger at the University of Pennsylvania Library System. In May, 2011 I finished a Master of Environmental Studies degree at Penn, with a capstone project about electronic waste. My focus was urban environment and my heart belongs to environmental justice. I think it would be awesome to work on a team to help e-textiles avoid the same pitfalls as e-waste. If you know of projects that do that kind of research, please get in touch!

I like making things and organizing projects, so it was really fun to be an organizer with The Hacktory, Philly’s first hackerspace. Together we made a well-loved project called Hacking The Gender Gap, a participatory design exercise in which participants mapped positive and negative experiences in tech along an age timeline. Together, these stories revealed funny, terrible, heartwarming, and overall surprising things about how people relate to tech work and play. You can watch an Ignite Philly lightening talk about it here. The Hacktory ran an awesome Knight Foundation-funded project which ran a program for artists to learn how to add technology to their work, then pass the skills on. The whole project was topped off with an exhibition. Donations are always welcome! The Hacktory has lots of fun activities and classes, so check out the website for the latest news.

Previously, I was on the board of Hive76, one of Philly’s awesome hackerspaces. They have open house every Wednesday night, so come over some time to build a custom guitar effect pedal, make something with a 3-d printer, or talk shop with some nerds. Around the same time I did a stint as a Penn State Extension Master Gardener. See their Facebook page for the latest news.  It’s a great program, and in Philly there’s a lot of energy around food justice, urban agriculture, and making things grow in challenging spots.

I did my undergrad at the University of Pittsburgh where I wiled away many hours at WPTS and in the Latin American Studies department. I also wrote some poetry and newspaper articles, some good, some bloody awful. I did a bunch of freelance djing in the ’90s and 2000s and that was super fun. I also did some wandering around the world, particularly Latin America but also a few other places. In the picture on this page, I’m doing some 4-limbed soldering at the build-out of a community radio station at Maseno University near Kisumu, Kenya, after the World Social Forum in 2007, where I volunteered with the Prometheus Radio Project to build some rad low power stations, do some amazing skill shares, and facilitate the formation of a new Indie Media group in Nairobi. JJ Tiziou took that and literally hundreds of thousands of other photos of peoples’ struggles and triumphs. You should look him up.

In 2010, my travels took me to Queztaltenango (or Xela) in Guatemala to study Spanish, check out some appropriate technology projects, and learn some things about their history and the strong Maya culture that exists there. In 2015, I got bored, table-flipped my life, and moved to ubercoolische Berlin. I wanted an in-the-bones experience of daily life in a place with a different regulatory environment (stronger rules about food safety and privacy, stronger support for transportation and family life), and I’ve learned a lot.

Oh right, I’m also a mom to a great pre-schooler who is my most time-consuming project. Lucky for me, that time consists of a lot of nature hikes, building with blocks, and giggles. It’s my most fun and creative collaboration yet!

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