Interviews with the COPIM team about their experiences of working remotely while building major pieces of infrastructure together over the last three years.
Simon Bowie, a member of Work Package 1 and Work Package 6, is interviewed about his experience working remotely while building major pieces of infrastructure at the COPIM project over the last three years.
Where are you based? How did you become involved with the COPIM Project?
My partner and I live in Glasgow, UK, having moved up here about a year ago partly because London summers were getting too hot for us. I joined Coventry University’s Centre for Postdigital Cultures and the COPIM project as an Open Source Software Developer in September 2021 after seeing the position advertised online. It seemed like a perfect combination of my work in open source development and my advocacy for open access licensing outside of work.
What are the three most important things that have enabled you to work remotely on COPIM?
It’s hard to overstate the importance of the change in working culture in UK Higher Education that the Covid-19 pandemic brought about. The acceptance of remote working by management is new despite the technology enabling remote working being around for over a decade. As well as that, there’s the internal culture of the COPIM project and good communication practices within the team which means that we’re not disadvantaged by not being in the same space. Finally, we’re willing to experiment with a range of software tools and platforms (mostly open source and self-hosted) which facilitate strong communication: we’re not hampered by the inflexibility of relying on something like Microsoft Teams because we have a range of software to try things with.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of this way of working?
Being able to work with an incredible range of people from across the UK and the USA has been a real highlight of remote work on COPIM. Without geography limiting our work together, we get to work with people who we wouldn’t otherwise be able to work with.
Personally, I also like the lack of commute. As well as reducing my carbon usage on transportation, it gives me more time to exercise or spend time with my family.
The major disadvantage is the lack of casual contact with colleagues: bumping into one another in the kitchen or going to the pub after work. I think that lack of contact does stifle spontaneous creativity and serendipity of casual interactions.
Has remote working resulted in anything unexpected, or that wouldn’t have happened without it?
For me, my partner and I wouldn’t have been able to move to Scotland without remote working enabling us to work without being tied to a location. Being able to choose our location means it’s so much easier now for us to get out into the hills and countryside around Central Scotland. I’ve been able to get so many photos of birds of prey and we were also able to adopt a wee Scottish kitten!
Has it prevented you from doing anything important? How did you work around that?
Large-scale events like conferences and workshops become more difficult and less dynamic online. While a lot of conferences operate on a hybrid online and offline model now, joining online often feels stifling compared to being in person. But I think the advantage is that it means more people from diverse backgrounds have been given the chance to have a voice at these events.
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