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Darling of the Month: Manuel Schinzel and the SMU-Wiki

1. June 2024

From Kleinwallstadt to Berlin: Manuel Schinzel is one of the capital’s first resilience dispatchers and is definitely our most valuable IT treasure at the Schwules Museum. In this interview, he not only gives us insights into the digital and queer world of Berlin, but also into his analog world outside of work. For more on cats, heterosexual offices and, of course, Manuel’s special “treasure” at the museum, check this out:

Good morning, Manuel! You look like you were really pleased to be invited to this interview!

Yes, I was very pleased. I’ve never given an interview before!

Manuel’s first interview, how nice! Well then, please introduce yourself…

I’m Manuel Schinzel, 35 years old and I work as a resilience dispatcher in IT. When I’m not at SMU, I listen to a lot of reggae, dancehall and electro. And since I’m not from here, I’m always discovering Berlin anew, even if I don’t like to be seen in the nightlife.

As I got to know you, you prefer to dream about cats at night, don’t you?

Yes, I love cats and I have one. Unfortunately, it’s not in Berlin, but in Kleinwallstadt with my parents. So at the moment I see Taranto every eight to twelve weeks when I go back home. During my two years in Berlin, it happened less often…

Did you move to Berlin for the job?

My boyfriend and I were offered an apartment in Berlin – and if you’re offered an apartment in Berlin without looking for it yourself, you have to take it (laughs). When I saw the job advertisement on Instagram, I didn’t know what to expect, but I remember just thinking: awesome, I’ll apply!

What does a resilience dispatcher do?

I had to google the term first (laughs). It’s a position created by the Berlin Senate, which is why it hardly exists outside of Berlin. IT resilience refers to the quality assurance of digital processes, i.e. ensuring that the results of digital work are what you wanted. Reducing digital barriers is also a major topic.

That sounds very general at first…

That’s true, but my training as an IT specialist prepared me well for this. My seventeen years of professional experience probably did too. And my mindset has always been good at identifying and solving problems. I’m just a technocrat.

What challenges has the Schwules Museum presented you with so far?

I think we have pretty flat hierarchies, which makes working in IT a bit more difficult. That’s why I do a few more loops than in other places to get a ‘go’. Somehow that’s a good thing, because the end result is better when more people have a say. It’s just a longer process.

You are SMU’s first in-house IT person, how is that?

I actually work electronically every day with Sebastian Kraus, who has been helping out the SMU with IT once a week for ages. I think we’ve been able to introduce the office to the mindset of digital knowledge preservation through our collaboration – for example, I’ll soon be giving a workshop for SMU’s full-time staff on how to use the wiki. Apart from that, I’m super grateful for the people here; I used to work in dusty medium-sized companies. The audience was quite conservative, so my employment at the Schwules Museum was a real liberation. You did the old job for the money, not to be happy…

In contrast to here?

Exactly, I earn a lot less money here, but I have found a bit of personal happiness. I think the political motivation behind the work at SMU is great, I’m freer in terms of IT and can be more creative in my proposed solutions. And last but not least, I can present myself more freely here; in my old office, I would definitely have experienced disadvantages if I had come out.

Of course, that’s not acceptable, so it’s great that you’re with us now! What are your favorite memories of the SMU?

Definitely every vernissage we’ve had, but especially the opening of the Tuntenhaus exhibition. I like to experience the exhibitions for the first time, enjoy the hustle and bustle and sit back with a drink. I like to be offline, it’s a good contrast to my work. I no longer use a laptop in my private life either, if I need to do something, I go to my tablet. So I really try to limit my screen time to work.

But then I’m curious to know whether you’ve brought us an analog or digital treasure…

My treasure is actually a digital one: the SMU Wiki. Together with the server, the wiki is a bit of a baby of mine; Sebastian and I have put a lot of work into rethinking it and making it fit for daily use in the office.

Wait, what is a wiki?

The word ‘wiki’ is Hawaiian, actually means ‘fast’ and refers to the transfer of knowledge. So it’s about collecting knowledge together with as few barriers as possible. The transfer of knowledge in the Schwules Museum is not optimal and the wiki is a medium that can help with this. Whenever people leave here, their knowledge goes with them. With the wiki, we want to tackle this and preserve knowledge. If the wiki is continuously maintained, the gain is quite large, even with a minimal amount of work. That excites me!

What makes your little darling special?

I’ve worked with wikis before, of course, but because the content of this wiki is queer, developing the software structure was a different experience than usual. Being able to work on a structure that preserves queer knowledge was a wonderful task. Basically, the wiki is also a work in progress, and I’m sure that after the upcoming workshop with the team, new tasks will arise to improve the wiki. I like this collaborative aspect of the wiki.

Your darling in three words?

It’s – simply – indispensable (both laugh).

Very good. You’re indispensable too! Are there any plans for you to stay connected to SMU beyond your work?

I’ll definitely see you at an upcoming vernissage (laughs).

You are cordially invited, dear Manuel! Thank you for the interview.


(Interview & foto: mino Künze)