Friday, August 23

Power, disruption and lies

My brain is a happy mush after two days at The Conference (#theconf on twitter). This year's theme was power, disruption and lies. It's been two days of inspiration, new ideas, conversations with strangers and strong emotions. 52% of the speakers were women, and that alters the dynamic of the event in a very positive way.

All keynotes and sessions are available in the video archive. The ones that stuck with me were Susannah Lipscomb on what we can learn from the past, Cindy Gallop on changing the world through business and sex and James Bridle on how we understand technologies.
I love the idea of a historian being the first speaker at a conference that is very focused on the future and what's next in technology.

One of the most important sessions was Online Harassment, What Drives it and How it Lowers Visions. Anita Sarkeesian, Kate Miltner and Laurie Penny spoke about online harassment and the larger structural problem of women and minorities being treated as second-class citizens. They shared their own experiences of harassment and strategies for coping. Women in the audience spoke of their own fear of being targeted, a fear that stops women from participating fully on the internet.
It's important to point out that when people are being harassed for speaking their minds, it's not an internet problem. It's a problem we have to deal with as a society.

In her very frank and funny keynote, Cindy Gallop spoke about being honest about sex, dealing with negative comments and interacting with those who write nasty comments. She's badass and you should check out her TEDtalks.

How we understand new technologies is key - and we need a language and metaphors to talk about them. James Bridle highlighted that our perception of technology is often more important than what the technology can actually do.
Maybe there is so little debate about technology and surveillance because most people don't understand what kind of world we have built around us, and more importantly what it has the power to do. An interesting point that I will return to in another post.
James Bridle also mentioned how technology has made things visible - like online harassment - and given us a chance to do something about them.

There is a lot of good things happening at The Conference. One of the best is meeting friends, talking to strangers and making new friends.
And then you go home, read tweets, and stay up way too late writing about the whole thing.


Historian Susannah Lipscomb gave the opening keynote on learning from the past - a nice touch in a conference about the future.

Anita Sarkeesian speaking in the session on online harassment.

The Conference 2013
Cindy Gallop. Photo by Media Evolution.

James Bridle on understanding and talking about new technology.

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