dConstruct 2014

Jeremy Keith is a master curator of brilliant talks from wonderful speakers, and Friday’s dConstruct was a great event. Gone are the days where I write long connected writeups on conference themes. I wish I had the time, and venues like the Brighton Dome are far too dark to take notes. However, I really wanted to record and share some of the thoughts I got out of dConstruct, as I think the themes are very important.

Living with the network

Technology and freedom

Living with the network is more about social interaction than it is about technology. When new technology is introduced, it brings more issues around social change and social acceptance than it does around the features, gadgets and gimmicks of the technology itself. As an industry, we’ve set up systems that serve the majority, but only provide benefits to the few. Georgina Voss’s talk about distribution systems covered how the postal networks allowed governments to censor media through distribution channels. These examples had alarming parallels with the internet as a distribution channel allowing for censorship through a centralised system. It was a strong warning about the importance of net neutrality.

As Cory Doctorow put it, “it’s not a fight about information, it’s a fight about people. And people want to be free.” And for people (and information) to be free, the information networks need to be free.

Privacy and surveillance

When it comes to privacy and surveillance, we are currently frogs sitting in a pot of warm water. The water is slowly being boiled around us, our privacy and freedom being slowly taken from us by governments and corporations. We won’t notice we’re being boiled until it’s too late, we won’t notice that our privacy and freedom has been irreversibly damaged until it’s too late.

We’re already in trouble and this is why we need to talk more, and act more, on the issues of privacy and surveillance. We need to bring these issues to the fore so we don’t become the frogs in the boiling water. As Tom Scott said in his vision of 2030, “privacy was already dead, it’s that not everyone agreed with it yet.”

Technology and diversity

Mandy Brown emphasised how the effect of technology on society around us isn’t just about the individual, and our own selfish gains. At least it shouldn’t be. With the lack of diversity in the web and tech industries, we’re creating technology for the privileged. When we’re creating products to scratch our own itch, and solve our own problems, we’re largely creating products for young white men.

Cory Doctorow pointed out that business models don’t exist in a vacuum, they reflect political, economic and social needs. And following the lines of Mandy Brown’s talk, the political, economic and social needs that we’re currently serving are largely those of young white men.

This was a brief summary

My post is a little summary of some of the themes that jumped out at me over the course of Friday. Lucky for you, all the talks are available in audio format on huffduffer, and they’re well worth a listen.

dConstruct 2014

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