Walking the Walk
Of course, as with any large gathering of people, there will be a quantifiable impacts on the environment; increased power consumption, additional waste, additional travel and knock-on effects from the production of conference materials. These are often not considered by conference organisers so I was delighted when, in the weeks before the conference, I saw this tweet from @Cennydd.
New Adventures have published a Climate Impact Policy for the conference, what a fantastic idea! Simply recognising the environmental impacts of a conference like this is an important first step, but going beyond that and making a firm commitment to minimise those impacts is something I’ve not seen before and is something that should be applauded.
An event as inclusive and comprehensive as New Adventures intentionally provides something for everyone so, even if you were not lucky enough to be able to attend in person, I'd encourage you try and as see as many of the videos from the conference as you possibly can. Every talk was recorded and as soon as they are available I’ll update this post with the relevant links. While all of the talks were excellent there were a few in particular that caught my attention, providing inspiration and food for thought. These were my favourites.
Future Ethics, the opening talk by Cennydd Bowles, was the highlight of my day. In it Cennydd talked passionately about the importance of building a better World, and the power and responsibility that we as designers have to positively influence future developments.
Technology was never neutral; its social, political, and moral impacts have become painfully clear and we haven’t yet earned the trust these technologies demand.
Cennydd talked about his ideas of designing for futures that are neither utopian or dystopian, but are somewhere in between. Atainable and positive ‘Protopian’ futures that balance realism with optimism. Achievable, desirable and within our power to obtain.
Productivity recreates disability
Liz Jackson gave a fascinating talk where she highlighted how, with even the best of intentions, as designers we often miss the mark completely, creating ‘solutions’ that can instead create more problems than they solve.
My takeaway from Liz’s talk was on the importance of designing a solution with the user, not for the user. Empathy is not the same as understanding and, when we create solutions for problems we don’t fully understand we will get it wrong.
The things we fight for never cease to be the things empathically done for us.
People Before Profit
Another stand-out talk for me was Laura Kalbag’s excellent and eye-opening look into the flagrant disregard for privacy that has become accepted parctice by many online advertisers and publishers and the amount of personal information we inadvertantly provide them.
We’re told surveillance is the price of using modern technology, and that our personal information is merely used to improve our experiences. Instead we see data about us is used to perpetuate systems of oppression and discrimination.
Laura talked about some of the practical ways that we can design systems that benefit human welfare, not corporate profit, and provided some excellent advice on how we can begin to take this power back and restore some measure of control.
- Self-host everything, whenever possible.
- Remove tracking codes from links before sharing.
- Post to your own site first, and then syndicate.
We must remember that “The cloud is just someone else's computer.” and we should not allow our personal information to become a commodity to be exploited, traded and profitted from without our explicit and informed content.
As in previous years all of the conference talks were videoed, so if you weren’t lucky enough to attend you’ll still be able to get a flavour of this brilliant conference and, hopefully, come away with some of the same enthusiasm and passion that we got on the day. We’re already hoping that New Adventures will return in 2021 and if that’s something that interests you I’d encourage you to follow @naconf on Twitter.