Controlling what we put into the world

Day two of the Webstock conference looked at the near future and our responsibility to take as much control as possible from the organisations that seek to control our lives.

Karen McGrane kicked the day off speaking about content, for want of a better word. We need to plan everything we produce for metadata and use on multiple devices and syndicated to multiple platforms. That’s the only way to ensure longevity and flexibility.

A future in which we take control of the wrong things was the dark vision Bruce Sterling showed us. The web has passed 2.0 and we are currently in a depression era, was his thesis. So we were taken to a time in which our bad decisions led to a meaningless future. It inverted Tom Coates’s manipulation of the mundane and sped towards an outcome he described as a "dark euphoria" but also felt like an episode of Black Mirror.

Government efforts to control the web have not worked to control the dissemination of information and expressions of individuality in China, according to Tricia Wang. A whole generation of Chinese are learning the importance of leading a secret life online to have more control over their real life.

The messages were coming thick, fast, loud and clear. Don’t let a smart city be the end of your individuality and the extension of a government’s suppression of its citizens’ voices, said Adam Greenfield. Jason Scott told us how important it is to keep control of our data because the cloud doesn’t care about our memories.

The day finished with Mike Monteiro telling designers that we are responsible for the decisions we make. We’re not just pushing pixels or suggesting the existence of a checkbox. The decisions we make in our work will have an impact on somebody else’s life.

It worked as a perfect bookend to Clay Johnson’s opening talk about taking responsibility for what we consume. We also need to take responsibility for what we put out in the world and what we fail to put out into the world.

In among all of that, we learnt about data visualisation from Eric Rodenbeck and the importance of balancing stable talent with volatile talent to produce the best work possible from Michael Lopp.

The sentence that brought it all together, though, was Mike Monteiro’s: "We need to love responsibility more than we love our ideas."

Webstock 2013 was a wake-up call that the adolescence of the web is over. We can’t afford to be dictated to and we need to be vigilant. It’s an exhausting thought but it’s time for us to be grown-ups.

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