There’s so much going on at the FutureEverything conference that it’s difficult to sort through the experiences to find a highlight. One that certainly stands out, from among the very reflective and critical conversations about technology, social change and open data, is the success of GloNet, a new platform for global participations in conferences. I’m normally somewhat dismissive of “beaming in” participants, but GloNet has won me over. It’s a multi-city network, connecting participants in Vancouver, Manchester, Sao Paulo, Instanbul and Sendai. Most significantly, in each city workshop teams had been working with participants (and rallying audiences – early in the am in Vancouver) to respond to some shared questions about technology and the city. The result was that the participants in other cities were not remote, but very present – and also connected by a networked living room that could front on the other locations.
Each city site was connected with a different organization: at W2 in Vancouver they asked questions about how technology and engagement works in different cities, and the
Tribes in cities are reinforced by our use of social media – working with the idea that this reduces the amount of serendipity in the city. W2 in Vancouver explored how or whether social media would benefit the poorest in Vancouver. When we talk about open data open standards open source we are talking about conversations that happen differently. Were we before on a trajectory towards isolation, and has this trajectory been reversed?
Questions were also raised about the power dynamics of the ownership of social media platforms, and also about the presence or absence of serendipity within systems run on algorithms.
There was enthusiasm from Adam Greenfield about the possibility of autonomous creativity to solve the challenging problems, based on a technical infrastructure of open data and open culture.
Open data was a defining theme for the day. Nigel Shadbolt described how open government data moved from idea to reality, and artists presented projects involving everything from maps of Oyster card transactions to data in the forms of games. There is a sort of gleeful sense that more data will make the world a better place – I agree, although I think that the structures (the media, indeed) through which we encounter and make sense of these data are what really become important.