At the New Adventures 2020 conference in Nottingham, I went over to simply say “I really liked your talk” to Akil Benjamin. He thanked me, then stopped me as I was about to walk away and invited me to join the conversation. I thought that was kind but then it got interesting... he asked me really specifically what I liked about it. That threw me. I enjoyed the whole thing but he was wanting specifics.
I had the incredible opportunity to have Florence Okoye speak at the local meeting I was involved with running, so I was very happy when I saw Florence was on the lineup for New Adventures 2020. Her talk was absolutely brilliant and it complemented the other talks really well by focussing on thinking further than we currently do.
New Adventures 2020 – Laura Kalbag on defying the mainstream: building technology that respects our rights25th January 2020
Laura Kalbag knows her stuff when it comes to the intersection of privacy and design. My notes below don't even scratch the surface of all the knowledge she shared. I knew it was bad. I knew how much targeting happens but I didn't have a clue how far it has got with putting us all into precise buckets. Only 15 data points are needed to remove anonymity from most people and yet the large data brokers often have up to 3000 of them for an individual person. It seems impossible to move away from all of this, but Laura is encouraging us to make better decisions with everything we build and that "small tech" is surely the way to beat "big tech".
This talk by Liz Jackson really made me question how we all see disability. Even those of us that think they are "on the right side", designing and building with accessibility in mind, can in some ways be as misguided as those who don't give it a seconds thought. "Disability doesn’t get funded we get fixed".
As if working in a museum wasn't already an exciting idea, Natalie spoke about how her job as a curator is far more about collecting stories than it is about collecting objects. I found it particularly interesting how they have to have everything open to the public so, for example, they cannot have an Amazon Echo running because they don't own the software. The solution to this was to collect a gigantic map of everything involved from mining ore to training the models. This was an insightful talk, not all of us will be collecting items for the V&A but it does encourage us to look past the objects themselves and look for the story within.
What a strong start to a strong conference. In this gripping and thought provoking talk, Cennydd looked at the potential futures and how our work affects it. He argued that as good Human Centred Design is, we need to look further. How does design affect non-users (friends, family of the user maybe), how does it affect the animals or the planet as a whole. The choices we make can affect things a lot further than we currently realise. Even more importantly maybe, we can purposely decide to affect these things in a good way instead of just ignoring them.
Looking back at New Adventures, I'm not sure where to start. By saying it was a great conference? Of course it was. The previous NA Conf was 6 years ago and back then I couldn't afford to go to conferences that far away, so I jumped at the chance to go to the one conference that everyone would always talk about. It was as good and better than I expected. But no, it almost feels like telling people how good the conference was is not the right thing to do...
Did anyone at New Adventures read the blurbs for each talk? I didn't. I hadn't even noticed that until the last talk... Ethan Marcotte, who everyone knows for Responsive Web Design was surely going to talk about making websites right? Wrong. Well, right but in a different way. Ethan showed everyone the right way of using privilege.
Naz gave a talk at New Adventures that really got to the core of diversity in all sense of the word. It was a very good talk and unfortunately I was preserving my battery so the notes do not cover half of the interesting points Naz made.
Helen Joy gave a great talk about inclusive design, full of brilliant explanations for why it is is important and how to get better at it. But there were a couple of stories she told that I will not forget easily, both stories were about mechanics. Here are my notes of Helen's really interesting talk.