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22 March 2015

FutureEverything Conference in Manchester – ‘What Now For… Memory and Identity?’

If you missed the FutureEverything Conference in Manchester last month, don’t worry – you can watch the talks here!

FutureEverything may have been celebrating its 20th anniversary, but the conference's vision was as forward-facing as ever.  The big questions were “what now...?"  in relation to memory and identity, ownership and the weird and the wonderful.  These were addressed in the opening by FutureEverything's Drew Hemment and Leader of Manchester City Council Sir Richard Leese. 

In his talk, data artist Jer Thorp discussed how to make the term ‘data’ work for us and where it is necessary to break the rules around what we think about data. Jer looks at how we can view data subjectively, illustrating that we live in a world saturated with digital information. Giving examples of his work exploring twitter, location and personal data, Jer shows where our data is taken from us, how we can gain control over it, and where we can gather meaning from the information we capture:

Who do you think you are? Who do you think the person sitting next to you is? Through the lens of personal data, Gemma Galdon-Clavell asks us to explore the complex system that is our identity. As our personal information is made more opaque to us by companies online, we are starkly reminded that we have no idea what is it being used for or where it can end up. How do we gain control over our online identity when organisations collect everything they can, just in case they can make money from it in the future? By exposing the presence of the Data Double, a data version of ‘you’ that we are coming increasingly aware of, Gemma shows where our input makes decisions for us, and assumptions about us that we might not agree with:

Moritz Stefaner introduced his work in data visualisation which shows how to characterise complex cultural phenomena such as the selfie, through data. A self portrait can capture the essence of a person, so what happens when that image is represented in data? Looking closely at what has been left out and what has been taken away from data, Moritz talks on where authorship can be found in data visualisation:

Matt Locke, director of Storythings, introduced the ABC of digital Storytelling – Attention patterns, Behaviours and Circulation. With examples of his own work, and those of his colleagues, Matt shows how embracing new ways of experiencing broadcasted content and how making technology-specific content can create richer experiences for viewers and media producers alike:

From NYT R&D Labs, Alexis Lloyd and Matt Boggie talk about our possible media futures, following the early days of the web – where growth was propelled forward by those making their own spaces online to the present, where social platforms are starting to close down, tightening the possibilities while our dependency on them is increasing. They explain how internet users are in fact participatory creators, not just consumers. Alexis and Matt ask where playing with news media can allow for a new means of expression and commentary by audiences:

The talks culminated with a panel of Scott Smith, Moritz Stefaner, Gemma Galdon-Clavell and Jer Thorp discussing reappropriating and creating better tools for data legibility, the aesthetics and ‘beauty’ of data, and the relationship between identity and control: