Highlights from IAM Weekend 18

- words by Laura
When we were asked if we wanted to take on the PR for Barcelona-based internet cultures festival IAM Weekend 18, we thought, ‘a week after Milan? No way!’ But after a Skype conversation with founders Andrés Colmenares and Lucy Rojas, we knew we had no option. So fascinating was their approach to interrogating technology, the internet and the potential futures that each of our decisions can create (not to mention the phenomenal list of minds that they’d scooped up as speakers), that we were desperate to be front row uploading all the knowledge into our squishy sponge brains. And crikey, it did not disappoint.
In just three days, Sabine and Emily went on an adventure to the future and back again, tumbling through the electrified crevices of the internet and Ted-style talks series to discover new, mind-altering perspectives. Given IAM Weekend is all about ethics, politics and progress (all through the lens of the internet), Sabine and Emily feel like they’ve been spat out the other side forever changed. But we didn’t want you to get FOMO (although you probably will by the end of reading this) so here are the highlights from our trip to the future…
Although we ended up talking about dystopias way more than your average weekend, the vibe was overwhelmingly optimistic. Although the naivety of the Internet’s beginnings means we’ve let parts of it slide into a troll cesspit or become a muddle of confusion, and of course, good ol’ Capitalism means we’ve allowed brands to monetise the whole thing, the internet can be an incredible force for good. Audrey Tang, Tawain’s digital minister, was one of the IAM Weekend 18 speakers that really affirmed this point. Appearing via hologram (yes, you heard us!), Audrey walked us through the dangerous socio-economic polarisation that social network echo chambers can produce, and explained how their work in Taiwan has helped shift the democratic process there into a conversation rather than a slagging match between two sides. From data visualisations showing how government budget is being spent to engaging citizens in decision-making through tech, Audrey is radically changing life for everyday people in Taiwan – a country where access to the internet is a human right. Audrey explained that it was possible to remain optimistic about our collective futures on the internet, and how the drive to use the internet to change the world comes from a deep-seated personal passion, “because it is from within, no external force can change this!” speaking to a rapt crowd. Swoon.
Kate Coughlan & Dan Ramsden
Opening with the terrifying (but true) statement that we sleep closer to our mobiles than our partners, the BBC’s Kate Coughlan and Dan Ramsden discussed how Auntie Beeb is navigating the shift in dynamic between the internet and escapism. At the moment, they said, we have an unhealthy relationship with technology, one in which creators, digital, physical, artists, graphic designers, authors and journalists are complicit and have a role to change our harmful relationship with the internet. Interestingly considering their jobs, Kate and Dan were championing a different approach to the internet – one that wasn’t about addiction, mindless scrolling, and click counts. Instead they are building a more human-centric internet, helping people to regain control over their online experiences and connect with people in a more positive way. We left feeling super-proud of the BBC.
Technologist, creative coder and critical thinker Ian Ardouin-Fumat trained as an interaction designer in France and now spends his time working at the intersection of data and civil rights, information security, environmental conservation and the art world. At IAM Weekend 18 he demonstrated a number of incredible programs, which we couldn’t wait to install. One of these being Floodwatch, a browser add-on that allows you to collect and analyse the adverts you are exposed to, and to help build a picture, demonstrating a pattern of who the internet thinks you are. Mad stuff.
Describing himself as a CGI journalist, Alan Warburton began his presentation with an awesome film about the Uncanny Valley – the Freud-inspired term given to the effect hyper-real CGI has on the human brain, where we feel repulsion because of the very small distance between real and fake. Through his work, Alan uses CGI to satirise figures of power, something especially powerful in a post-cinema and post-truth world.
The final speaker of the conference, and one that Emily and Sabine had been fangirling over since day one, Ingrid LaFleur is a Detroit-based artist using sculpture, sound, site-specific installation and performance and the founder of Afrotopia, a creative research practice that investigates the role of technology within Black American socio-political movements. She even ran for the mayor of Detroit as a response to the atrocious, engrained and downright horrifying injustices levelled at the black community in Detroit, the US and around the world. Her approach is that humans create this mess, and we can fix it. Don't ever tell Ingrid you can't do something about the futures. One of the many projects she’s currently working on is D-Coins, an open-source blockchain system for Detroit.
Phewp! That was a lot. And that's not even the whole of it. Other speakers included: Dr Charlotte Webb, the digital learning coordinator at University of the Arts London and ‘chief leopard’ of Feminist Internet; Felipe Castelblanco, founder of Para-site School in Basel; Francisco Carballo, the deputy director of the Centre for Postcolonial Studies at Goldsmiths; Juliette Lizotte, co-founder of studio Goys & Birls; Kelani Nichole, founder of Transfer Gallery; LaTurbo Avedon avatar artist and curator, Somerset House Studios director Marie Mcpartlin; artist Meriem Bennani; futurist and co-founder at AFE (Allfutureeverything) Monika Bielskyte; Nahum, founder of Kosmica Institute, Berlin; Infradisciplinary designer, artist and researcher Pinar Yoldas; and Katarzyna Szymielewicz, co-founder and president of the Panoptykon Foundation.
Each evening all speakers and attendees would meet for dinner and drinks, challenging their own and each others’ views, posing questions and making connections. As you can imagine there was a lot to talk about. We went in with an open, inquisitive mind and left feeling equipped to ask more questions of the status quo, challenge injustices and feel more empowered to use the internet for good. As Monika Bielskind said, ‘There is no future, only possible futures’.
There’s just 500 tickets for IAM Weekend 19, which takes over Barcelona’s AVA Auditorium from 5 to 7 April. Don’t miss out, book your tickets here now.
For more information on IAM Weekend 18, visit their website.

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    • Education & Research


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