the utopia has become overgrown
welcome to theorizing the web, in which rooms full of people with beautifully diverse and interdisciplinary backgrounds have the pleasure of taking a weekend to converse with each other about the internet.
what brought me to this conference? as a non-academic, i had no research to present, nor was i in the right place for professional networking.
i came to communicate, to hear the thoughts of people who take the internet seriously (as i do) - and not due to marketing conversion rates or bottom lines. online interactions mediate so much of our lives, it seems only fitting to give them the same thoughtfulness as the rest of sociality. i came for inspiration and grounding for my own professional and artistic practices and i found plenty of both.
legitimization via authenticity
online, as in the rest of life, certain elements become mainstream, or brought into canon - a term most used in the fan fiction world but with broad reaching cultural implications. the development of taste reflects contemporary values of what is considered pleasing, enjoyable, and (more recently) authentic. it is a zero-sum game, with the latest trends inevitably being judged by their predecessors. each new generation of social media platform re-invents the bounds of taste and authenticity. the new is more authentic, the mainstream is most tasteful.
how’s our performance?
#ttw2016 calls no one to action. as the scientific method begins with observation, it follows that theories must develop before we discover the best ways forward. the subtext: what kind of web do we wish to inhabit?
after the conference, i am left to examine my own performances. what pop culture am i canonizing through social media shares? what social privileges do my own selfies (or lack thereof) evoke?
and then…there were bots
the most intriguing thought that i encountered at #ttw2016 originated during the ‘automated personality’ keynote panel, while judith donath spoke of artificial intelligence and biological signaling.
she noted that the turing test marks the turning point beyond which we can no longer reliably judge ai, as at that point they have become like monarch and viceroy butterflies mimicking the warning signals against predation.
i wondered, will the processes of natural selection work on these entities as well? how will their accelerated selective pressures optimize them? and will we ever be able to comprehend?
we craft the web, whether it’s eating itself, or eating whoppers. it is impossible to do so without bias. #ttw2016 sheds light on how these biases manifest, through focusing on vernacular use of web platforms.
the biggest take away from an industry perspective is that people will find ways to use the web and play out the drama of sociality in ways that designers and developers don’t always anticipate. ‘the user is not you’ becomes a poignant directive; we must build systems with enough flexibility for end-user innovations. modularity, openness, and remixability are the social currency in culture online.
if you’re interested in watching the archives from #ttw2016 panels, you can find them on the official livestream.