At design conferences you usually see a showcase of impressive digital work. You get overwhelmed by flashy animations, creative websites and cool apps for the biggest brands in the world. Last week I was at a different kind of conference: New Adventures in Nottingham.
The presentations I saw here went beyond: “look what I made” or “you have to use this software”. It was more about the consequences of technology, the responsibility of the people working on the web and how we can make it accessible to everyone.
The conference was held in a beautiful concert hall, the Albert Hall. Extra effort was made to make it accessible, for example by offering silent rooms, a joint lunch and stickers with which you could indicate whether or not you wanted to talk to someone.
Jeremy Keith, web developer from Brighton, gave a strong presentation about the building blocks and layers of the internet and what is built on it. He called on us to think better about ethics within our work and how we should work more cautiously.
Helen Joy, UX consultant at Sparck, spoke about the importance of thorough user research. In her lecture she asked whether we really know our target groups. And whether we really know what their needs are. She taught us that it is our responsibility to take care of everyone and to ensure that we do not exclude anyone.
Naz Hamid, freelance design director, spoke about how to improve the way we work. This can be done, for example, by creating teams with more diverse people to improve innovation and build empathy with the people around us.
Ethan Marcotte, designer / developer at Vox Media, gave a passionate (and well-designed) lecture and showed us different ways in which the web, and with it our work, has changed in recent years.
He showed us how design can be used as a means of power and about the potential to damage it. He talked about how the internet is now darker than before, referring to the recent scandals surrounding Amazon, Google and Facebook.
We can redesign our industry to be more equitable, and more just. But we need power to do it.
— Ethan Marcotte
He talked about how the internet has created many new jobs, but is also on the way to making jobs (and employees) superfluous. He urged us to fight back against the constant rise of automation and to design with hope and ethical values at the core of everything we do.