After last year’s successful debut, The Messy Edge, our in-house conference will return this year at Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts on Friday 28 September, with an impressive lineup of speakers.
Brighton Digital Festival Director, Laurence Hill, takes us through what to expect for this year’s conference…
What is the Messy Edge?
The Messy Edge is Brighton Digital Festival’s in-house conference which takes place at the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts and is supported by them and by the Sussex Humanities Lab.
The underpinning of the Messy Edge remains the same as it was in 2017. We cannot build a better future on the deeply flawed foundations of the present. Digital technology is not something that we can use to paper over the cracks, despite what futurists and ‘technochauvanists’ (Meredith Broussard) would have us believe. We cannot ignore the complicated, messy and ugly facts of our current social realities. The Messy Edge is not about technophobia either, we believe in the power that digital has to make better futures for everyone. The house position is, officially, critical optimism.
What’s happening for 2018?
This year we are examining in/visibility and vulnerability in digital spaces and their echoes in the world.
I started by questioning the idea of the ‘right to be forgotten’, to have search results erased, not to be tracked across the internet and be targeted by ads in ways that seem occult-like in their ability to read your mind or to have overheard your conversations. There are many interesting and important implications in that, and they may well be touched on during the conference but it struck me that you have to be visible before you can demand the right to be forgotten.
Many people are not represented online in meaningful ways, they fight to be heard in spaces that were not designed for them and against systems that have been built to exclude them — this is as true online as it is off. Visibility brings affirmation for marginalised groups but equally, it increases vulnerability.
The tensions around in/visibility and vulnerability are something that I’m interested in and helped to shape the lineup of this year’s conference.
We have speakers exploring surveillance, immigration, vulnerable communities, access to knowledge, representation and the erasure of the line between knowledge and action. We’re exploring fundamental shifts in human behaviour and the slow gif movement.
Laurence Hill, Director of BDF and programmer for The Messy Edge
Who should go?
Our speakers are historians, artists, activists, designers and academics but The Messy Edge is not solely an arts conference, nor is it an academic one — it is designed for everybody — which is why we try and keep the cost as low as possible.
The impact of digital is universal, our world, our lives, our behaviours are being shaped by it. It acts on us in ways that are obvious and some that are less so. It’s a tool that has unlimited potential but it’s mostly not being shaped by us, or often, for us and we all need to understand that.
We guarantee that if you come and spend the day with us, eat lunch with us, listen to our speakers, engage with them, then you will end the day with new perspectives, that will positively impact your work, your studies, your spare time.
Throughout the Festival, Emma Franland has been collaborating with Umbrellium on a social radio project, VoiceOver Brighton, for the trans and non-binary community commissioned by Brighton Digital Festival. The results from this will be exhibited at Pop-Up Brighton in their new seaside gallery space. Over a period of four weeks, in the run up to the Festival, 25 members of the Brighton trans and non-binary community archived their responses to a series of questions orchestrated by Emma, which were tracked by a digital installation on the front of The Marlborough. These have now been made into two audio pieces. The broadcasts will be aired at Pop-Up Brighton.
VoiceOver Brighton @ Pop-Up Brighton // 28th September — 13th October // 12:00–18:00 (free)
Exploring virtual borders and the racialized biometric technologies in which this space exists, Dreams of Disguise, is an installation that blurs documentary truth and science fiction. Irene Fubara-Manuel’s work aims to reveal the ubiquitous surveillance of migrants, the violence inherent in this practice and the desire for opacity.
Irene Fubara-Manuel: Dreams of Disguise @ ONCA // 17th — 23rd September // 12:00–18:00 (free)
Judith Ricketts uses photography, moving image and code in a practice informed by a critical engagement with the city. This engagement is in relation to enforced, economic and political migration such as the Transatlantic Slave Trade, the European migrant crisis, Brexit and the Windrush crisis. She views the city as a series of patterns and interdependencies, arranged between the spaces of historic narrative, spatial appearances and the body. These interdependencies give opportunity, to visualise the movement and displacement of the diasporic body from the past to the present, from one place to the next.
Nye Thompson’s 3D interactive installation work, Backdoored, is being exhibited as part of the Uncommon Natures exhibition at Phoenix Brighton. Taking its name from hacker slang, meaning a feature or defect of a computer system or device that allows surreptitious unauthorised access to data, Backdoored explores the global phenomenon of self-surveillance and the underpinning anxieties and privacy implications, issues at the core of this year’s conference.
Uncommon Natures @ Phoenix Brighton // 14th-23rd September // Wednesday-Sunday 11:00–17:00 (free)
The latest work from Hyphen Labs (an international team of women of colour working at the intersection of technology, art, science, and the future) NeuroSpeculative AfroFeminism will be shown as part of a showcase of work from women in tech during the Festival. NeuroSpeculative AfroFeminism is an award winning three-part digital narrative inspired by the lack of multidimensional representations of black women in technology. Details for this event are still be to announced, but updates can be found on our website.
Dr Sharon Webb has organised Queer Archiving: Recommissioning Queer Oral Histories for this year’s Festival — an ongoing project to make archived responses to the 2012–14 Queer in Brighton project accessible again. Alongside a digital artwork piece which is being created to launch during LGBTQ+ History month (February 2019), there will be a one-day practical workshop during the Festival to demonstrate some general archiving methods and principles (including writing descriptive metadata).
Queer Archiving: Recommissioning Queer Oral Histories @ Sussex Humanities Lab, University of Sussex // 5th October // 10:00–17:00 (free)
Wesley Goatley is a sound artist and researcher in critical data aesthetics whose practice examines opaque power and hidden processes in data and networked technologies through installations, objects, and talks. For The Messy Edge, Wesley will be talking about his ongoing artistic, most recently with The Dark Age of Connectionism. This work explores the hidden capacities of always-listening devices such as the Amazon Echo, and the capacities we have to unravel the massive systems which these devices rely upon.
The Messy Edge is a conference for all and you’re all invited! For tickets, click here.
The Messy Edge @ Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts // 28th September // 10:00- 18:00 (£20 including lunch)