Connections between images in the Flickr dataset - George Oates

Reflections on Dconstruct 2022

Wow, what a day. A really diverse selection of talks that went all over the map. From building vast world-changing health systems, to scaling and archiving global online communities, to the beauty and joy of calligraphy. And lasers. I enjoyed the lot, which is rare for me at an event like this.

Matt Webb

1950’s radar operators

It’s hard to choose a favourite amongst so many diverse and interesting talks, but Matt Webb’s stood out for me. A rambling tour through the history of information systems, computing, tools for thinking, the military industrial backdrop to it all, and the designers of the systems. All leading right up to date with a demo of a new tool for online collaboration that was right up my street, given my recent experiences working on multiplayer music creation app Endlesss, and conferencing platform Hopin. Matt made a great point – we’ve jumped to solutions with collaborative tools (Zoom, Figma) rather than thinking about the structure of the system itself. How and *where* do the tools sit? How can we capitalise on the key strengths of human cognition (e.g. spatial awareness) in our designs for online spaces? Very cool and thought provoking.

So much for tools for thought – What about TOOLS FOR TOGETHERNESS?

  • Tldraw.com – multiplayer sketching. The web is going multiplayer…. Thanks Figma.
  • Multiplayer is not sufficient. How might we have made computers if the PERSONAL computer didn’t dominate?
  • Reed Hoffman: If you’re not embarrassed by your first version, you’re sharing too late.
  • Been working on: Sparkle. Sparkle spaces – like Zoom, plus a whiteboard.

Lauren Beukes

Science fiction author Lauren Beukes was also fantastic, giving us a tour of her work, working processes, and ideas. Social justice, violence against women, time travelling serial killers and dumb jokes about the pains and limitations of working through the pandemic all featured. There was something very touchingly human about it all – it had a lovely story arc to it, though I couldn’t tell you what the story was.

  • Her redlines photo was used as a ‘qanon’ meme!
  • Wrote The Shining Girls – serial killer, time travelling/ Now on NetflixThe Bridge – new novel. Alternate reality
  • Wrote a book about a pandemic in 2019! Afterland. No-one wanted to read it in 2020.
  • The connections helped us survive in 2020.
  • Ubuntu – a person is a person because of their connections with other people.

The two Sebs: Seb Lester & Seb Lee Delisle

The ‘artist’ talks were a little less thrilling from a story point of view – they tend (to me) to sound a bit like ‘ya ya me, my great work, my great career isn’t it great all the things I’ve done’. I mean – yeah, I get it, you’re great and your work is fantastic. But could you say something a little more interesting about it? That aside, the work was gorgeous – I especially enjoyed Lester’s – just beautiful craft work. Made me want to get back into drawing. Lee Delisle’s talk was more ramshackle but he gets a free pass because lasers (and vaporwave music).

Seb Lester

Seb Lee Delisle

  • Lasers!
  • Lunar Lander game controlled with clapping!

I can only briefly add a few notes and photos on the rest of the excellent talks – apologies to the speakers for not doing them justice!

George Oates

  • Flickr – narrowly escaped destruction
  • 100 year plan for a tech company
  • Digital commons of MILLIONS of people

Possible futures

  1. Destruction
  2. Growth
  3. Do we even need to take photos anymore? (DALL-E etc)
  4. Read only. Stops accepting new uploads. Cultural heritage institute.
  5. Diffusion – decentralised data all over the world
  6. Degradation – fading
  • Could we create a ‘data lifeboat’ for Flickr? How could we capture the essence of the network and context?

Daniel Burka

@dburka

Winnie Limb – on leading a purposeless life

  • Rapid prototyping in Bangalore. Design sprint. Created simple.org.
  • Median time for data entry – 13 seconds. Added QR system. Truckloads of QR’s being distributed all over India
HARD PROBLEMS
  • A new frontier of design. REAL politics of government. Long term problems.
  • Building bridges! Like the early days of the web.
  • Embracing the role of support

Sarah Anglos


1950 – Atom man. Feeding nuclear food to a cow

  • Isotopia- Waldorf in London. 250 women from Ladies Atomic Society
  • Muriel Howorth.
    Crowd-sourced Atomic Gardening project. To lead women out of the kitchen into the Atomic Age
  • Taylorist approach to kitchen labour. Suffrage hadn’t done the trick. Electricity was a way to get out of the kitchen and into parliament. Labour saving!

Anil Seth

  • The Hard Problem – consciousness
    Book – Being You
  • Professor of cognitive neuroscience at Sussex
    Perceptioncencus.dreamachine.world

Final thoughts

Altogether a great day out. I write this as I return to London on the train and feel inspired to get back into writing, into working, and into building cool things. Above all it was nice to see the diversity of approaches and reasons for doing ‘design’ / art / whatever. Some of us are solving the hard problems, some of us are thinking philosophically or creating new tools, and some of us are just having fun – and all approaches are valid and useful.

You can hear the audio of previous dconstruct events now at: https://archive.dconstruct.org – the organisers have promised they’ll be sharing all the talks from 2022 too!