“[a]n interdisciplinary creative coding, interactive art, and video games un-conference.”
What appealed to me about this un-conference was the commitment to getting a diverse set of speakers (i.e. not all cis-white-dudes) and the variety of topics that were going to be discussed.
Unfortunately, I was only about to attend Saturday’s panels and missed out on the previous night’s keynote and the next day's dual-track: Here are the panels I managed to get to:
- Language Design as a Creative Tool moderated by Ramsey Nasser with panelists Ivan Safrin, Andi McClure and Sarah Groff-Palermo.
- Art and Activism moderated by Colleen Macklin, with panelists Ingrid Burrington, Joanne McNeil, Sarah Jaffe, and Paolo Pedercini.
- Self Portraiture and Technology moderated by Nera Lerner with panelists Lauren McCarthy, Michael George and Soha Kareem.
- Machine Learning and Data Visualization moderated by Luke DuBois, with Phoenix Perry, Rebecca Fiebrink, and Rachel Binx.
- Keynote on Creativity and Mentorship within Interactive Art and Technology with Julia Kaganskiy, Colleen Macklin, DeAngela Duff, and Phoenix Perry.
A note on the format: each panel was casual and very conversational, thus accessible.
Humanity over Technology
A central theme to the un-conference was examining technology through the lens of humanity.
I feel that most tech conference and meet-ups that I’ve attended tend to fetishize technology without much awareness or contemplation to the non-financial consequences of the code or product.
FACETS CON though, provides a refreshing counterpoint to conferences like TechCrunch Disrupt (I wonder if the scheduling of FACETS to occur at the start of Disrupt was deliberate?).
Some questions that were touched upon in the panels are:
- How do we regain our sense of agency in an age of autonomy?
- How do we humanize technology?
- Is the ubiquity of the internet makes us better or worse people?
- Can we use technology to be better people?
- How do marginalized people navigate a digital space dominated by antagonistic and anonymous forces?
- How can we better help each other navigate this space?
- How can we democratize technology?
- How do we make art with code? What does art made with code look like?
These are questions that are rare in tech conferences, and it’s GREAT that FACETS bought in people thinking about those kind of things.
There weren’t any definitive answers to those questions, just more lines of further inquiry.
 I think I made the right call choosing an un-conference focused on the diversity and intersection of the humanities and technology over a corporate sponsored 48 hour hackathon to develop a product that may or may not make money, but will most likely not provide a societal good.