Making it Matter

Politically Aware Art in a Networked Society

June 2016

Sometimes you want to give a talk on a subject but you can’t quite structure a talk from the subject in the way you’re supposed to, so you just give an unstructured talk and see how it goes.

Making it Matter was a talk I gave for the Random String conference in Coventry on June 10th 2016. Random String is an arts conference concentrating on technology and involves a number of my peers from the West Midlands.

I wanted to talk about the ethical and moral struggles and compromises necessary when working with technology. This is, of course, a massive thing, but I felt it was important for these issues to be raised at a technology conference where speakers tend to be understandably positive and optimistic about the tools they’re using in their work.

I think the talk went down OK. I had some nice feedback afterwards. But as a “performance” it’s very lacking. A few years later I discovered the problem is it doesn’t obey the Monoform, which I wrote about here. The Monoform could also be called the Varnished Truth, where all the unfortunate, difficult bits are smoothed out to leave a perfect, coherent statement. But truth isn’t coherent, and art is messy, so maybe we need less varnish at our conferences.

Anyway, looking back on this talk in 2019 I’m quite impressed at how I started to articulate some of these points. I was definitely on to something and I’m sure I could do a better go at it now, should anyone want to give me a stage and half an hour.