In the first week of May, re:publica celebrated its 10th digital class reunion with around 8,000 attendees at Station Berlin. What once began as a blogger gathering has evolved into an internationally recognized digital festival. It now ranks among the largest internet events in Europe. The online community has grown up, the topics have become more diverse, and the program is as extensive as it is overwhelming. The re:publica 2016 in numbers: 3 days, 17 stages, over 700 speakers.
From Snapchat to artificial intelligence, from cargo cults to digital adolescence, from the refugee crisis to Snowden… the diversity of topics at re:publica was impressive. One thing to note: corporate brands whose target audience isn’t on Snapchat don’t need to fear the platform Snapchat primarily appeals to children and teenagers; adults still struggle to fully understand the hype. It will be a few more years before adults catch on to Snapchat, and a new app will likely emerge, causing teenagers to move on, just as they did with Facebook.
Virtual Reality (VR) isn’t just an exciting field for the gaming industry anymore; businesses are also discovering its great potential. Whether for the automotive industry, the tourism sector, journalism, or therapeutic applications – Virtual Reality is opening up more and more immersive experiences. This year, some of those expensive VR headsets will likely find their way under Christmas trees. Those looking for a more budget-friendly option can opt for Google Cardboard and simply download the appropriate app onto their smartphones. VR, we have arrived.
Transformation, Leadership, and Cargo Cults
Digital transformation brings change to businesses and requires simplification of processes and structures. Without this, there’s no progress, as Ulrich Irnich (Director Simplification & Transformation at Telefonica Deutschland) emphasized. Digital knowledge is there – for everyone – and it’s continually growing. For leaders, the particular challenge lies in managing the lost lead. Simplification isn’t easy. Leaders must learn to deal with simplicity, embrace it, and build bridges for people. “Simplicity is the adhesive of digitization… The world is changing massively, yet we’re still working as we did 3 to 4 years ago.” Companies should learn to fail faster to learn faster and improve more quickly.
“What a company does worst, it writes on the coffee cups.” This assertion comes from Gunter Dueck (author of “Schwarmdumm: So blöd sind wir nur gemeinsam” – “Swarm Stupid: We’re Only This Dumb Together”). “But it should be brief. Like ‘Team’ or ‘Innovate’…” he added mischievously. His highly amusing and razor-sharp contribution to re:publica is available for viewing in full length below. “It depends on wanting to want, not having to want.” It’s just like that.
A strong plea for humanity: Carolin Emcke and the “Grid of Hate”
One of the most important contributions and my personal highlight at re:publica. The essayist dissects the grid of hate in great detail. “Hate is collective. And it is ideologically shaped. Hate needs predefined patterns to spill into. Hate doesn’t suddenly burst forth; it’s bred.” She doesn’t just talk about attackers, bystanders, or those who don’t help. “Hate is fueled by those who expect to profit from it.” – she talks about talk shows and ratings, party programs, and fundamental principles. “They may distance themselves, but they know how to economically exploit hate… They don’t hate themselves; they let others hate.”
Carolin Emcke looks at hate from many perspectives and describes how it can be broken. Hate can be countered by doing what haters lack: the ability to observe, differentiate, and doubt themselves.
Unfortunately, there’s no recording of this magnificent lecture. However, an important book, “Gegen den Hass” (“Against Hatred”), will be published in the fall.
Ingrid Brodnig (Profil Editor) also has a new book, “Hass im Netz” (“Hate on the Web”). She pointed out in her re:publica presentation that followers of conspiracy theories largely stay among themselves. Many users stay away from media that can enlighten, allowing false reports to easily spread and strengthen in the online echo chambers. People only see/hear/read what they want. False reports solidify through repetition in words and images. That’s why it’s so crucial to formulate corrections affirmatively – not to repeat false images or words. The most important thing is to maintain the ability to discuss with those who think differently. Her good advice: “Humor is the best weapon against hate comments.”
She discusses the role of echo chambers and algorithms, as well as how to handle hate comments and false reports, in more detail in this Zeit Online Interview.
Welcome to the new age – the “Augmented Age”
We are now leaving the Information Age and entering the Age of Imagination. Jeff Kowalski (CCTO of Autodesk) painted an extremely positive picture of the future. It’s not about “wanting people to desperately need our design,” but rather “designing what people really want.” Wherever the digital and physical worlds intersect, it profoundly affects our lives. “Computers will help us design better,” Jeff Kowalski said. Humans will become the ‘mentors’ of tools. Generative design will calculate things based on an algorithm and deliver better designs in the future. “Perhaps the next smartphone won’t have a better camera, but it will be compostable.” You can watch his inspiring lecture in its entirety here:
“Computers don’t reflect; they react. Computers don’t think; they calculate. Computers don’t understand; they repeat.”
“Meaningful work is something machines can’t take away because they don’t understand meaning,” Mads Pankow (Publisher, DIE EPILOG) pointed out. “Computers are great at calculating. We’re good at thinking. Let’s help each other.”
Why? See for yourself…
The digital world continually reshapes our lives, but it doesn’t make us better people. Media, technology, engineers, designers, users… it’s the responsibility of all of us to decide the direction we collectively take. Each one of us decides which values we live by, convey, and defend.
“I don’t care about privacy because I have nothing to hide” is like saying “I don’t care about freedom of speech because I have nothing to say.” – Edward Snowden
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