The festival, which is in its fourth year and is run by think tank Internet Age Media (IAM) opened with talks from IAM co-founder Andrés Colmenares, futurist Monika Bielskyte and Taiwan’s minister of digital Audrey Tang.
Each of the speakers brought a tone of critical optimism to the event, acknowledging both the potential and problems with the internet and technology today. Explaining this year’s theme, Subversion of Paradoxes, Colmenares explained: ‘Paradoxes are tools that can be used to understand the future. But our aim is to subvert paradoxes and challenge cultural narratives – to use the internet, instead of being used by it.’
Despite the tone of resistance, it was a weekend filled with hope. ‘Unlike most people, I am an optimist,’ said Tang, who video-conferenced into the event from Taiwan. As digital minister, she is using technology as a tool for transparency in government. Every conversation she has in government is transcribed, while every question she is asked, whether publicly or not, she answers and publishes in the public sphere.
In a talk about dystopian narratives of the future, Bielskyte, co-founder of ALLFUTUREEVERYTHING, said: ‘The real challenge is to imagine a future that has hope in it.’ She emphasised that hope ‘cannot be in technology, it has to be in humanity’.