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25
Sep

XOXO: Technology and Values

Kate Chapman, CTO


Earlier this month I had the opportunity to attend XOXO, a festival and conference celebrating independent film, art, and technology in Portland, OR. It was an amazing opportunity to hear people I’ve admired from afar speak in person such as Zoe QuinnKirby Ferguson (Everything is a Remix), and Alex Blumberg (Startup Podcast and Gimlet Media). I also discovered people and projects I hadn’t heard about before, but will certainly be following in the future such as C. Spike Trotman (Iron Circus Comics) and The Toast. In the midst of all of this amazing content, the talk that most struck a chord with me was from Eric Meyer.

Eric spoke about how technology is not neutral and that what we decide to design defines our values. He highlighted this by sharing the extremely difficult story of the death of his young daughter from cancer. Eric has worked on HTML and CSS technology since the 90s, contributing greatly to the development of standards for each area. After the death of his daughter, his community came together to memorialize her through a Twitter hashtag and then proposed a new CSS color definition “rebeccapurple” or #663399. Eric described how technology can be what you make of it and that “our designs are value statements.” People can do good or evil with technology, but they can never “do neutral.”

I think this is something key that Cadasta has been considering and will need to keep in the forefront of our minds as we share our own technology with communities in need. Since we seek to help the most vulnerable, we must think through our designs and determine if our values are furthering that goal. I doubt we’ll always get it right, which is why we will continually work with partners with a much longer contextual history than we do in affected communities. We must continue to iterate to improve and build. I was privileged to hear Eric share his experience at XOXO, and this post serves as a reminder to me, Cadasta, and our greater community to design our technology to reflect the values we cherish.

Thank you, Eric.


Original Image via Wikimedia Commons.


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