The advent of the digital has had a profound impact on our sense of identity, and has shifted the shape and volume of our memories. What does it mean to remember and how is it possible to forget when our experiences are being indexed, stored and monetized, and in the hand of systems we don’t fully understand? Which is our real self online, the one we build intentionally with our tweets and posts, or the one that is created unconsciously when every single one of our actions online is measured and analysed?

Watch the full talks from this session below.

This session opened the 2015 FutureEverything Conference with an introduction by FutureEverything CEO Drew Hemment and Leader of Manchester City Council, Sir Richard Leese:

Hosted by Scott Smith of futures research lab Changeist, What Now For…Memory and Identity interrogated the narratives of ourselves and others that are constructed online, in data, and through news and broadcast media.

In his talk, data artist Jer Thorp discussed how to make the term ‘data’ work for us, and where it is necessary to break the rules around what we think about data. Removing data from its biggest constraint – objectivity – Jer looks at where we can place it into the subjective to see our lived experience of being in a world saturated with data. Giving examples of his work exploring twitter, location and personal data, Jer shows where our data is taken from us, how we can gain control over it, and where we can glean meaning from the information we capture:

Who do you think you are? Who do you think the person sitting next to you is? Gemma Galdon-Clavell asked us to explore the complex system that is our identity, through the lens of personal data. As our data is closed off and made more opaque by companies online, we are starkly reminded that we have no idea where it can end up. How do we gain control over our online identity when organisations collect everything they can, just in case they can make money from it in the future? By exposing the presence of the Data Double, a data version of ‘you’ that we are coming increasingly aware of, Gemma shows where our input makes decisions for us, and assumptions about us that we might not agree with:

‘Truth and Beauty Operator’ Moritz Stefaner introduced his work in data visualisation which aims to show how to characterise complex cultural phenomena, such as the selfie, through data. in collaboration with Lev Manovich, Moritz explores where we can use the images taken from sources like Google Maps and Instagram, and metadata from social media platforms, to find patterns and build profiles about ourselves as a collective. Building up rich data layers to construct a multifaceted snapshot of an area or a particular trend, Moritz looks at where data can tell multiple narratives. A self portrait can capture the essence of a person, so what happens when that essence, that self portrait, is represented in data? Looking closely at the objectivity of data, what has been left out, and what has been taken away, Moritz talks on where authorship can be found in data visualisation:

Matt Locke, director of Storythings, introduced the ABC of digital Storytelling – Attention patterns, Behaviours and Circulation. Drawing a line from the way that broadcast media has historically curated its content, and the ways that we are watching content now, Matt shows how technology has enabled a range of new viewing behaviours. With examples of his own work, and those of his colleagues, Matt shows how embracing these new ways of seeing by making technology-specific content can create richer experiences for viewers and media producers alike:

From NYT R&D Labs, Alexis Lloyd and Matt Boggie talk about our possible media futures, following the early days of the web – where growth was propelled forward by those making their own spaces online – to the present, where social platforms are starting to close down, tightening the possibilities whilst our dependency on them is increasing. Explaining how internet users are in fact participatory creators, not just consumers, Alexis and Matt ask where playing with news media can allow for a new means of expression and commentary by audiences:

The session ended with a panel, where Scott Smith, Moritz Stefaner, Gemma Galdon-Clavell and Jer Thorp discussed reappropriating and creating better tools for data legibility, the aesthetics and ‘beauty’ of data, and the relationship between identity and control: