Mercat de les Flors

For the opening address of Internet Age Media’s IAM Weekend 2017, the co-founder Andres Colmenares read out loud the Perspective piece he wrote for Crack in March. “Let’s get political as we all get digital,” he writes, “It is time for us to imagine, cultivate and invent what happens next.”

As a conceptual backdrop to the talks, discussions and workshops that took place across the weekend, this credo of networked optimism served as a useful focal point throughout – exploring the ways in which our digital connectedness can bring about new possibilities and understandings. Elise By Olsen, the 17-year-old editor-in-chief of Recens Paper spoke at the opening ceremony – a perfect example of the open-minded consciousness that powered the discourse of the weekend.

The conversations frequently linked back to the political – both in terms of identifying issues and finding solutions. Amani Al-Khatahtbeh, the founder and editor of MuslimGirl, spoke about the steps her online website has taken to combat negative perceptions of Muslim women. Earlier this year, Al-Khatahtbeh organised a content partnership with Getty Images to combat the misrepresentation by producing a new photo-set of stock images which showed Muslim women in a more diverse range of scenarios. Elsewhere, accounts of ownership and mobilisation were shared by Vanessa Wruble, one of the co-founders of the Women’s March.

Eliza Anyangwe, the founder of The Nzinga Effect was another standout of the festival’s political strand – emphasising the importance of diversity being understood as “everyone as other”. This sentiment was echoed by Butterz founder Elijah in a conversation hosted by Crack Magazine. It was this amalgamation of voices and perspectives which formed the fabric of the weekend – figures from different worlds united by open dialogue.

The sociopolitical themes extended to the more ostensibly trivial aspects of the timeline. Felix Magal, co-founder of Museum of Internet and celebrated meme aficionado, made a point of emphasising the apolitical nature of his work in light of the power amassed by memes and forum threads in US election.

Author and activist Jasmina Tešanović, and her husband the iconic science fiction writer Bruce Sterling closed the programme. “Thank god the system is broken – it gives you, the young generation, an opportunity to act” said Tešanović – capturing the essence of reconstruction and pathfinding which glued all the speakers together.  Ricarda Messner and Caia Hagel of SOFA Magazine held a workshop of the final day where we played ‘Spin The Penis’. Spinning a marble cast phallus in the centre of a circle, prompting whoever it landed on to answer an intimate question about themselves.

The game forced us to get intimate with strangers – it was awkward at first, but the IRL manifestation of our ongoing social openness was a fitting finale for a weekend this enlightening. For professionals, this was a summit of optimistic explorers – a place for alternative ideas to be shared among those at the forefront of new technologies (many described themselves as coming “from the internet”).

For observers like myself, IAM Weekend 17 served as an introduction to new ideas and previously-unquestioned questions (I’m still mulling over Space10 considering the ethics of AI being imbued with religious beliefs). At the end of the conference, Lucy and Andres who founded IAM announced the theme for next year. ‘Subversion of Paradoxes’, typed onto the projected screen in realtime from a laptop backstage.

It might take us 12 months to process what we learned this year before we can begin to consider that title. It’s exciting to think what might happen in that time.