Messy Edge Web
Asad J Malik
Emma Frankland

Laurence Hill, Director of Brighton Digital Festival and curator of The Messy Edge, wrote his thoughts on the upcoming conference for us. The Messy Edge is Brighton Digital Festival’s in house conference which takes place at Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts and is supported by us and the Sussex Humanities Lab. Join us for the event on Friday 28 September. The full line up and tickets for the conference can be found here.

The underpinning of the Messy Edge remains the same as it was in 2017. We cannot build a better future on the deeply flawed foundations of the present. Digital technology is not something that we can use to paper over the cracks, despite what futurists and ‘technochauvanists’ (Meredith Broussard) would have us believe. We cannot ignore the complicated, messy and ugly facts of our current social realities. The Messy Edge is not about technophobia either, we believe in the power that digital has to make better futures for everyone. The house position is, officially, critical optimism.

This year we are examining in/visibility and vulnerability in digital spaces and their echoes in the world.

I started by questioning the idea of the ‘right to be forgotten’, to have search results erased, not to be tracked across the internet and be targeted by ads in ways that seem occult-like in their ability to read your mind or to have overheard your conversations. There are many interesting and important implications in that, and they may well be touched on during the conference but it struck me that you have to be visible before you can demand the right to be forgotten.

Many people are not represented online in meaningful ways, they fight to be heard in spaces that were not designed for them and against systems that have been built to exclude them - this is as true online as it is off. Visibility brings affirmation for marginalised groups but equally, it increases vulnerability.

The tensions around in/visibility and vulnerability are something that I’m interested in and helped to shape the lineup of this year’s conference.

We have speakers exploring surveillance, immigration, vulnerable communities, access to knowledge, representation and the erasure of the line between knowledge and action. We’re exploring fundamental shifts in human behaviour and the slow gif movement.

Our speakers are historians, artists, activists, designers and academics but the Messy Edge is not solely an arts conference, nor is it an academic one - it is designed for everybody - which is why we try and keep the cost as low as possible. Pay What You Decide tickets are available.

The impact of digital is universal, our world, our lives, our behaviours are being shaped by it. It acts on us in ways that are obvious and some that are less so. It’s a tool that has unlimited potential but it’s mostly not being shaped by us, or often, for us and we all need to understand that.”