“There’s never been so much at stake.” With those words, Sir Tim Berners-Lee opened the Web We Want Festival’s final weekend, which took place on May 30 and 31 at London’s Southbank Centre. Judging from the thousands of engaged people who passed through the doors over the course of the weekend, many agree. More and more of us are grasping the fact that the Web belongs to everyone, and that we all must play an active role in ensuring it becomes the Web We Want, rather than sleepwalking into a future where it becomes a tool for state or corporate control.
An early highlight of the Festival was Sir Tim’s opening panel, where he was joined by Amanda Long, CEO of Consumers International, DJ Spooky, the international multimedia artist and author, and Nick Pickles, UK head of public policy at Twitter. Panelists and the audience debated diverse topics including gender balance online, net neutrality and data ownership. Clear messages coming out included the need for a Magna Carta for the Internet, that any new legislation that limits civil liberties must be subject to true public consultation, that greater oversight and accountability of security services is essential and that we need to do much, much more to encourage girls and women into the digital economy. It seems the UK’s newly elected Government is going to have a fight on its hands with the proposals to revive the “Snoopers Charter” outlined in the recent Queen’s Speech.
After the tone had been set by the opening panel, the Festival splintered into many fascinating directions. From serious debates around combating radicalisation online, to cutting edge discussions on neuroscience and artificial intelligence, to interpretive dance and interactive artworks, the Festival’s reflection of the diversity of the Web meant there really was something for everyone. Even those who couldn’t be there got involved, with the #webwewantfest trending third in London on Twitter.
Through the Festival series – a partnership between the Southbank Centre and the Web Foundation – tens of thousands of people have gotten involved in person and hundreds of thousands online. This broad appeal is something that Jude Kelly, artistic director of the Southbank Centre, noted in her closing remarks, along with the potential for future editions to go even further. The Festival confirmed what we’ve always suspected – that people from all walks of life are ready to celebrate and fight for our Web. Now, it’s up to all of us to turn that energy into real progress. Stay tuned in the days, months and years ahead as we press ahead – empowering local activists, leading big global conversations…and having a lot of fun along the way.
The Web Foundation team would like to thank the Southbank Centre for their vision and generosity in embarking on this partnership with us. Led by Jude Kelly, the team has been unfailingly professional, creative and energetic. We hope to do it again before too long!