Even the most innocuous Internet-based technological innovation can raise philosophical questions that challenge our values and our place in society
It is no understatement to say the Internet is the driving force behind some of the most significant advancements that shape our society, culture and future.
As a change-agent, it expands far beyond the confines of a person-to-person communication network and reshapes the way we travel, eat, work, live and interact. The Internet is providing the tools for us to live longer, healthier and happier lives. But even the most innocuous Internet-based technological innovation can raise philosophical questions that challenge our values and our place in society.
Every year The International Academy of Digital Arts & Sciences (IADAS) reviews and selects the best of the best of 15,000+ online works entered into The Webby Awards (now in its 20th year) and The Webbys' European sister, The Lovie Awards.
The Internet's finest
With this bird’s eye perspective of the Internet's finest, we’ve been fascinated this year by some of the larger questions that our life-source – the Internet – raises in all areas of life that matter to us: our relationships, our work and purpose and ourselves.
They elegantly and sensitively navigate the complex issue of how emerging technologies impact consumers’ place in the world, and tap into the tremendous opportunities to provide value to their customers – acting as a positive agent for change
Despite apprehension about these changes, the fact is that the Internet’s relentless and transformative effects are radically changing our lives for the better. And it goes far beyond what we see on the screens that sit on our laps or are held in our hands. As Jury Chairman for The Lovie Awards, I’m both proud of and inspired by this year’s Lovie Winners, as they exemplify exactly why The Internet Can’t Be Stopped. They prove that Europe’s digital industry is not just unique, but is at the forefront of creativity and innovation. In fact, this year we will honour France’s Louis Pouzin with a Lovie Lifetime Achievement Award; Pouzin invented the CYCLADES network more than thirty years ago, which is a key cornerstone of the Internet’s architecture that still holds today.
The winners have something in common: they elegantly and sensitively navigate the complex issue of how emerging technologies impact consumers’ place in the world, and tap into the tremendous opportunities to provide value to their customers – acting as a positive agent for change.
Consumers are concerned about the impact that technology may have on work, relationships and themselves as individuals, but the majority recognise that technology is an agent for change
I am talking about work from the UK such as Google’s Street Art Museum, which brings the images captured by Google’s Street View and turns them into the largest street art museum spanning 50 countries and 5 continents. There are up-and-coming services and sites like Laundrapp, Wahanda and Lily Cole’s Impossible.com (for which she will be honoured as the 2015 Lovie Emerging Entrepreneur). And, stalwarts of excellence like VICE Media, The Tate, The Memo and Footballers United for BBC’s iWonder, which underscore the importance of bringing high-quality experiences to users across the region.
But it’s not just about the UK. Pan-European players are making similar marks, some quite elegantly this year with connected products. There’s Art Beekn from Upside in Cologne, giving visitors to the gallery a much deeper glimpse into each artists’ work using iBeacon technology and people’s mobile phones. From Swedish diaper brand Libero there’s the "Baby-Buzz," a connected product aimed at helping expecting fathers feel closer to the pregnancy experience. Both of these demonstrate that the Internet can enhance and enable personal experiences and relationships, rather than drive us further apart.
I also love Skype Translation and Speak & Translate, each of which enables the translation of conversations in real-time across 42 different languages. 42! These technologies harness the incredible feat of bringing people together despite language barriers, which is one of Europe’s most fundamental and on-going challenges.
The power of the internet for public service
And let's not forget the power of the Internet for public service and activism, including campaigns like WWF’s #EndangeredEmoji, Planet Syria, Doctors without Borders, #GayisOk and Zeitgest 2014: a powerful project for Alzheimer Nederland giving users (unknowingly at first) a first-hand experience of this profound disease.
What does it all mean? Consumers are concerned about the impact that technology may have on work, relationships and themselves as individuals, but the majority recognise that technology is an agent for change – positive change. In your work if you can acknowledge the apprehension but enhance people’s connections through the Internet, you’re poised to win.