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James Powderly Questions the Benefits of the Internet Revolution

“Was the computer revolution a revolution?" James Powderly asked at the crowd during the Open Source Panel at our NY event. “Was it really a revolution? Langdon Winner, who won several computer prizes of great distinction said, ‘The problem was that the computer revolution never named its social end.’” Powderly continued his talk by raising hard questions about our use of technology in this internet age, and then suggesting how we could change the way we use it in order to effect positive change on a global scale.

You can see Powderly’s provocative talk and slideshow for yourself in the video above, in which he touched on many of his celebrated art / tech collaborations with Evan Roth including LED Throwies, Laser Tag, and the Eyewriter. He seemed most optimistic about his projects when other people joined in, and the way that technology can make beautiful yet previously frowned upon street arts like graffiti more accepted and thus more prevalent. “The fact that we can pull up to any building in the world on any place in the world, and just start to write whatever we want, is an interesting phenomenon, it’s an interesting litmus test to apply to different cities as well because you learn a lot about a city by what they’ll allow you to write there,” Powderly said. And about all the satellite graffiti research labs popping up around the word, "They joined us because they knew it was technology and that it wasn’t damaging. I mean technology belongs in public space, it’s supposed to be there.”

So, how can the marriage of science and design help save the world? By being available to as many people as possible, in Powderly’s opinion.

“The internet is maybe the most celebrated utility of our generation. I mean, if it could pat itself on the back it’d be pounding a hole in its back. But it’s not really a place for freedom, it’s a place for control. Of course it was designed by the military, and it was funded by porn," Powderly said. “So we release all our projects on the internet completely open source, we put them out there and then people copy them, they improve them. Sometimes they make better things, sometimes they make weirder things.”

For more of James Powderly, check out our earlier post of a chat we had with him after his talk. We’ll also be rolling out videos and blogs of panels from our NY event all week. And if you really want more, download the software for laser tag, pick up a laser pointer, and try it for yourself.

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