Woman using a laptop on the floor of her house.

More than four thousand people tune in for the series of virtual conversations on emerging digital scenarios

The virtual conversations making up the “What if…?Discussion series #desdecasa”, from the Fundació BIT Habitat (Barcelona City Council), have allowed us all to collectively re-think and reformulate the digital scenarios from an objective, self-critical, and positive perspective, both as regards the current situation and the new future that the Covid-19 pandemic is launching us into.

Between 14 and 23 April, the series presented four live discussions on technology and the current health crisis. The conversations, moderated by Karma Peiró, a journalist who specialises in data, and speakers who were experts in the topic discussed, were viewed by more than four thousand people via live stream.

With an approximate duration of 50 minutes, carrying them out in a live broadcast format also allowed the audience to share their questions and reflections in real time. The series was recorded and can be viewed in the videos that you’ll find at the end of this article.

 

Overview of the series

Conversation 1. What if... my data stop being mine? Now it is more urgent than ever to talk about digital rights and technology sovereignty.

Speakers: Núria Oliver, researcher and data scientist, and Jordi Pérez, journalist specialising in technology for the newspaper El País.

This discussion offers a reflection on the role and risks of technology as regards privacy, debating whether it acts as a valuable tool or something that encroaches on privacy. One part of the debate centres on the fact that technology is part of the solution, but it is not the solution in and of itself. Understanding this concept allows us to come up with solutions that respect privacy, being aware of the risks and how to manage them. For technology to be useful in situations like the one we're living through, we must broach the digital gap and earn citizens’ trust as regards what will be done with their data.

 

Conversation 2. What if...my virtual life doesn’t connect me? How enforced private digital interaction has changed our relationship with emotions, people and ourselves.

Speakers: Liliana Arroyo, doctor in Sociology and researcher in the field of digital innovation and social impact with Esade, and Marta Peirano, a journalist specialising in surveillance technologies and mass manipulation.

This is a debate on the collective consciousness and the use of data, the need for net neutrality, technology and infrastructure as common assets, the ethics of algorithms, and the creation of new perceptions on what closeness means. The forced closeness and digital interaction as the only way to maintain personal and work relationships, caused by the current health crisis, is reflected upon. It also highlights the opportunity that this situation offers us in understanding how digital platforms and applications work and how they manage our data.

 

Conversation 3. What if...educating is also innovating? How technology plays a key role in the future of education and unlearned lessons.

Speakers: Xavier Bonal, professor of Sociology at the Autonomous University of Barcelona, and Evaristo Pérez, a teacher who specialises in the use of ICTs in education.

This serves as a presentation on the difficulties the education community is currently facing with online education and how the digital gap, which is closely related to the social and economic gaps, has contributed to increasing inequality. This entails the need to ensure connectivity and to create more active ways to make knowledge accessible. The concept of “digital hygiene” is discussed, which focuses on the debate about establishing timetables for the use of digital devices, how we are attracted by machines, and the concept of content overload. To conclude the conversation, the speakers talk about how the current situation shows that the in-person relationship between teacher and students is essential for learning. They also go into how the situation is also underscoring the benefits of informal learning, such as creativity and personal responsibility for study habits.

 

Conversation 4. What if...normality was the problem? How exceptionality has shown that the digital transformation is a necessity.

Speakers: Mar Galtés, journalist and author of the book ‘Barcelona Startup’, the story of Barcelona's digital ecosystem, and Genís Roca, international expert in digital transformation and the information society.

This conversation focuses on what repercussions the current situation will have on the labour market and what role technology will have within this new paradigm. They speak about the need to review the situation currently being experienced by different industries and seizing the opportunity to construct new environments. The seriousness of the situation has allowed the digital revolution to reach sectors where it had never been applied before, and therefore, these sectors have begun to learn how to utilize digital resources and the benefits of doing so.

The question is also asked whether the crisis will accelerate robots replacing human workers, debating the positive aspects of this (facilitating re-industrialisation) and the negative ones (tension and imbalance between automation and the rights and freedoms of citizens). It concludes by discussing the need to seize the moment to reinvent ourselves as professionals and to recycle and open the job market to new expectations.

 

If you missed the series or you want to see it, you can do so watching the following videos:

 

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