18 months ago I sat on a train back from Paris, where I’d been working with the wonderful Hide & Seek on an exhibition at the Gaité Lyrique; a beautiful set of games where you played with the building itself, changing its moods and the games other player experienced. I was still fresh into being freelance, and this left me fizzing with glee at what I was going to do with that time.
I sat on that train and penned a self-important screed; not for publishing, but for myself. An ode to making good things and craftsmanship and the puffery of being a creative technologist. And to be honest, I’m quietly happy that I’ve lived up to it. It ended thus:
I’m making stuff because I want to make people’s lives a tiny bit better. Right now, I’m finding ways to get paid to do that as a fairly fungible developer/thinker character, but perhaps one day I’ll make the thing that I care enough about to use every day, and perhaps eventually other people might pay my living to keep making that thing. That would be nice. Anyway, just remember, there’s a lot of people in this web game for the money, or the self-aggrandisement, or because eg feel cheated at missing the first bubble in some way, and those are bullshit reasons for doing things. But sure, they can be mighty compelling reasons, and I won’t judge you for them. I imagine a lot of money is a lovely thing to have, and yes, you’re probably right, I’m just jealous/wrong/a communist/an anarchist and an all round blowhard (delete as appropriate).”
I’ve built a lot of stuff for charities, I’ve made a few games and experiences that have (I hope) made people think. I’ve dabbled in start-ups a couple of times and decided that’s not the life for me, at least until it’s my own startup (or bar, apparently). 2013 was a good year for Felix Cohen’s Proper Business; a game played by half a million people, websites for an enormous charity, teaching wonderful students at General Assembly, building a site for London’s best butcher and prototyping a beautiful whimsical physical thing for the National Trust.
I am creatively sated, a sentiment that 21 year old me would have boggled at.
And I’ve also sat and quietly seethed as the bubble has continued to inflate, and as ‘disruption’ has become an ends, not a means, to success. I’m starting 2014 tired of swathes of the tech scene; the sexism, the self-aggrandising opinions on platforms, the seemingly constant douche-baggery of startup dude-bros.
And yet I love the startup community; the friends I’ve made are among the most wise, considerate and helpful people imaginable. We’ve shared beers, and burgers, and they’ve supported my fledgling bar business beyond any social obligation. We’ve talked late into the night and over breakfasts, and I’ve seen friends become wildly successful for all the right reasons.
So. 2014. I have some goals for myself; continue to hone the life/work balance. Eat better. Exercise more. Read more books and less screens. Finally find a source for calamansi limes. So far, so normal.
But what I’m going to work for with whatever profile I have in the tech scene is more socially minded action. Not fly by night ‘social enterprises’ creating infographic after infographic, nor corporate social responsibility greenwashing for McDonalds, but mindfulness about how what we create is changing the world. We don’t need more snapchat clones or isomorphic curation platforms, we need to ask ourselves and our users what positive change we are making possible. Let’s be more Newspaper Club and less AngelHack, in short.
Other than that? 2014 is going to be politically brutal. We’ll see the worst that the 3 parties have to offer in terms of backstabbing soundbite politics and then hopefully by the end of the year it’ll be clear the tories are out and Ed Miliband will have some decent policies. The economy is going to continue to suck, horribly. The stock market dragons will do some things.