08 July 2019
7:00 pm
Tech & Society: “Internet Culture: Dark Age or Renaissance?”
Conference, Debate
Espacio Fundación Telefónica

Tech & Society: “Internet Culture: Dark Age or Renaissance?”


Aspen Institute España and Fundación Telefónica have celebrated a new session of the Tech&Society Program 2019 on Internet Culture: Dark Age or Renaissance? with William Powers, writer, journalist, tecnologist and author of the best-seller Hamlet’s BlackBerry. María Santoyo, Professor and Researcher specialized in History of the Photography and Image Analysis, has moderated the dialogue.

Recently, digital technology has connected and transformed the world. Everything we do, from how we raise families, run companies, to the way we govern our cities or countries, is being transformed by the internet and the countless platforms and applications that operate on it. One of the least discussed aspects of this wave of change is the impact of the technological revolution on the fabric that has defined and sustained human civilizations since the beggining of history: culture.

Are we witnessing the birth of a totally new culture? Are the cultures we know threatened by this new mediumor are they discovering new ways to prosper? Can we draw useful lessons from some of the greatest cultural changes that have occurred in the past to build the cultures of the future based on artificial intelligence?

This event was interpreted in Spanish sign language (LSE) and took place in English, had simultaneous translation devices and was followed in streaming and on social media with the hashtag #TechSociety.


Biography of the speaker

William Powers is a writer, journalist and technologist. He spent a large part of his early career writing about media for major news outlets including The Washington Post. He wrote the book Hamlet’s BlackBerry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age (HarperCollins, 2010), which offered constructive philosophical solutions to some of the human downsides of the digital age. A New York Times bestseller, it has been published in many countries and languages. The book launched me on a journey into the technology world. He grew up in Rhode Island and graduated from Harvard with a degree in history and literature. He did graduate study in Spain, then moved to Washington, DC, where I was a U.S. Senate aide working on foreign relations, intelligence and military affairs. Next he joined The Washington Post, initially as researcher for Bob Woodward in the investigative unit. As a Post staff writer, he covered business, media, politics and ideas. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times and many other publications. I’m a two-time winner of the National Press Club’s Rowse Award for media criticism. He has given keynote talks at conferences such as South by Southwest and the Aspen Ideas Festival, as well as numerous universities and other organizations. He’s moderated conversations for the Aspen Institute’s Socrates program in the US and other countries. He’s been a media fellow at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center and a resident fellow at the MacDowell Colony. He studied the culture of reading in Japan on a fellowship from the Japan Society, and had a Rotary International graduate scholarship. In 2014, he joined the MIT Media Lab as a research scientist and spent the next five years on research projects aiming to ensure that artificial intelligence reflects human values and enables social progress. He’s now Visiting Scholar for Humanistic Technologies at the Center for Humans and Machines, Max Planck Society, Berlin. Home is Massachusetts, where he lives with his wife, writer Martha Sherrill, and his son, Will.


Biography of the moderator

María Santoyo, graduated in Art History from the Complutense University of Madrid, researcher and specialist professor in the history of photography and image analysis. María accumulates eighteen years of experience in the cultural sector, more than fourteen dedicated to the direction and management of exhibition projects and specialized teaching, activities that she develops independently since 2014. Currently she combines being a curator of exhibitions with the direction of the Master International Photography School of the EFTI school, a position he has held since 2017, and the offer of creative consulting services for companies in collaboration with Miguel A. Delgado under the Tesla Method seal. As curator, she is responsible for twenty exhibitions seen to date in sixty venues and seven countries. Among them are the recent Democracy 1978-2018, presented at Caixafòrum Madrid in 2018 as well as The Dancer of the Future: from Isadora Duncan to Joséphine Baker, Houdini: the laws of wonder, Jules Verne: the limits of the imagination and Nikola Tesla: yours is the future, presented at Fundación Telefónica and various rooms between 2014 and 2019. Between 2005 and 2010, he has coordinated projects for international institutions and experts such as Aperture Foundation, Magnum Photos, Kathy Ryan, Mónica Allende and Trisha Ziff.


Third edition of the Tech & Society Program

The objective of the program is to establish a space to reflect on the impact of technological developments on human relationships, politics, education, the economy and medicine. Over the past two decades, debates about children and the Internet have largely focused on questions of online safety and appropriate content or conduct. But the rise of the Internet of Things has brought screenless ’smart’ devices into many areas of domestic life, changing the ways that we run our homes or interact with our families. At the same time, app-based services provide ever more specialised opportunities to track and measure even the most intimate aspects of our lives. In a context where many families now have access to smart toys, digital ‘baby-tech’ and ever-expanding arrays of digital parenting tools, this seminar asks what impact the data economy might be having on our fundamental expectations of childhood and parenting.


Recommended Material:

Balsa-Barreiro, Jose, Cebrián, Manuel, Ortega, Andrés,  Ortega, Por un Internet español con emoción, El País Tribuna, Januay 30, 2019.

Harrison, Dominique, Civil Rights Violations in the Face of Technological Change, The Aspen Institute, April 22, 2019.

Selinger, Evan, Clive, Thompson, The Efficiency Delusion, One Zero, April 1, 2019.

CityLab, Culture Shift: How Tech is Changing Citizenship, The Aspen Institute, October 28, 2018.

MIT Media Lab, Better natures, MIT Media Lab, January 17, 2019.

More information

  • William Powers
  • María Santoyo
Espacio Fundación Telefónica
  • Conference
  • Debate