Preview: Can Grace Survive in the Digital Age?
Brian Wesolowski works for the Center for Democracy & Technology, a nonprofit that advocates for our digital rights. He works to ensure that the same rights we enjoy offline are extended to the digital realm, including our rights to free expression, privacy, and to basic human dignity.
Tell me a little bit about the work you do:
I serve as Chief of Staff and Communications Director, with most of my experience in communications. My first job out of college was with a brand consultant who taught me how to think big, while never forgetting the personal details. Since then, I’ve worked in public relations, communications, and marketing for a range of organizations, including as a consultant and in-house at a foreign government’s ministry of technology.
What inspired you to speak at SXSW?
I’ve had the chance to attend SXSW the past two years and am always inspired by the creative people I meet. Working in Washington on tech policy issues can get very wonky and it’s easy to forget about the people who will truly benefit from the policies we advance. I love having the chance to meet brilliant developers, designers, entrepreneurs, technologists, musicians, students, and more.
What is the focus of your panel?
Our panel will explore the concept of grace online and how the notion of grace can tackle many of the challenges we face in our hyper-connected lives. We start by working to define grace, using examples from the civil rights movement, sports, Hollywood, and more. We’ll then apply this framing of grace to our digital lives, both what we do online and how technology impacts us physically. We tie it all together by sharing thoughts on how we can live more gracefully online and off, while still enjoying the benefits of technology. This will include practical tips for everyone, as well as tangible advice on how to design grace into online platforms and other technologies.
What makes your panel stand out from other panels?
We really have diverse perspectives on our panel and will be striving to offer clear, actionable advice on grace. While many people probably have their own thoughts on what grace means, I have yet to see it applied to the digital world. As for the people speaking, we have a Pulitzer Prize-winning dance critic who is a champion of graceful living, a UX expert who works for one of the most creative firms I know, and a policy nerd. We all believe that if everyone strives to live just a bit more gracefully, we will get closer to realizing the full potential of the internet.
What are you hoping will be the biggest takeaway for the audience attending your panel?
Hopefully people will better understand what we mean by grace and why it is a valuable lens to use when trying to shape a digital world that is one we will all want to live in. I hope people will leave feeling empowered to act both personally and professionally to start living more gracefully each day.
What was the inspiration behind the creation of this panel?
I love the internet and truly believe it can be an incredible force for good in the world, but when I look at its impact on society right now, it’s really hard to argue that it’s close to realizing this potential. There is a coarsening of language, the filtering of views, and a dehumanizing aspect to so many of our interactions. As we were thinking of ways to address some of these challenges, the notion of grace really emerged as an appealing approach. I credit Sarah Kaufman with introducing me to grace and getting me to think through how it might be embodied in the digital age.