Every year, for MTP Engage Hamburg, we invite speakers from outside the mainstream product scene and ask them to contribute an additional perspective to stimulate discussion among our audience.
This year we were very pleased to welcome Marie Louise Gørvild, Director of Techfestival Copenhagen, to present her view on the profound influence of product managers and other people who make decisions in tech, and the responsibility that comes with it.
Marie points to the change from the initial positive vibe and optimism that surrounded the early years of some of Silicon Valley’s most successful companies, such as Facebook and Twitter. We are becoming more and more aware that the new possibilities these companies brought to the world, have also increasingly challenged societies, regulations, and our moral compasses of what is acceptable.
In a world where the majority of the population is online, and the most valuable companies are tech companies, the role of tech in society has fundamentally changed. And so have our responsibilities – “tech is not in the garage any more – tech is in charge,” is how Marie puts it. And that’s why, according to Marie, it falls upon us, as the current generation of tech makers, to accept this responsibility and figure out what it means.
- We need to develop a new set of guidelines for a new era in tech, outlining how to interact with our users, regulators, and society.
- We can’t wait for Silicon Valley to update its “playbook” for how to build tech.
- We must try to come up with our own guidelines and principles for how to deal with our increasing influence in a responsible manner.
The Copenhagen Catalog, which originated at last year’s Techfestival, is an impressive approach to establishing such guidelines. Developed over the course of 48 hours by a group of 150 contributors from a range of backgrounds, the Copenhagen Catalog provides a set of guidelines for this new era in tech. Many of its values resonate with us as organisers of MTP Engage.
This is why we invited Marie to speak. We also hosted an exhibition of some of our favourite Copenhagen Catalog principles as a trigger for discussion during the conference breaks and at the conference after-party (held at the Westwerk gallery, a suitable setting for exhibiting the catalog).
If you didn’t have the opportunity to join us at MTP Engage Hamburg, be sure to check out the Copenhagen Catalog, to think about the values and principles it describes, and to reflect on what they mean for your work and the context in which you act.
The Copenhagen Catalog doesn’t claim to provide a complete or finite set of answers, but it clearly offers very good food for thought and triggers for a dialogue, and can serve as a first orientation. There are already companies who have made the Catalog’s principles part of their end-user agreement, but there are other ways in which you can use the catalog’s beautifully designed posters to provoke thought and dialogue. It is open source, so you could consider hosting your own exhibition, however big or small your space.