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Our Web Directions Summit 2023 Keynote speakers

Choosing keynote speakers is among the most engaging, and daunting, parts of putting together our conferences.

Once a year we have the challenge of finding speakers who will capture the sprit of what is important now, and help point our diverse audience toward what comes next.

Now, there is no shortage of “thought leaders” and “keynote speakers” (their assistants and agents approach us all the time), but we aim for substance, not soundbites. People whose deep personal experience help us reflect on where we are and how we got here. People whose ideas and work have, are, and will shape what we all do next.

I’ve written and spoken at length recently about how I feel we’re at a time of change, challenge and opportunity unlike anything in the last 3 decades. And so in choosing our keynotes for this year, it was imperative that these were people who could help make sense of a time of rapid change, particularly in relation to AI, and its impact on the Web (and beyond). And on the work we do.

And I genuinely feel we’ve done that, with four speakers and four talks that ask: Where are we? How did we get here? And where will we go next?

It will be a privilege to have them on the stage at Web Directions Summit, and I hope you will join us.

cards with details of the four keynotes. Each features an image of the speaker and their name, rose, and talk title.

Text for each reads

THE MEDIATED WEB
RUPERT MANFREDI
DESIGN ADEPT

THE EXPANDING DARK FOREST AND GENERATIVE AI
MAGGIE APPLETON
PRODUCT DESIGNER OUGHT

THE RISE OF THE AI ENGINEER
SHAWN WANG
FOUNDER, EDITOR & COHOST LATENT.SPACE

ALL THE THINGS THAT SEEM TO MATTER
TEA UGLOW
DIRECTOR DARK SWAN INSTITUTE

RUPERT MANFREDI–THE MEDIATED WEB

Rupert Manfredi (Parry) is a designer and programmer, currently working on the future of human-computer interfaces at Adept. He’s worked at Mozilla’s Innovation Studio, and Google Creative Lab exploring what is and what could be to solve problems, reveal opportunities, and make magic.

Rupert has a prediction.

The web will soon be mediated by agents, not just rendered by web browsers. Every user will have their own AI interpreting information for them, and executing tasks on their behalf.

What does this mean now, and what does it mean for the future of the web?

MAGGIE APPLETON–THE EXPANDING DARK FOREST AND GENERATIVE AI

Maggie Appleton is a designer, anthropologist, and (she says) mediocre developer. She currently leads design at Ought, an AI research lab exploring how machine learning can support open-ended reasoning. She’s also co-author with Dan Abramov (co-author of Create React App) of the engaging interactive JavaScript curse, “Just JavaScript

Maggie fears the web is becoming an eerily lifeless place. Its public spaces are filled with a mix of bad faith actors and automated predators like bots, advertisers, clickbait attention-grabbers, and angry twitter mobs. Like a dark forest, all the living creatures are quietly hiding out of sight. Generative AI systems are about to make this situation worse. We now have tools that can churn out tens of thousands of words, images, and videos in seconds.

She asks “how will we find original insights under this pile of cruft? How will we figure out which authors are flesh-and-blood humans we can form emotional and intellectual relationships with? And does it even matter if something was made by an AI instead of a human?”

SHAWN WANG–THE RISE OF THE AI ENGINEER

Shawn (swyx) Wang, who curated our GobalScope JavaScript conference in 2022, has through the community he cofounded, latent.space, found himself at the centre of an emerging area of practice he explores–AI Engineering. At Summit he will consider how AI crossing over from PhD level ML research into real life applications, and how software engineers are rising to the challenge to build a new subdiscipline of engineering.

TEA UGLOW–ALL THE THINGS THAT SEEM TO MATTER

Tea Uglow is a speaker we have dreamt of having at Web Directions for many years. Tea founded Creative Labs for Google in Sydney (2011) and London (2007) and became globally known for work focused on projects with cultural organisations that enabled artists, writers, dancers and other cultural practitioners to digitally augment or interpret their work.

Now founder of the Dark Swan Institute, as a queer activist she authored a compilation of LGBTQ activist speeches called Loud and Proud, and is the very proud co-author of the trans pride flag emoji despite the 4 and a half years it took to achieve something that seemed so obvious.

Tea will take a macro look backwards and forwards at the web and society to make some predictions about the future of the internet. A breakdown of the zeitgeist identifying precedents, patterns and potentials–the trends we saw coming, and what we should see coming.

I hope you can see why we are so excited

I really do hope you can see why we’re so excited to be able to being together these 4 exceptional speakers. And that’s only the very beginning.

This year Summit had grown even more, now with 7 tracks of expertly curated in-depth talks across font end development, product design, product management, design systems, content strategy/design, and product and growth marketing. Well be announcing these nearly 100 talks shortly.

If you work in web and digital Web Directions Summit is for you. It’s on October 26 and 27, and we really hope to see you there.

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Out of any conference, Web Directions is far and away our favourite

Dave Greiner Founder, Campaign Monitor