Building Collaboration Without Surveillance

A brief interview with SRCCON:WORK speaker Mandy Brown

SRCCON:WORK is coming up fast. In the run-up to the event, we’re publishing short interviews with the nine people selected to give talks to frame the participatory sections at the heart of the conference. Here’s our Q&A with Mandy Brown, executive director of publishing at Vox Media, who will speak about “how to build newsroom tech that respects the humanity of everyone who makes and uses it.”

Mandy Brown on Living Well with Our Tools

Source: Hi Mandy! Would you introduce yourself to our readers, please?

I’m an executive director of product at Vox Media, where I lead a team building Vox Media’s platform, Chorus. Prior to joining Vox Media, I was CEO and co-founder of Editorially, a tool for collaborative writing and editing. I’ve worked at the intersection of editorial and product for much of my career, and have spent a lot of time thinking about how we build tools for telling stories.

Source: What does it mean to make tech that respects the humanity of its users?

I’m coming at this question now from the perspective of someone who builds tools for editorial teams, so my users are the writers, editors, videographers, photographers, and their many peers, who work to create a story. So I think a lot about how tools can make someone’s work more efficient without also constraining their autonomy: how can we build a tool that’s fast and simple but also supports creativity? How can we enable collaboration (which depends on open communication) without also creating systems that lead to surveillance? How can we build a relationship with our users such that we are building tools with them not for them? How do we let people break the rules?

Source: What do you wish you could dig into in your talk, but won’t have the time to discuss?

I’ll talk about creating stories, but I won’t have much time to talk about how those stories travel. The leap from a news platform to a social media platform to a platform designed for disinformation and psychological malware is extremely small these days. We’re building tools to tell stories on the same systems where armies of bots and foreign powers peddle blatant racism and misogyny in an effort to influence what people believe to be true. I think there’s a lot we need to interrogate about how stories move online and how people receive them and what we can do to counter the presently terrifying conditions.



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