OpenJS World Keynote: Restoring Balance in Technology – Lessons from the Indie Rock DIY Movement

By August 24, 2021Blog, OpenJS World

During the OpenJS World Keynote Panel, Robin Ginn spoke to Jenny Toomey to hear her insights on the role the Indie Rock DIY revolution has had on technology and conversely how technology helped transform the music industry. 

Robin Ginn, Executive Director of the OpenJS Foundation, spoke with Jenny Toomey, International Program Director of Technology and Society at the Ford Foundation. Toomey shared her thoughts on the digital music revolution scene in the 90s and explained how Washington DC had many high-performing globally focused individuals; “…it felt like you were at the center of the place where you could change the world.” 

Toomey worked for seven years trying to find a balance between openness and control of records between the artists and record labels. That’s when she realized the way technology was changing the world – she explained that the early challenges of the portfolio included people not realizing ways in which technology was transforming their lives – and the systems that protected them. 

People in positions of power back then thought of technology as transactional as opposed to systemic. 

The Ford Foundation tackles problems of openness by building a field of experts who are concerned about net neutrality. Toomey feels optimistic seeing an enormous shift (which open source people always knew): the way you design something determines if it is rights protecting or rights undermining. She emphasized that competing models are key to transparency and honesty.

In her concluding thoughts Toomey mentioned the importance of bridging the gap between the public and private sector when it comes to matching skills to meet the needs of the public. She also explained how so much of the web is dependent on the invisible toiling of the open source community and how it is necessary for the health of the tech ecosystem. 

Full video here

Broken down by section:

Panel introduction 0:50

Washington DC music scene 0:54

Technology changing the music scene 6:07

Early Challenges 9:45

Strategies and solutions 12:23

Voice of the musician being lost in policy 16:37

Advice for those interested in working for the government & public interest tech 24:17

Concluding thoughts and favorite musician 32:19