Reflecting on the Crypto Design Challenge

Privacy and the Challenge of Digital Literacy
By Nicola Romagnoli

The 2nd annual Crypto Design Challenge, hosted at Paradiso, was the conclusion of a
shout out to artists, designers, activists, visionaries and researchers to create new
conceptualizations of the Deep Web: the mysterious and presumed hidden web, inaccessible through
Google and other search engines. However, the ceremony was a larger culmination of
encouraging discussions and reflections on the most contemporary issues in media and
digital culture.


Of the 38 entries submitted, the selected 15 nominations were beautifully displayed along
the second floor gallery. Each project uniquely engaged with the conference’s central
theme, and exposed viewers to challenge their preconceived notions of the Deep Web. Of
note, two of the submissions came from the Crypto Design Challenge Workshop hosted
earlier that month. Particular congratulations to go Yinan Song and her project Deeply for
winning the Jury Award, headed by Mieke Gerritzen, and Julia Janssen’s The Bank of
Online Humanity, for winning the Audience Award. See also Winners Crypto Design Challenge 2016.

Along with the projects, the organizers invited a diverse host of speakers to come and
reflect on the current state of media culture and politics. Going along with the Deep Web
challenge, the speakers all explored on issues of cryptography, and the dangers around the
rise of digital surveillance and data collection. As a way to situate this discussion, the
attendants were greeted, tongue and cheek, by media professor Marc Tuters as he read
aloud Facebook’s ‘Terms of Service’.

From there, a subtle theme underlying all the speakers was an attempt to tackle what is
commonly referred to as the privacy paradox: the condition where privacy is highly valued,
yet people make minimal sacrifices to insure it. Therefore, from discussions on the
emergence of reputation economies, to detailed analyses of the challenges of email
encryption and one emphatic and theatrical reading of the ‘Data Prevention Manifesto’,
the conference explored this phenomenon, detailing the underlying mechanics of
encryption and privacy, while also stressing the importance individual action as a
response. Together, these voices resonated with the wide diversity of attendants who
shared a common interest – to better understand privacy awareness and practice digital
literacy. As issues of su   rveillance, encryption, anonymity and privacy continue to
dominate this digital century, broadening the dialogue and cultivating a participating
online citizenry will become increasingly important.


The Crypto Design Challenge was initiated by MOTI, Museum of the Image in Breda
in 2015. This year’s edition is organized in collaboration with the Institute of Network
Cultures and the Citizen Data Lab, both based at the Amsterdam University of Applied
Sciences, Faculty of Digital Media and Creative Industries. Special recognition also goes
to Jan Dietvorst from Paradiso, Loes Bogers from Makerslab and Stefan Schäfer, for helping successfully organize the event.

Pictures by Sebastiaan ter Burg