“The Ethics of Web Design”, and why emotional labour is the whole point

If Morten Rand-Hendriksen would have given his talk “The Ethics of Web Design” at a church instead of the Milky Way track at WordCamp Europe 2018, the definition of what made that talk so special might have been: Testimony.

Morten didn’t waste time when he got on stage.
He started right off with a most intimate, terrifying, and admirable story from his own life, taking his audience back to the hospital where his wife had just given birth to their first-born; the situation was very, very critical
and all of a sudden, the first-time father was expected to make immediate decisions on behalf of himself and his wife—decisions that would affect the life or death of their baby.

Paraphrasing can’t even begin to capture Morten’s speaking, much less the energy in the room. You’re going to have to watch the video for yourself. Several people (including this author) broke down crying during and after the presentation.

The video may capture that energy to some degree, however, witnessing this talk live on stage was an entirely unexpected experience.
In the middle of cosy la-la WordCamp nothing had prepared you for the significant emotional labour that suddenly was required; more for some and less for others perhaps, but I’m pretty sure there was no getting away from it, for anyone.

And that’s the whole point of ethics: Something has happened, something is happening, something is about to happen—what now?!

Life doesn’t negotiate schedules, or emotional dispositions. It just has that beautiful and annoying tendency to happen in the most impossible ways. And then what? What are we going to do, and why?

Emotional, physical, mental, and spiritual labour are the currencies we get to pay with for our own peace of mind. As people who produce technology used by millions, we must consciously embrace that labour and put it at the foundation of our day-to-day decision making.