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Thoughts on digital activism and social entrepreneurship.

The Future of the City


Cities and their influence on citizens’ behavior, community, and culture is top of mind for more than the usual suspects: urban planners and city hall officials. Right now designers, technologists, hacktivists, and journalists are all exploring how the urban environment is going to change in coming years, as the megapolis becomes more of a reality. As my colleague, Creative Director Scott Nazarian, states in his article in our upcoming print issue of design mind, “Cities challenge us to manage their many networks, all of which must be managed or facilitated by both people and automated systems.”

So, who are the people and organizations rethinking our cities? Mathieu Lefevre is the Executive Director of the New Cities Foundation, a new global platform for innovation and exchange on the future of urbanization. I discussed the future of the connected city with him, the places that are getting urbanization right, and technology’s role in these transformations.

Data as Narrative at SXSW Interactive

Yesterday, when I was discussing the panels that I had been hitting up over the weekend about audio documentary, the future of journalism, and digital content, a puzzled technologist asked, “Why is that a whole track this year?”

Although, for the Digerati it may seem obvious that ‘storytelling’ has been a HUGE (slightly overused and diluted) buzzword as of late, it wasn’t a focus at SXSW Interactive just three years ago. This year, those in “traditional media,” and the original masters of conversation and story—radio documentarians—spoke proudly of the way that they have quickly adapted to new forms of journalism, storytelling and the remixing of content for a digital audience.

Curators and the Curated at SXSWi

“I feel like such a token…I’m so grateful you guys are here to package and repurpose me.”

The whole crowd listening to the “Curators and the Curated” panel erupted in laughter at SXSW Interactive.

David Carr, reporter and blogger of the New York Times, was the only person on the panel whose job is solely to focus on the creation of content, rather than the gathering, repackaging, and distribution of content (although David Carr is certainly active on Twitter, which many would classify as a curation tool in itself). Carr’s signature sharp wit and representation of the legacy of journalism made tangible the (sometimes playful) tension between those that create content versus those who recapture it. Those platforms that are not under the business model constraints of traditional media are able to create beautifully designed spaces for content, without the taint of paywalls or the ugly appearance of ads. Although, Mia Quagliarello of Flipboard argued that fans of Vogue magazine read for the ads as much as the article.

Pop!Tech Day Three: Preoccupation with the Edge

 

Sometimes between the hoard of inspirational talks and sessions that challenge the status quo—and blow your mind at best— you have to find a quiet place away from the stimuli and wax poetic with a stranger. I was lucky enough to find Matt Jones.

Pop!Tech Day Two: Maker's Resilience and the Post-Industrial Designer

 

The delightful designer Thomas Thwaites took the stage today to offer a close examination of a complex design challenge. Unlike his session peers from the State Department, he wasn’t addressing the problematic organism of the U.S. foreign policy, but rather the boggling complexities of, well, a toaster.

PopTech 2011 Day One: Reframing Interactive Media

This year’s PopTech conference in Camden, Maine focuses on the theme of “Rebalancing”; it reflects the time of extreme transition we’re in as a global society and the turbulent reevaluation our systems and institutions are undergoing –whether it’s taking place in the environment or education, the economy or the media, healthcare or design.

But using the verb rebalancing almost implies that there was equilibrium in the first place.  As speaker and author Stephanie Coontz pointed out at the beginning of her talk, “rebalancing is not something you do once, it’s a way of life.”  

Project M: Over One Billion Messages

It’s clear that mobile technology is a powerful vehicle for sharing information and creating meaningful connections in previously isolated communities. Mobile tech has the power to transform industries from energy to journalism, and frog and its partners believe it can transform healthcare in a deeply impactful way as well. We created Project Masiluleke in partnership with the Aricent Group, PopTech, iTEACH, Praeklt, Nokia Simens, and others to build a network of support and awareness around HIV/AIDS.

frog Teams Up with Wonderbag in South Africa

Years after the end of apartheid, South Africa is still striving to recreate its identity. Many outdated social and economic systems have undergone massive changes on a national and local level, all with the goal of cultivating diversity while also preserving tradition. The result is that great strides in racial equality and civil rights have been achieved. Economic equality, however, is still part of a hopeful future—one for which a number of social innovators in the country are working hard to achieve.

The New Transparency

A new type of public intimacy exists in an era of the New Transparency, where the sharing of our identities online is said to be our most valuable social currency. But what is the backlash to expressing intimate details in a social forum? How does that shape or prohibit the control you have over your favorite brand: yourself? Read on for notes on authenticity, free expression, and the ability to “fail” in open communities.

The Long Game of Social Change

“We have greatly overestimated value of access to info and greatly underestimated value of access to each other — Clay Shirky at #sxsw

The highlights of my SXSW ’11 experience, thus far, have been found in the sessions that underscore the creative commons culture of documenting, sharing, and remixing that hacktivists, journalists, and members of civil society as a whole are embracing.