Digital Life Design II (afterthoughts)

I have let a few days, actually a whole week go by, before sitting down to post what has transpired and refluxed from my own handwritten notes. You know, the usual excuses apply, fact is that I am not a journalist, thus to report stuff as it happens is not on my priority list. A technorati search for “dld07” would give anybody a good cut of what people were writing as the event was happening.

What I particularly appreciated about the event was that it was where gloss meets geek, and that is indeed a great interface for advancing media and communication. Gloss being the more traditional media and geek, well being geek and internet. For some odd reason I was surprised at the tenor of the whole event being around sustainability. A sustainability discussion is to me always welcome, however I am not always convinced of the arguments, and more often than not tend to think that I have a much different understanding of what sustainability is. But then, why don’t I write more about it? After all I have worked in the area for several years, written several papers within specific client mandates, and have yet to publish one.

On the third day of DLD I had to confront my own ignorance. I had never heard of John Naisbitt and he was on the program first thing with a catchy “Mind Set” title. Naisbitt had a few good things to say to the questions from the moderator David Kirkpatrick.

What I got was that people are tired of the hype of technology, and that gloom and doom has become a religion of sorts. Although Nasbitt did not chain the two ideas, I would like to do it: It seems sometimes to me that when drowning in gloom and doom, it is rather easy to look for the saviour, and that saviour these days tends to take the form of technology hype, or hype of any sort. There is a lot of hype about innovation in some not so naive or populist circles, and there innovation is looked at as the saviour for whatever ails the system, the economy, or the enterprise. Sometimes it sounds to me like a domestic strife in that “the other” is always in the wrong, and only if “the other” had another personality, another something or other, would work on improving himself/herself, would say – innovate, then all would be well. If you are looking at the surface, then that is the right conclusion, but if you are looking at the surface, you are not seeing.

Naisbitt also made a good point about the problems associated with doing straight line extrapolation. Indeed there are a few classical examples of past future predictions based on straight line extrapolation that when we hear them today seem totally ridiculous and not just naive, but also pretty stupid. One is tempted to ask how people could have been so naive, and we often forget that we have not necessarily evolved all that much when it comes to extrapolation. Not all, but many economic models are based on based on linear coupling mechanics, while the whole of the ecosytem – that includes economics too – is highly nonlinear. In my view, one of the least predictable of the non-linearities has to to with human behaviour, and in particular human creativity and adaptability.

Naisbitt touched on a fair number of very zeitgeist issues including the speed at which events happen and the human expectation of that speed, journalism and old school media, shifting media mix, the move towards a more visual culture, architecture as an important art form, colour coding in communication, even terrorism.

I enjoyed the panel on “Interface and Design” that included Bruce Stirling, Chris Bangle, Tim Brown, and Walter Mossberg. Surely spimes and the iPhone came up in the same sentence. Most of it some of us have all heard it before, but it was good to listen to it all live.

The panel on the “Billion Dollar” bubble failed to thrill me much, but then that is my problem. Still there was something around the idea that the world is flush with cash and short on management. Let’s think about that one. Flush with cash, yes. But what is cash viewed from the perspective of sustainability? Is it management that the world is short of? I would more be looking for where the leadership is. Where are the leaders?

James Murdoch delivered a well polished closing keynote speech and brilliantly highlighted his company’s approach to sustainability. Good stuff, but I still do not have a television, however I have heard of Sky channel.

The “Cimate Change” was thoughtful, and while it brought no news, I do wonder how many people are actually listening or have listened to what is being communicated. Certainly there are whole nations bent on ignoring the whole climate debate. I am however not prepared to go into any detail on this issue. Good to know, but at the end of the day what is it that you are doing in your daily life? I tend to think that people are not concerned with global issues although these offer great excuses for all sorts of mishaps in one’s life, but a concern is not what I often find. So what is it that moves people to act?

The closing note has already been widely broadcast, so I will skip on commentary here. Although I could say that I found it interesting and any effort that raises awareness for nature is a good effort.

All in all, it was great to be in Munich.


Digital Life Design

After one full day of DLD in Münich my overall impression is good.

Here are some of my personal notes and thoughts. The tone of this post is informal and sometimes rather technical, geeky and full of jargon; and it is being served to you without links for technical reasons that translate to the wifi in my hotel being too spotty for me to be bothered to go dig the links.

Luc Besson emphasized the importance of story telling, if what you are doing is trying to tell a story, be it a movie, an animation, or a book. It is not about the technology. The good man has a name for the condition of those who send their desk neighbour 8 emails in one day to tell them anything from “you look like you lost weight” to “where are the paper clips?” and that is, emailaitis. He personally does not have an email, his assistant deals with that. He does not use the technology himself, he just lets hundreds of people do the work and produce a whole movie in which both real live actors and their pixeled characters co-exist. Luc Besson is also a very European fellow, that makes me like him even better now. He is very European in my view because he takes a stand for European culture, in particular for European film making. To him, our culture is our passport. I would go further, our culture is our ambassador.

I am left with two ideas that I like, the value of story telling, and an invitation to think about culture.

The panel on “Disruptive Connections” was excellent. In a nutshell, the panelist held good arguments on how telecommunication is moving through the internet backbone and how distance has been dead for a long time on the internet. If you are paying high charges for roaming on your mobile, that is because your service provider and mine are working with a business model that allows them to do that, however the alternatives are here: TruePhone, Rebtel, and soon Blick. What I got is that the internet is going mobile and mobile is going VoIP. The business that these guys see themselves in is the communication business, not the the telecom business. My own thinking is that indeed the laws and regulations presently imposed on telecommunications are going to have to be re-engineered really soon. For some of my own two cents, it is my view that man creates technology, and then from its applications and creations, it creates the laws. To put it in more pointed terms, it is useless, if not illogical, to try to regulate new technology with laws that were created for old technology. That is, now that we all payed dearly to have the internet infrastructure built with those monthly payments we have given the telecoms, it is time for the consumer to take the inernet back, and make somehting out of it without continually throwing money into the telecoms pockets.

A note on the practicality of this development is that it is still geeky, that is, cumbersome. For instance I have a SonyEricsson, and TruePhone does not have an application for my phone, but if you have a smart Nokia, go for it. I am not the worst idiot when it comes to geek stuff, still I managed to mangel the setup on Rebtel and David got a text message from me that I immediately asked him to ignore. A good thing, I had no clue as to where he was and he was in Cairo, and I was in Germany, and we both have Swiss mobile numbers. However my own personal situation here illustrates rather well what the problem is with the present GSM (Get Screwed Monthly) system and the reality of the internet backbone. Those just a bit more conversant with telecom jargon do realize that we are back to the last mile argument except now it is on the mobile network, not on the fixed network, and here wifi still has some technical difficulties, but those too can be conquered.

I found the panel on “The Link Society” boring, and that may have more to do with me that with what the panelists had to present. I personally have reached a saturation point when it comes to linked personal phone books. My present favorite is LinkedIn because I use it and it provides me with useful linkage, and Xing is sort of ok, but I do not use it much. MySpace and Facebook bore the living daylights out of me, but then, this is me, this is my blog, and this is my opinion. It seems to me that there is nothing wrong with all these enterprises springing out of nowhere and creating communities, I just more often than not, do not really get what their business models are.

I was pleasantly surprised by the talk of Norman Foster. Sure I like his buildings, he is sort of a living cult among architects. When he put up a slide with “green is cool” I thought that that was a total understatement. Not much that I can really say right now about it other that what Foster said fully resonated with a lot of my own views, but then I also know that the only sustainable economics that there is is green. Yes, tensoriana is about that, but it is also about more. Listening to Norman Foster really made me think hard about how much effort I want to put into tensoriana and get the cat of the bag as to what it is about.

Another panel that went right up my alley was “Creative Crossings” that brought together fashion, art, architecture, advertising, product design and production, and yes, you guessed it the digital world. Again, there was a green theme to the whole, but also a few hues of creativity, and knowledge ownership. This panel really hit a button with me, and this is something that I will write about in more detail a bit later, although I am making no promises as to when. I had a short interaction with Francis Corner during the break, and one of these days when I am in London I will be continuing the discussion with her.

Then it was on to the Bunte DLD Night Cap at the Bayerischer Hof on the fifth and sixth floor. The pool was there, so were all the cool people. I concentrated on getting some appetizers that did not poison my system, drunk orange juice and sekt, and talked with a grand total of five people. I was very pleased to see how polite and kind the staff of the hotel were, in particular by the fact that they totally spoiled me and brought me goodies without dairy products that were totally yummy.