My highlights of Thinking Digital 2013

Herb Kim gets TDC13 underway

Herb Kim the founder and creator of the Thinking Digital conference.

This is my usual best of Thinking Digital… Bear in mind I missed half the conference as noted here.

Julian Treasure got us thinking about our hearing and how important it is. I specially liked two statements he made. Sound has a impact on cognition and don’t architects have ears? He pointed to some very nice spaces with apple styled touches. The kind of place most people would agree is nice but once he mentioned the amount of sound bouncing around the surfaces and reflecting off the floor, it was a different matter.

Maggie Philbin is one of those people who you grew up with on screen and she had become a geek hero of many men in the UK. The Tomorrow’s world presenter talked about technology for a bit then got around to her main points about the lack of diversity. Something about hearing it from Maggie really laid it out for lots of people. I had the pleasure of seeing Maggie giving the Perceptive Radio a once over too. What a woman!

Maria Giudice

Maria Giudice was a interesting lady with an interesting story to tell but what I really took away was her DEO idea (Design Executive Officer). She correctly pointed out CEO’s mainly don’t have the background of designers and those who do, generally break through because they are natural disruptor, people centric, intuitive, imaginative, etc. She had a DEO toolkit which included…

  1. Change mindsets about design, Design = change and change leads to radical change
  2. Focus on people and relationships
  3. Think we not me, collaboration is the name of the game
  4. Champion creative culture, Write on the wall make it a creative space
  5. Iterate and change, be open to change
  6. Be true to yourself

I guess if I wanted to know more… I would have to buy the book which is coming out soon…

Aza Raskin
Aza Raskin I have had the pleasure of meeting before years ago when he was working with Mozilla. Then I also got to eat dinner with him during the first night with others. Aza is one of those people who you can’t help but like. It was a really interesting time chatting with him too because his company Jawbone had just bought Body Media for 100million. Aza had no problem with talking about such things and was happy to talk about the quantified self elements of Jawbone including the wrist band Jawbone up. It was even more interesting to me after just been at the Quantified Self europe conference a week before.

Aza’s main point was about Design being the art of turning constraints into solutions. But are we actually asking the right questions? Do we even really understand the problem were solving?

Lots of food for thought… And I’d love to know more about the Jawbone hack!

Sugata Mitra
Sugata Mitra is always impressive and was one of my highlights of last year but with New Zealand teachers Jo Fothergill & Tara Taylor-Jorgensen who had flown 1000’s of miles to come talk at Thinking Digital the talks were even more epic. You can’t help but feel the educational system will be fine when he talks. I also had the joy of hooking up Jo and Tara with mr whirl wind Alan O’Donohoe before they flew back to New Zealand. Chance and opportunity came together at just the right moment I think.

Graham Hughes

Graham Hughes on reflection was maybe the best talk of the conference.

On New Years Day 2009 Graham Hughes, set off on an epic journey from his hometown of Liverpool. He wanted to show that the world is ‘not some big, scary place, but in fact full of people who wanted to help you.’ He used buses, taxis, trains and his own two feet to travel 160,000 miles, 201 countries in exactly 1,426 days – all on a shoestring of just $100 a week.

I’m not usually the biggest fan of the talks about the amazing things people have done but there was something extra special about Graham. He was just a everyday  Jo. He made it into every single country on planet earth without flying not even once. Such a epic story and the story was told so well with some incredible sub-stories, when the videos come out for Thinking Digital 2013, you must see this video. Epic and so down to earth. I also like to think I helped him with an introduction to someone I know at YouTube. I believe his storys are good enough to make him a bit of internet superstar, hopefully the youtube connection will be the start of it. Actually I need to check in and see if anything happened?

Jack Andraka
Jack Andraka I didnt’ quite get at first but as he told his story how he applied his mindset to the problem of pancreatic cancer, after losing a family friend to it. Using just Google he researched a new pancreatic cancer test that is 168 times faster, 26,000 times less expensive and potentially almost 100% accurate. He’s only 17, openly gay and already been described as the Alan Turing of our age. His talk was exactly what you would imagine from a 17 year old guy. All over the place but understanding the gravitas of what he was explaining you couldn’t help but feel how epic his journey has been. I really wished I had stopped and chatted to him in the hotel the next day, could have called a taxi and still have made the train.

Tom Scott burns his top to make a serious point

Tom Scott… What can I say. A talk you can only really do once and once only. Fire and Tom’s hoody, heck what more can you ask for? No but seriously Tom delves into the idea of archiving our memories. This is something I tried to do a while with my old phone. Memories are funny things, and they certainly make you pause for thought. I for example have my yellow Brazil football top, I’m surpised it even fits from 1998! The same year I went to Ibiza and go that crazy Brazil haircut. Maybe I should set fire to it too?

Aral Balkan

I already talked about Aral Balkin in a previous blog but he was rather good even if I disagreed with a lot of what he was saying. Well rehearsed and cleverly put together for the maximum effect each time. I won’t take that away from Aral, well done.

Also worth mentioning…

Chris Thorpe

Rachel Armstrong

Chris Thorpe and Rachel Armstrong for expanding our minds further than I could maybe take at that moment. My notes are pretty flat but I remember being slightly moved by what they were saying.

Alexa Meade

And finally, Alexa Meade for simply stunning pieces of art which I had only seen once or twice. Important never to forget the impact art can have in a new medium. Painting directly on to people is something very special and the time and dedication really impressed me. She was such a lovely lady too. I don’t know if I would ever let anyone paint on top of me. The feeling of uncleanliness would maybe drive me slowly nutty.

Another great Thinking Digital conference, I just wish I had seen more of the first day…

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.