Highlights of Thinking Digital Manchester

Thinking Digital Manchester

Thinking Digital is a breath taking conference which always wows and has become a stable part of the conference scene in the UK.  It was great to hear that Manchester would play host to the conference, but there was a worry that it wouldn’t live up to the dizzy highs of Newcastle?

Herb and the team set about taking the core elements of Thinking Digital and mixing it with Manchester. The results were great… It made perfect sense, rather than roll into Manchester with a exact formula, they will let it grow and mature like how Newcastle did. The conference took place in the darken space of the largest cinema at HOME, so my pictures didn’t come out too well. It certainly wasn’t the intimate feeling you get in Newcastle but I’m sure that will change and mature over time.

So enough blabbering, lets talk about the highlights…

Thinking Digital Manchester
Eddie Obeng

I missed Eddie when he talked in Newcastle, mainly as he was the first on, the 2nd day but I like his presentation style and what he had to say about counter intuitive thinking. Social media is broken, video conferencing is broken and we are digitally obese from the sugar, salt and fat of the digital era. Aka easy to use, convenience, and free. Very interesting metaphor


Conrad Wolfram

When ever I hear Wolfram talking about what they have done recently, I always think darn they are really doing stuff I could use within BBC R&D. It certainly was big data to better intelligence. The notion of insight is always a tricky but wolfram certainly seem to be leading this emerging field. Great to see a British innovator leading the field.

Thinking Digital Manchester
Julian Treasure

Julian I wrote about before at another Thinking Digital and his TED talk is something quite special with 4+ million views and very positive comments. Excellent talk and lots to think about when talking with purpose, which to be fair should be a lot of the time really.

Thinking Digital Manchester
LJ Rich

Herb must say to LJ, you have this much time and yes to anything you want. Shes an amazing woman with some seriously amazing ideas. Her thoughts about looking at the other senses, is exactly what I’ve been thinking for a long while. Why does Media have to be visual and audible? What about media which you feel and or smell?

LJ crafted a performance which was amazing to hear and see but also tightly focused around what you feel too. This was done with popping candy. At the right moment we all put the popping candy on our tongues and were treated to a wonderful symphony of interactive glitching with audio and video, representing a meteor storm.

I can only start to express how this all connected together to create a immerse experience like nothing else I can really explain while sitting in your seat.

I had the joy of talking to LJ about maybe doing something together in the future, so watch this space… Its one of those great things about Thinking Digital

Thinking Digital Manchester

Stephen Waddington

Stephen pretty much said most of the things me and Marie talked about in our workshop the day before on increasing your personal impact. There were things which we had to cut short including lots about the Cluetrain Manifesto. I think I was nodding my head through most of his talk, amazing a lot of this hasn’t just made its way into the conciousness of most people by now.

Thinking Digital Manchester
Pam Warhurst

Pam is a force of nature and I have written about her and her incredible (pun intended) work. I also got the chance to point out her wikipedia page is using the photo I shot at a previous thinking digital. I even told her I visited Todmordern purely because of her great work.

This time she talked about her aspirations to build a network joining all the other communities working on similar projects together. She is seeking people to get involved and help with the technical side of it all. I already said I was interested and just waiting for her to get in touch.

The idea of more civic/community driven startups (if thats the right classification) is something I’ve thought about a lot. It also reminds me that I must start that Civic startup manifesto following a conversation I had in BarCampManchester6 and attributing the excellent/crowd storming work the geeks of london did with the hackday manifesto.

Maybe I could link them in some way for the benefit of everybody?


Tom Chatfield

Tom’s talk was like a episode of Freakonomics live. He covered so much in his talk that I struggled to keep up.

Really interesting to hear about limited mental resources we all have, or as I prefer attention. He went off into a blog post I pretty much wrote a few days ago around swipe left or right culture. Which was a result of the substitution of difficult questions with easy ones (swipe left or right). Then talked about how difficult questions make us feel stupid and somehow ended up with what are we and physical stuff is a feature not a bug.

Good talk, wish I spent some more time at the social chatting to him. I was sandwiched between Wolfram and Tom, and to be fair I thought it would be better if they were sitting next to each other.

Thinking Digital Manchester
Lemn Sissay

Another new person I have never seen or heard of, till about half way through his talk. Reminded me of Jason Silva in his poetic wording and unique style.

Like Tom, so much was said and indicated, it was hard to tie the talk down to one singular thing. But the diversity aspect was well said and had me silently clapping and grinning.


I wrote down uniqueness and quality on my mindmap for Lemn’s talk, very fitting. Interesting the effect of uniqueness. I recently had a lot of comments about my latest trainers (Adidas Spring blades).


Thinking Digital Manchester was a very good conference with lots to take away, it doesn’t quite yet touch the legendary Newcastle events but I remember the original Thinking Digital in 2008, I can imagine in a few years time, it will be another jewel in the Thinking Digital crown. Home is a excellent venue with the bar, food and plenty of social space. But the cinema layout doesn’t have a patch on the sage two’s theatre. Imagine Thinking Digital Manchester in the royal exchange…now that would be something!

Regardless, the whole event was run very well and you felt like there was just not enough time in the day. It was seamless even with the new rash of technical faults (never happens at TDC usually). The format also worked well, but I did feel the social did need more emphases, as a lot of people didn’t realise the main social was on the night before the conference. Which makes for some fuzzy mornings I can imagine.

Excellent work Herb Kim and team… Me and Marie are looking forward to coming back with a even better workshop next year

Author: Ianforrester

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

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