Another thought provoking Thinking Digital

Thinking Digital 2018

Thinking Digital is always a great conference and I try to make sure I get to Newcastle for each one. Now in its 11th year, its clear there is no sign of it slowing down.

This year I booked quite late and missed a number of excellent workshops, so ended up doing the startup thing. It was the first time I had been involved in it but it was really interesting. Thinking digital switched to a one and half format a long while ago and I got to say its working well. After the mass dinner on the workshop day it was a early start for the conference.

Herb always does such a great job that I rarely even look at the schedule in advance, and I wasn’t wrong.

In the usual manor here is my highlights from Thinking Digital 2018.

Thinking Digital 2018

Graham Richter

Surprisingly gave a talk about blockchain and communicated it extremely well. I have heard many people try and explain blockchain to regular people and either confuse the audience or do a dis-justice to blockchain technology. Maybe this is partly why blockchain gets such a bad rep by so many people. At Fuel 2018, a speaker who I gather explained blockchain in 2017 had to come back to explain again in 2018, acknowledging how much he confused people the first time around.

I also never heard of tip your farmer but I love the idea and it perfectly illustrates the kind of applications blockchain could empower and drive.

Thinking Digital 2018

Paul Irwin

I already wrote about  which happened at Thinking Digital during Pauls talk earlier which  I needed to address sooner complete with an update.

If I could ignore the tshirt I would be clapping along with everyone else. But Paul’s choice of tshirt made it very difficult to take what he was telling the audience in. As he said before it was removed? (my non-official twitter client still has it)

Think your blog says more about you as a person that me as a speaker. Interesting read though. Keep up the good work.

He might be right and thats on me but its the truth. I wasn’t going to clap along with everyone else if I wasn’t feeling it. I was being true to myself and you can’t take that away from me.  But I did want to say Herb and the Thinking Digital production did a amazing job against the difficult odds. No matter what they did it was going to be criticised by someone, and they did the best in a very difficult place. I seen/heard too many other conferences completely wrong foot themselves into oblivion when faced with such a incident. For example CHI 2018 with OKCupid’s founder, which had a session afterwards to discuss the outrage after the keynote.

Thinking digital 2018

Ravinder Dahiya

Although quite a dry academic talk, the content was quite amazing. The whole idea of e-skin just conjures up so many thoughts and ideas. The videos spoke for themself pretty much and gave me much greater appreciation of skin generally.

Thinking Digital 2018

Yang Dan

On a similar vein, Yang presentated her research on sleep. The power of sleep is getting very well known in the circles of health and wellbeing. So it was quite a surprise to hear Yang’s research as she was able to suggest to mice to sleep with direct amounts of light on identified parts of the brain. If that wasn’t crazy enough, she could reverse the process in a similar way. It was incredible to see and the research felt like something out of inception.

It was a suggestion not a go to sleep now, meaning the mice would find somewhere they felt comfortable like their nests and go to sleep there. Instead of falling to sleep straight away. Like in inception…

Cobb: How complex is the idea?
Saito: Simple enough.
Cobb: No idea is simple when you need to plant it in somebody else’s mind.

This level of suggestion is quite something…

An idea is like a virus. Resilient. Highly contagious. And even the smallest seed of an idea can grow. It can grow to define or destroy you.

Talking to Yang afterwards, she was clear its only under lab conditions with mice. Shes a long way from humans but identifying the part of the brain has many promising outcomes for those who suffer with sleep problems.

Thinking Digital 2018

Dave Evans

I first saw Dave Evans at FutureFest 2 years ago and was impressed enough to buy the book designing your life. Designing your life is all about applying the discipline and practice of design to your life. For a designer like me this makes a hell of a lot of sense; especially when you start to question those dysfunctional believes.

Generally I would lean on get curious, talk to people, try stuff, tell the story then repeat.

Dave was gracious enough to run a session over lunch time on a aspect of designing your life. To be honest I really enjoyed the workshop and learned something about myself which I hadn’t really considered before. Most of designing your life is online but the book is once again great to lend to  friends and family.

Thinking Digital 2018

Tatiana Simonian

Tatiana approached the subject of wellness and mindlessness in our digital lives. Although not ground breaking, it was a welcomed talk and likely quite new for lots of people. It certainly felt like there was a whole load more to be said, as she touched on the area of diversity, diverse thinking and inclusion. Certainly would have liked to hear much more about her thoughts in that area.

Thinking Digital 2018

Sarah Wiseman

Sarah had the audience in giggles as she talked about the new language of emojis. From their incredible popularity to groups & communities repurposing emojis for different purposes. There was a very serious point made about trying and failing to interpreting language, emojis  and emotion. Something I picked up in Rana June’s talk from Fuel too.

Thinking Digital 2018

Julie Freeman

Its great to see data being used beyond the screen and Julie’s project exploring data as art material and objects enriched with data; gave me new insight for the objects of immersion work I’ve been working on for a while.

You know when you should work with someone, Julie is that person and luckily I got to spend another day with her during University of York’s data stories hackday.

Thinking Digital 2018

Mr Bingo

Now to be fair Mr Bingo always steals the show and this thinking digital he did it again in Newcastle. I never question Herb’s excellent curation skills but Mr Bingo as the last speaker would have been great as a nice light end to a already excellent conference.

If you haven’t been to thinking digital before, next year get your butt in gear and save a date in your calendar for 15-16th May 2019.

Author: Ianforrester

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

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