23 Feb 2011

All posts from 23 Feb 2011

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Light the Beacons! Nathan Myhrvold, Social Capital and Four Peaks

Even as we’re lead to believe that “analog” interaction faces extinction in the digital age, we still need to recognize that all the Facebook “likes” in the world in themselves, will not bring down a repressive government (Egypt, Tunisia). You often need to take physical, non-virtual action to really get things done.

It’s why I’ll spend more time to read a handwritten “thank you” note that I’ve received — and maybe even think more happy thoughts about the sender. We somehow still recognize value in non-effortless communication, as well as in tangible media. Inventor and Microsoft Research pioneer Nathan Myhrvold says as much in my Media Space interview with him (above), when he declared that there’s never been a better time to print a book than now. Myhrvold does everything on an epic scale; he has actually gone ahead and self-published a 2,400 page, six-volume book on cooking and science.

So let’s add it up: a celebrity inventor appears on a TV show to publicize his book. Sounds very ’90’s doesn’t it? Even more offensive to those who make a living from advocating digital lifestyles (such as myself!), the combined currency of TV + fame was just the appetizer to the main course: the hard launch of Four Peaks, through a “salon” that followed the show titled Innovation & Entrepreneurship in the Pacific Northwest: Are We Ready for the Future?. It’s explicit recognition that the hard work of building community and strong social capital necessitates a thoughtful strategy around media (analog and digital), thought leadership, and participatory events.

Here’s how we describe Four Peaks on our site:

Inspired from the success of TEDxSeattle, Four Peaks was conceived, as a meeting of the minds between Hanson Hosein (Director, UW MCDM) and Kraig Baker (Attorney and MCDM Adjunct Faculty) in an effort to solidly place the Pacific Northwest at the forefront of modern media by connecting idea generators with technology innovators. Hosein and Baker quickly convened a group of thought leaders, who share the same enthusiasm for creating a catalyzing entity for the region.

To realize this mission Four Peaks [Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Community, Entertainment] intends to:

  • Facilitate points of connection among its constituents.
  • Promote existing local ventures and research endeavors.
  • Host an annual signature event, The Four Peaks Summit.
  • Grow the community through monthly salons and smaller events.

Key to Four Peaks’ mission is the participatory nature of its events. Once we had completed the TV interview, Myhrvold and I joined 160 participants who had watched the show on a big screen two floors up from the studio. Although we sat in the center of the room, we were no longer the focal point of the conversation — just the match that would spark the discussion around innovation in our region. We added to the “flames” so to speak, by positioning four “conversation beacons” in each corner — thought leaders in their own right — who each had their own microphone, and represented one of the Peaks.

Clear Channel’s Tony Benton is pictured above. Our three other beacons were:

– Susan Sigl (Washington Technology Industry Association)

– Wanda Gregory (UW Bothell Center for Serious Play)

– Trish Millines Dziko (Executive Director/CEO, Technology Access Foundation)

For the geeks among you, the “conversation beacons” metaphor was directly inspired by my absolute favorite scene from the Lord of the Rings film trilogy:

I heard a lot of positive comments on our unique salon mechanism, but we still have work to do as we move away from the knee-jerk, not-so-useful panel conversation model; Myhrvold was still clearly the star of the show, as you can tell from this TechFlash.com coverage of the event.

We’ll have a chance to do so soon, with our next salon, on March 5th: Do we need another Space Needle? Inspiring leadership in the Pacific Northwest for the next 50 years.  Sign up now!

Kudos to the team that helped pull off this event with such success: Kraig Baker for kick-off remarks (as one of the founders of Four Peaks), Beth Koemans for managing logistics and outreach, Anita Verna Crofts for coordinating our “beacons”, our MCDM student/alumni volunteer crew (Shelby Barnes, Joseph Pavey, Leslie Myers, Amy Rainey, Ivan Orbegozo), Stephen Brashear for photography, Derek Belt for research, Melissa Wilkes for managing our social media stream, Theresa Stone for the Four Peaks graphical design, and Scott Macklin for producing the event.

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Light the Beacons! Nathan Myhrvold, Social Capital and Four Peaks
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Podcast| “You Say You Want A Revolution? Generational Change and Citizen Engagement” by David Domke

MCDM and the Seattle Arts and Lecture series teamed up for five vibrant conversations about digital media and our world’s communication ecosystem.

David Domke, Chair of the UW Department of Communication, presented “You Say You Want A Revolution? Generational Change and Citizen Engagement.”

This was his focus: “Technological developments and impacts do not occur in isolation. When television arrived, it both crystallized the new superpower status of the United States (“that country can do anything”) and extended the American cultural sensibility far wider and deeper than any military might could do. So too do the advent of 24/7 digital media shape how we understand and engage with society — including what we think comes with the job of being a citizen. This talk will discuss how this is becoming apparent in generational changes among Americans.”

Slides for the presentation: www.slideshare.net/mcdmpublic/domke-salu2

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Podcast| “You Say You Want A Revolution? Generational Change and Citizen Engagement” by David Domke