I think of PSFK's annual NYC conference as Next Gen TED in that it brings to the stage a series of wickedly smart designers, marketers, entrepreneurs and thought leaders, many of whom you have never heard of.
PSFK, a design/research firm and think tank headed by visionary Pier Fawkes, offers cutting edge insights that span disciplines. Speakers range from climbing wall developers to wearable technology designers to food designers with titles like New Worlds Creator (for toy apps) and Revisionary (for clothing designer).
Take for example Emilie Baltz, a food designer whose work crafting designer cocktails (that you lick off of a plate) for the Museum of Sex takes one form and function and transcends it into another experience altogether. Or Billie Whitehouse whose Fundawear through her company We:eX connects physical experiences to your clothing such as vibrating underwear for those who … ahem … want to remain intimate in a long distance relationship.
"What does this have to do with media?" you might be thinking. Well, everything. Media is experiencing an unprecedented transformation, crossing platforms, expanding its engagement with viewers, searching for unfathomable amounts of new compelling content and generally stretching the boundaries of what it is and what we do. So a company like We:eX that enables us to enhance the sports fans viewing experience with tech infused clothing that signals us when the athlete is excited, nervous or elated, helps us more deeply engage with the content as if we are there right in the middle of the game. It is part of our mission in media -- to expand the boundaries of the viewing experience, making it more intimate, immersive and creating more connections -- literally and physically in this case!
Whether you are a print publication transitioning to tablets or a content creator seeking funding, PSFK believes that there are new approaches that make all challenges easier and more successful.
Bjorn Jeffery of Toca Boca tackled the print to digital challenge that many magazines are facing today. He re-imagined the idea of a magazine by starting with the digital concept and making a magazine experience rather than vice versa; adapting a magazine to a digital platform. His Popular Science Magazine was one of the first to migrate to the tablet with a video component. Getting in early and turning the challenge backward led to a successful result.
His work with Sesame Street turned the concept of tablet ownership upside down. Coining the phrase the “pass back effect,” Jeffrey realized that parents were taking tablets and passing them back in the car to the children in the back seat. “It was a radical notion at the time where we increased childrens’ ownership of the device” and created content that spoke directly to the child rather than through the parent, he says.
Rodrigo Niño of Prodigy Network believes that “the crowd has the power to make change” and has put the power of the crowd into real estate, funding multi-million dollar skyscrapers in Colombia via crowd funding. So I am thinking that if millions of dollars can be raised for a real estate project, why can’t the crowd fund television series for those networks with the vision but maybe not the budget for ambitious programming projects?
YouTube’s Kevin Allocca upended some preconceived notions about what makes a video popular on his service. Providing social and authentic experiences helps drive viewership. But what constitutes an engaging experience differs across locales. Example: A video of elks crossing a road garnered over 1,000,000 views -- mostly in the western US. “Tech makes global possible but it is still local,” he says. It is impossible to predict if a video will be popular or hit the cultural zeitgeist but, according to Allocca, one thing is certain; “knowing how video works is to understand how creativity works.”
We in the media are in the business of implementing creativity but we may be trapped at our desks doing routine tasks day after day. One day spent in the presence of creative iconoclasts can help us look at the whole world with fresh eyes.
Interview conducted by Charlene Weisler, Weisler Media LLC. She can be reached through her research blog www.WeislerMedia.blogspot.com or at WeislerMedia@yahoo.com. Full disclosure: Charlene hosts a street art blog on The Starry Eye blog community
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