PSFK Conference London 2010

Cross-posted from the Made by Many blog:

One of the more interesting quotes I picked up from last week’s PSFK Conference London 2010, mentioned by Matt Jones from BERG during his talk, is the one pictured above.

The day was divided neatly into 4 different themes: ‘Inspired Interactions’, ‘Visionary Experiences’, ‘Art & Reaction’ and ‘Connecting a Better World’. The first segment had three very smart people. To start the day, Jason Fields used examples like the Granimator iPhone app and the lovely Pixels video by Patrick Jean to illustrate how fine art and graphic design are used in the digital world. I know that the Pixels video is certainly much-loved by most people I know who’ve seen it. One way of looking at it is that there is an artist in all of us, however untrained, and using technology to make art a part of our lives in a way we haven’t experienced before is something we’re all fans of in some way or the other.

Usman Haque, founder of Connected Environments, Haque Design + Research and Pachube, a ‘data brokerage platform for the Internet of Things’ (love that last phrase) took us through his fascinating work, primarily inspired by the relationships that people have with the things around them. His ‘Reconfigurable House‘ project, for example, was motivated by a desire to understand how different behaviours were triggered in people, in this case by giving people the ability to ‘rewire’ a house with low tech components based on what made most sense to them. The ‘Open Burble‘ project, commissioned for the Singapore Biennale in 2006, required people to manoeuvre hundreds of bubble-shaped carbon fibre units to give it a communal shape, so to speak. ‘Primal Scream‘ was built in California at a festival, and the nodes in the LED screen of the project were built to react differently based on the noise emitted by the 200,000-strong crowd. You scream, I scream, we all scream – yup, in this case screaming was the exact reaction Usman was hoping for – the more, the better! Finally, ‘Natural Fuse‘ is a fascinating initiative that is actually in practice in London, New York and San Sebastian, where people who act irresponsibly with regard to energy consumption result in killing others’ plants because all the plants are networked. If that sounds too complicated to understand, just head here for details! The point Usman was trying to make was that encouraging people to interact with their surroundings (which people will do anyway, given a chance) leading to the collection of data that can be harnessed for social good in the process, is something we all need to think more about.

Dan Hon, Senior Creative at W+K London, made a key point – something I often wonder in this age of Farmville, Foursquare, and so on – games are good, but the question needs to be asked before anyone builds yet another game: are people deriving actual joy and entertainment out of it or is it all becoming a process of grinding – with no real purpose? With the audience comprising quite a few people from the world of advertising, where game play is being bandied about as the Next Big Thing that will help in the creation of compelling brand stories, there was certainly some food for thought.

In the ‘Visionary Experiences’ segment, Dougald Hine began by narrating experiences which led him to found/co-found the Spacemakers Agency, the Brixton Village, and the School of Everything. Essentially, he realised that the marketplace, a place where people come together to meet and socialise, is inherently different from the commercial idea of a market as merely a place for transactions. He even wrote a blog post that explained this, and simple though it sounds, it was a lovely journey to hear about first-hand.

Ben & Oscar Wilson work collaboratively as the Wilson Brothers, doing retail displays with a difference for various brands like Puma and Nike, such as building an F1 car out of shoeboxes. For Nike’s 1948 concept store in Shoreditch, London, they used recycled rubber for the floor material and traced the route that the Nike Run Dem crew follow during their training exercises, and they also contributed to building a modular Nike Stadium instore.

The ‘Art & Reaction’ part of the programme had a few graduates from the Royal College of Art talking about their projects: Riitta Ikonen, Katrin Baumgarten and Thomas Thwaites. I found Thomas’ Toaster Project quite intriguing: he actually built a toaster from scratch – a process which involved amusing incidents such as writing to BP for some steel (or was it iron, I forget!). No, they didn’t help in the end!

In the last quarter of the day, Matt Jones spoke about some of BERG’s projects, such as Nearness and Dimensions, and other cool stuff and people like James Burke and Charles Holland but really that description does not do his talk justice. I’ll just leave it by giving you the inside info (of sorts) that he listens to this song at least once a month for inspiration – I hope he puts his talk up online some time.

John Grant spoke about sustainability and co-operative systems, and initiatives like Swasthya Chetna, where individuals in Unilever decided they wanted to do good and now the brand impacts the lives of millions of people in developing countries simply by promoting hygiene.

And of course the lovely folk at PSFK covered emerging trends in the fields of retail and health (available in their ‘Future Of’ reports). Worth a read if you haven’t read them and a re-read if you have.

All in all, a really good day – thanks Piers and Team PSFK!

What Is Planning: Spur by Redscout and PSFK

I really look forward to watching this series of videos on planning, created by Redscout and hosted by PSFK

I especially like this quote from the trailer, by Paul Woolmington from Naked Communications:

If you’re a passionate practitioner, then the business of planning, the business of marketing, the business of ideas, intellectual pursuit, culture, consumer – that needs to be your hobby as much as your day-to-day job.

PSFK Good Brands Report 2009

PSFK recently conducted a survey of over 100 media, technology and advertising people from the Purple List to get their opinion of which brands are the best of 2009. (I use the word ‘best’ as the superlative of ‘good’ in this case). They narrowed the list down to about 40 based on which brands were being referred to most in posts on their website. In order, the top 10 are Google, Apple, Zipcar, Good Magazine, Amazon, Facebook, Virgin, Twitter, Ikea and Skype. (Disclosure: I participated in the survey). As PSFK says, “They are not just the well-known brands of the day, but also companies that lead by example in innovation, environmental consciousness, and social policy.”

There are always lessons to be learnt from places like those. Here’s the PSFK Good Brands Report 2009:

Food for thought

A heads-up about a couple of things: the first is PSFK’s Good Ideas Salon London in association with The Guardian, which is happening this Friday, the 30th of January. If you go to the site regularly like I do, then you’ll know that the event is likely to be full of nuggets of knowledge. I’d especially love to hear Matt Hardisty from AnalogFolk (a champ of a guy if ever there was one and I’m saying that based on experience), Paul Graham from Anomaly UK (again, one of the more innovative companies around) and Sophie Howarth (because I’d really like to hear about her experience at the School of Life). Tickets are still available, so if you’re in London then you should think about picking one up.  

The second thing I wanted to mention is Alfie Dennen‘s AGIT8, a movement about modern technologies and how they are changing the way we live. Alfie’s the brains behind some very interesting ideas like What is the question?’ and ‘Britglyph’, and I think the way he translates his ideas into actions (usually a concept based on interaction and playfulness, because who can resist having fun) is pretty darn smart. In fact, I amused myself the day ‘What is the question?‘ went live by figuring out the answers to some of the riddles sitting at home. I should have actually gone out and been on the treasure hunt myself, I know. You can follow Agit8 on Twitter here and Alfie Dennen here. 

Weekend amusement

Two really interesting things I found on PSFK recently: one is a spoof on Facebook –

Facebook Gangsta from Facebook Gangsta on Vimeo.

And the other is the Cybertecture Egg, an office building by James Law Cybertecture International, commissioned by a Mumbai-based firm. Due to be completed by 2010, the ‘egg’ will incorporate solar power, wind power and water recycling. I’m from India, so I was interested to note that international, environment-friendly structures are making their way into the country. With over a billion people, this may be just a drop in the ocean as far as eco-conservation is concerned, but at least its a step in the right direction. My only concern is how integrated it will be with its surrounding environment.

Quotable quotes from the Social Media discussion video at PSFK Conference New York 2008

I just watched the video of the Social Media discussion at the PSFK Conference New York 2008. The participants were Josh Spear (Undercurrent), Noah Brier (Naked and Likemind), Marc Schiller (Electric Artists) and Steve Rubel (Edelman). The most interesting quotes to me I’m putting down here for future reference because I think some of them are very quotable. Some of them may only make sense to you if you listen to the whole thing, so maybe you should. The words in brackets are my paraphrased additions.

I was also amused to note that PSFK referred to Mahalo as ‘Mulhullo’ in their transcription 🙂

1. Steve: The media overall has become social, and the social has become media.

2. Marc: Don’t think all media is still social media. There’s a lot of locked content, (some people) don’t have the mind set to tap into this concept of sharing.

3. Josh: Data portability is needed at this point. That you can’t export from Facebook is such an old school way of doing things.

4. Marc: Great content will always rise above.

5. Josh: Middle America drives YouTube. (while referring to the bad content amongst the Top 10 videos in YouTube that he checks regularly).

6. Marc: The problem is when a brand thinks social media is Facebook.

7. Noah: Now (brands) have to act like people at a party. If you’re not interesting or loud and obnoxious, no one’s gonna talk to you. Now it’s like that online.

8. Josh: I disagree about waiting and experimenting. Pick a strategy and execute on it. The time for dipping a toe is over.

9. Steve: The website’s dead. It’s not about websites. It’s about web services. Entering the cut and paste web. Might be Facebook, might be Google. If you’re not building an armada of where your content can go – there’s 45 ways now and no standards – you have to go where the audience is.

10. Josh: Being on the internet’s hard work.