A Day of Ideas is a Beautiful Day

October 16, 2011

Sandwiched between Social Media Week Chicago and the Chicago Humanities Festival is a brand new meme-maker. Not simply a day of ideas – but an entire week devoted to sharing, inspiring and networking.

This new spectacular undertaking – Chicago Ideas Week – comes complete with its own TEDx Festival. Hundreds of formal face-to-face talks – thousands of informal ones. Participatory Labs. There hasn’t been so much sparking in Chicago since Mrs. O’Leary’s cow kicked the lantern over.

Boeing offered a tour of the latest version of the best selling production line jet in the history of aviation. The great shrine to high energy particle physics – Fermi Lab opened its doors shortly after it closed down its Tevatron. And in-between there were talks on everything from fear, to economics, to creativity, healthcare, innovation, art, music and tech – with leaders in each of those fields engaging in small groups and larger settings.

These giant civic gabfests are undeniably stimulating. And with almost everything streamed live, tweeted, Facebooked, IM’d and just plain flung into the ether – the international knowledge field has started to vibrate as a result of the work being done in Chicago. It can’t help but happen.

In no particular order are a few ideas that interested me:

The next big thing in mobile communications is Near Field Communications – utilizing the unique signals passively emitted by your cell phone/tablet/mobile device as it communicates with the electronic fields around it – and you are served ads, affinity bonuses, reminders and who knows what all else. Other factoids – 77 percent of the worlds population currently has mobile. And in America (as in many other countries) there are more connected mobile devices than people –  Those insights were provided by Jack Philbin at VIBES.

The Interrupters of Cease Fire Chicago reminded us that the killing in our inner cities can and must be stopped if America is to realize its promise. Largely invisible to the participants at CIW11, except through the footage we don’t watch on the nightly news, we were reminded that as many of our fellow Chicagoans are killed through intentional and random violence in Chicago each year as Americans who die fighting the WAR in Afghanistan and Iraq.

We can thank Kara Swisher at the Time Magazine Sponsored Forum on The Future of News for these insights – fittingly related at a museum – the Museum of Broadcast Communications.

  • News wants to be promiscuous (she did not elaborate and I am not sure I understood anything other than it makes a great quote)
  • If you want to print it on a salami.. you can (we consume news everywhere these days and this makes a great idea for the evolving edible digital signage market)
  • People who report news need to shed their Ivory Tower mentality (news is less about public service and more about sustainable economics).

By the way it was clear that nobody on the panel had a clue about how news will be collected, curated and disseminated 10 minutes from now, let alone 10 years from now – except that those journalists with big news institutional paychecks worried less about financing their passion for telling stories than those on the wrong side of corporate right-sizing one or two managing editors ago.

One guy in the back of the room captured my imagination. File this under – everything old is new.

If you look at his work, by the way, you will see that the things he thought were interesting had no linkage to the things I thought were.  The power and limitation of field reporting.

What else did I like?

A Chicago company – Suite Partners – is taking broadcasting to a new and different level by creating TV studios to broadcast branded programs, both live and on-demand, within the Facebook walled garden. They developed and produced several seasons of live (later archived) shows for another Chicago-based company, Sears, which (softly) integrate Kenmore and Craftsman products into the entertainment. Because it is the Facebook environment – all digital reactions of viewsers within the Facebook environment can be minutely tracked. For a guy like me who has spent much of his life creating live and taped broadcast TV for national and international audiences on what was once called Television – the idea that the economics and audience exists within one specific online environment was eye opening.

At TEDxMidwest – presented within the incredibly beautiful entertainment venue of  The Oriental Theater – Wes Craven, one of the masters of the Horror Film – writing and directing Nightmare on Elm Street and the Scream Franchise – said the scariest thing he has ever done was what he was doing at this very moment – trying to use PowerPoint to enhance his talk for the Ted audience. It was not as effective as his movies, as he and the technology fumbled several times. Wes also mentioned that he believes fear helps people chisel away all that isn’t them – the stuff that is keeping them stuck.

And finally, the Heros who attended were incredibly humble.

But my favorite quote of the week, the title of this essay, was the one I heard delivered by Brad Keywell – one of the founders of Chicago Ideas week.  Thanks to you and the other contributors and volunteers for making this happen in the great city of Chicago.

A Day of Ideas is indeed a Beautiful Day!


Previous post:

Next post: