Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘collaboration’

17 FEBRUARY, 2010

CreativeAllies: Artist, Meet Artist

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Artist meets artist, or why street cred beats petty pay every time.

The cross-pollination of disciplines and talents is a powerful beast, and we find that it’s all the more prevalent in the creative sphere — lots of musicians also design and illustrate, lots of designers also mix music, lots of filmmakers play an instrument. Startup Creative Allies has stuck its flagpole in this rich intersection by matching visual artists with their favorite musicians to create anything from album art to tour posters to music videos.

It’s a simple yet brilliant concept: The “allies” — designers, photographers, illustrators, animators and creative types alike — upload their creations inspired by music, which can then be licensed to the musicians that inspired them if the latter choose to “activate” them. Musicians can post requests for whatever they need made, be it a radio commercial or a t-shirt design, and allies can browse jobs to find something that strikes a creative chord.

It’s sort of like Threadless meets crowdSPRING, only with far more gratifying street cred if your art gets chosen by the very musician who inspired it. Licensing fees range from $25 for a high-res photograph to $200 for a Flash movie, but said street cred is no doubt priceless.

So whether Ani DiFranco needs a tour poster or the Harvest of Hope festival wants a flyer, the only thing standing between artist and artist is a simple, free signup process open to anyone anywhere in the world.

Hailing from indie music marketing support outfit Music Allies, the team has previously worked with Ani DiFranco, Sia, Aimee Mann, Jack Johnson, Mason Jennings, Martin Sexton and many other such fine musicians. And we think they’re onto something great.

Check out Creative Allies for a wonderful dose of cross-pollinated creativity.

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10 FEBRUARY, 2010

10 More Great Cross-Disciplinary Conferences

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More ways to get stimulated in public, or how to fit a wealth of innovation into a plenary session.

After the fantastic response to the 10 Contemporary Cross-Disciplinary Conferences post last year, we decide do a follow-up, highlighting — both ones that didn’t make our cut the first time around and ones suggested by readers.

So here are 10 more such boundary-spanning, silo-busting events. The kind of occasion that encourages lateral-brain connections and odd-couple lunchmates. Though many of the conferences this time around are closely tied to specific locations or institutions, they share the same fundamental mission — to provide a broadly curated experience for the curious.

POPTECH

Kicking off our list is a conference that actually seemed too obvious to feature in our round-one writeup. PopTech convenes 700 innovation-minded individuals each fall in Camden, Maine for a three-day idea blitz. With an emphasis on futurist thinking and technology, PopTech lineups are an eclectic affair; this past year’s event featured musician John Forté, activist-economist Esther Duflo, and architect Laura Kurgan. (And yes, PopTech even has the obligatory Malcolm Gladwell talk from 2004 — he’s on the organization’s board).

Much as TED has its vaunted TED Fellows program, PopTech chooses a new roster of Social Innovation Fellows each year; we featured 2009 Fellow Emily Pilloton on Brain Pickings not too long ago. To experience what TIME calls “Davos for cool people” (and what the less generous call “TED for people who can’t get into TED”), check out more videos from the PopTech archive.

BIF SUMMIT

The Business Innovation Factory summit — or BIF for short — is an under-the-radar annual event in Providence, Rhode Island, which has been gaining ground since its inaugural year in 2004. As its name suggests, BIF focuses on transformative enterprise, looking at disruptive deliverables and design in areas like education, energy independence, and healthcare. A good number of our intellectual idols have spoken at BIF, among them Paola Antonelli and TED founder Richard Saul Wurman. We were particularly inspired by social entrepreneur Cat Lainé’s talk about bringing sustainable infrastructure to the developing world, made all the more poignant by recent events in Haiti.

You can catch up on videos from the past five BIF summits, or even join the recently launched BIF reading group.

DLD

Since 2005, DLD — which stands for “Digital/Life/Design” — has brought together the world’s cultural creatives, entrepreneurs, investors, and techies for three days of cross-disciplinary discussion in Munich. A veritable who’s-who list of 21st-century changemakers has passed through its panels on topics ranging from China to user-centric experiences. Highlights for us include TEDster (and Brain Pickings favorite) Jonathan Harris talking about his most recent work, and hacker-inventors Pablos Holman and 3ric Johnson on the advantages of approaching life with a hacker’s phenomenological stance.

Last year, we featured highlights from the 2009 event, and this year’s confernce just wrapped up. The next DLD isn’t until January 2011, but in the meantime you can see videos from the past five conferences online.

BIL

The BIL Conference — which stands, alternately, for “Business, Impromptu, Levity,” “Brilliance, Ingenious, Learning,” “Booze, Intellectuals, Logic” and similar acronymic summations — traces its roots directly back to TED. In fact the founders’ original plan, hatched in 2007, was to go to Long Beach, California and crash TED’s annual flagship conference. From this dream of subterfuge, BIL’s “open, self-organizing, emergent, arts, science, society and technology unconference” model was born. With titles like “Rethinking the Modern GUI” and “What’s Funny About the Interwebs,” talks at BIL often reflect their origins in tech circles; however, some of the unconferences take specific themes, such as the upcoming BIL:PIL in October of this year which will look at the future of healthcare. While several BIL events have since been held on the heels of TED, the general non-profit BIL model has also been used in Boston, Phoenix, and San Diego for a total of nine events held or scheduled to date.Check out Architecture for Humanity founder (and TEDster) Cameron Sinclair, TOMS Shoes founder Blake Mycoski, and other videos from BIL events here.

PICNIC

The PICNIC festival is an artsy gathering that takes place in venues across Amsterdam. Held annually in September since 2006, the three-day-long PICNIC describes itself as a conference where creatives come together for “inspiration, networking, and dealmaking,” and indeed, professional development takes its place on the agenda alongside formally scheduled networking sessions. Past speakers include Second Life founder Philip Rosedale, AREA/Code founder Dennis Crowley, and design consultant Chee Pearlman. Last year, Sir Richard Branson chaired a jury for the PICNIC Green Challenge to award the best carbon-reducing idea, and sponsors such as Microsoft held design camps and other interactive workshops for attendees.

Watch selected videos from PICNIC 2009 here or check out its Vimeo channel.

CONFERENCE ON WORLD AFFAIRS

Hosted by the University of Colorado at Boulder, the Conference on World Affairs marks its 62nd year in 2010. For a week in April, 100 attendees take part in more than 200 panels, performances, and plenaries on various topics, all of which are free and open to the public.

The event was founded in an era of classic internationalism with an emphasis on foreign relations, but today sessions are held around “arts, media, science, diplomacy, technology, environment, spirituality, politics, business, medicine, human rights, and so on.” (If that isn’t interdisciplinary, we don’t know what is.) The university setting brings an academic bent to the whole affair — an orientation unfortunately reflected by the conference’s old-school approach to recordings, available by check or money order. (What is this, PBS?) If you happen to be in the area, however, it looks like there’s plenty of inspiration and reflection on hand.

Thanks @slainson!

ASPEN IDEAS FESTIVAL

Bearing the burnished pedigree of its hosts, The Aspen Institute and The Atlantic, the Aspen Ideas Festival is entering its sixth year of wide-ranging, high-minded discussion in the tony enclave of Aspen, Colorado. Each April heavy hitters from academia, business, media, and politics ascend the mountains for a week of seminars, panels, and presentations; however, we hear the real scene takes place as much after the official events as during. The theme of this year’s festival is “Ideas in Action” with an emphasis on Latin America and the region’s educational, environmental, and health challenges. (While we’re not sure whither the southern hemisphere focus, we suspect it has something to do with wanting to differentiate the festival from last year’s PopTech theme, “America Reimagined.”)

If you want to play with the big boys (and the occasional big girl — that’s right Arianna Huffington, we’re talking about you) without leaving home, check out the Aspen Institute’s archive of A/V resources.

NEW YORKER FESTIVAL

If you like The New Yorker in print, you’ll be in heaven experiencing it live. In the fall the annual New Yorker Festival assembles a rich lineup of culturally oriented talks and tours in (where else?) Manhattan and the occasional outer-NYC bureau. Like a pop-up version of the magazine, glossy profiles take the form of in-person interviews with editors and writers from the mag’s masthead serving as interviewers. Attendees can purchase tickets to individual events or passes to the three-day shebang, making this one of the more economically efficient options on the conference circuit.

If you’re still jonesing for more Gladwell, you can see videos from past New Yorker Festivals or catch up on dispatches from the various events’ blog coverage.

BIG OMAHA

Winning the prize for most unlikely location, BIG Omaha held its inaugural 2009 conference away from the standard loafer-beaten conference path, placing it smack in the middle of the United States. “Come to the heart of the midwest,” the event enticed potential attendees. “And let’s rebuild this country from the inside out.” The brains behind BIG Omaha started the Silicon Prairie News, a webzine dedicated to featuring midwestern creatives and entrepreneurs. The conference extends both the brand and an invitation for skeptics to come and view innovation in the heartland for themselves. Speakers from BIG Omaha’s first year included Crush It! author Gary Vaynerchuk, 37 Signals founder Jason Fried, and WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg.

This year’s event is scheduled for May 13-15th; you can sign up to get the BIG Omaha newsletter for more details or check in with the conference blog to view videos of past presentations.

PORTLAND CREATIVE CONFERENCE

Finally, in the city we like to think of as the Brooklyn of the west, the Portland Creative Conference was held in 2008 and then again last year after a seven-year hiatus. Four hundred attendees gathered to hear perspectives on the creative process from Wieden+Kennedy co-founder Dan Wieden, The Simpsons writer Bill Oakley, and pitcher-turned-stockbroker Larry Brooks, among others. All signs indicate that the conference will happen again in fall of this year, and you can stay in-the-know by following the Portland Creative Conference website or watch a few videos from last year’s event.

This concludes our second roundup of alternative conferences to satisfy your infinite intellectual appetites. Once again, if we’ve left any big ones out — particularly non-English-language events — please let us know. And in the meantime, catch up on Part One and follow editor Maria Popova on Twitter for live coverage of this year’s TED, running today through Saturday.

Kirstin Butler is writing an adaptation of Gogol for the Google era called Dead SULs, but when not working spends far, far too much time on Twitter. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA.

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04 DECEMBER, 2009

Top 10 Contemporary Cross-Disciplinary Conferences

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Ideas in real life, or how to increase the statistical probability of finding a clown, Malcolm Gladwell, and a rocket scientist in the same room.

It’s no secret that we’re huge TED fans here at Brain Pickings, but we also follow other conferences with a great deal of interest — ambitious alternative events determined to make oft-repeated phrases like “design thinking” and “interdisciplinary innovation” mean something. These expansive — but not prohibitively expensive — experiences also aim to create communities that live beyond the initial flurry of inspiration. And while we certainly don’t believe the world needs gratuitous gatherings of extraordinary people doing extraordinary things, we do believe in incubating ideas and connecting inspired changemakers.

So here’s a list of the top-10 non-TED alternative live conferences — and we use the term loosely — bound to make your brain sparkle.

99%

Named after Thomas Edison’s dictum, “Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% Perspiration,” the 99% conference has a unique raison d’être: “making ideas happen.” In a twist to traditional conference talks, the speakers are asked to share the stories behind the execution of their great ideas, rather than the ideas themselves. (And with a brand-name lineup featuring Michael Beirut and Seth Godin, attendees were already familiar with the speakers’ main ideas anyway.)

Produced by the creativity consultancy Behance, the inaugural 99% conference took place in New York in April of this year; next year’s is already on tap for April 15-16, 2010.

BARCAMP

Inspired by Tim O’Reilly’s famous invite-only hacker summit, Foo Camp, BarCamp borrowed from the hacker slang foobar to create a set of guidelines for an alternative, open-to-all, ad-hoc event around a common topic or theme that anyone can host anywhere. (These user-generated experiences are also sometimes called unconferences or non-conferences, after legendary eccentric curator Hans Ulrich Obrist‘s experimental non-conference in Jülich, Germany, in the 90’s.)

A self-organizing community of diverse interests, BarCamp participants are also its presenters. Attendees spend the first part of each event brainstorming and voting for session subjects, and can then choose among the various breakout groups. As you might imagine, the quality of a BarCamp can vary considerably depending on who’s present — we’ve had mixed experiences, accordingly. But as the saying goes, you get what you pay for; and BarCamps are typically free.

DO LECTURES

As with the 99%, the Do Lectures have the proactive premise “that the Doers of the world can inspire the rest of us to go Do something.” Fewer than 100 attendees, speakers, and staff gather in west Wales under a tent for a weekend of cross-disciplinary inspiration. Speakers at this year’s second-annual Do session included mountaineer Paul Deegan and Tony Davidson, Creative Director of ad agency Wieden+Kennedy.

The Do Lectures were started by David and Clare Hieatt, founders of the activewear brand Howie’s.

THE FEAST

Produced by the irrepressible duo behind All Day Buffet (Jerri Chou and Mike Karnjanaprakorn, who also put on the first 99% conference), The Feast is a two-day affair that had its first run in New York this year as well.

With the tagline “feast on good,” the focus here is social enterprise: self-sustaining, next-generation initiatives with nothing less than world-changing intentions. Talks from inspiring models such as charity: water and New Orleans’s 9th Ward Field of Dreams made for an amazing lineup, and everything from fifteen-minute breaks to flatware is carefully curated by the conference organizers. (Okay, perhaps we’re a little biased, having attended the first Feast as a fellow.) Bias notwithstanding, though, All Day Buffet’s thoughtful stewardship of this startup conference makes it a must-follow event.

GEL

An acronym for “Good Experience Live,” GEL is a twice-yearly conference in New York, focused — as its name suggests — on the human experience in all arenas. The main event takes place in April and features speakers from business, design, technology, and other service-driven disciplines (so basically anything). GEL Health focuses on improving the patient experience and is held in October. Entering its seventh year, GEL was founded by Bit Literacy author and user-experience consultant Mark Hurst.

The next GEL is scheduled for April 29-30, 2010; in the meantime you can check out clips from past GELs here.

IGNITE

Started in Seattle in 2006, Ignite talks hacked Pecha Kucha’s 20×20 format (below) for a Google generation’s attention spans. Speakers have five minutes and 20 slides (which automatically rotate every 15 seconds) with which to present anything from cheesemaking to conservation. In addition to these nano-talks, participants also spend part of any Ignite event making — usually coding or moding something to be judged in a subsequent contest. Founders Brady Forrest and Bre Pettis have roots in online networks (O’Reilly Media and Etsy.com, respectively), and correspondingly, Ignite events are openly geeky affairs. Since that inaugural event Ignite has spread to cities around the world, with strongholds in New York, Helsinki, Paris, and Portland.

You can view more talks at Ignite’s YouTube channel, including Scott Berkun’s now canonical “Why and How to Give an Ignite Talk.”

PALOMAR5

A global group of 30 people under age 30 just completed six weeks at this innovation camp in Berlin, forming Palomar5’s first graduating class. Six young entrepreneurs founded the group and formulated the question posed to these lucky souls: “How will we work in the future?”

The residency itself then became a kind of living laboratory for Palomar5’s premise. (In a great nod to the industrial-era fabrik that served as backdrop, participants were given overalls to wear for their first weekend, “to initiate a kind of reset-mode.” From the look of Palomar5’s Flickr sets, the attendees may have enjoyed a Hefeweiss or two on the former beer factory site as well.) Following weeks of envisioning, workshop-ing, and prototyping ideas, the camp culminated in a festival and livestreamed summit (that included a talk by Brain Pickings favorite Aaron Koblin).

Palomar5 may be in hibernation mode now, but you can still connect with its community on Facebook and Twitter.

PECHAKUCHA

What started in 2003 in a Tokyo gallery as an event for designers has since spread to 260-plus cities, from A Coruña to Zürich. Pecha Kucha pioneered the 20-slides-in-20-seconds format, providing a built-in check for creatives who tend toward too much exposition. Beyond this constraint, however, the talks have been held in bars, churches, and swimming pools; equally diverse are Pecha Kucha speakers, fulfilling the founders’ wish that anyone, from upstart to well-established, might be able to present.

Check here to see if there’s a Pecha Kucha Night near you, and catch up on presentations past on their recently launched video portal.

PINC

Held in the Netherlands, the annual PINC conference typically features around 16 speakers and 500 guests.

Its acronym stands for People, Ideas, Nature, and Creativity, and the prevailing ethos — as articulated by PINC’s founder, publisher Peter van Lindonk — is “passion.” (Not for nothing did van Lindonk spent 15 years moonlighting as a ringmaster for Amsterdam’s World Christmas Circus.)

The eclectic program aims to recharge the brain’s batteries with “[a]n inspiring cascade of new ideas, great stories, and impressive visual presentations.” Next year’s PINC is scheduled for May 11-18, 2010, but you can watch videos from past years here.

TEDX

We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the fantastic success that is TEDx.

These independently curated, local talks have brought TED’s mission of “ideas that matter” to 350-plus places globally, and created their own rich cache of video for anyone to watch. TED may be the sine qua non of idea conferences, but these smaller stages are showcasing an exciting amount of big thinking.

We’re certain that we missed other great conferences and meeting models in this rundown, particularly non-English-language-based experiences, so do use the comments section to tip us off to your favorite alt-conferences.

Kirstin Butler is writing an adaptation of Gogol for the Google era called Dead SULs, but when not working spends far, far too much time on Twitter. She currently lives in Cambridge, MA.

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09 NOVEMBER, 2009

Introducing the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts

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What liquor stores have to do with the advancement of the digital arts.

Last week, we saw artist-explorer Jonathan Harris’ profound reflection on the current state of the digital world. But as digital culture grows on, we need more explicit, concentrated efforts to make sense of it all and its ever-evolving relationship with the arts. Enter GAFFTA, the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts — a visionary Bay Area nonprofit dedicated to building social consciousness through digital culture, based on the principles of openness, collaboration, and resource sharing. (Principles validated all the more strongly as Firefox, the quintessential epitome of this movement, turns 5 today.)

GAFFTA‘s programs explore the creative intersection of art, design, sound, and technology — a celebration of the interdisciplinary cross-pollination of ideas we’re so fond of around here.

The world is experiencing an explosion of technological development that presents us with inspiring opportunities and challenges. While the ability to rapidly produce and consume information has fueled quantum leaps in innovation, its abundance can also disrupt our focus and fragment our consciousness. By funding and curating projects that offer insightful perspective on the information of our age, using the technologies of our time, GAFFTA provides a means to decode and humanize the evolving global database.

GAFFTA was born out of the realization that, beyond a limited number of mainstream museums, there is no cohesive public space for exhibiting and fostering dialogue around experimental digital art. Eventually, Gray Area took over 7 storefronts in San Francisco’s Tenderloin district, previously used as a porn arcade, liquor store and bar, and transformed them into a Media Arts Center populated by galleries, studios and office spaces.

It’s no coincidence that the ever-amazing Aaron Koblin is on the GAFFTA team, populated by equally incredible creative visionaries and artist-technologists.

GAFFTA‘s inaugural exhibition, OPEN, opened last month and runs through November 18, highlighting work from several digital art pioneers spanning a multitude of formats and techniques. And while such events and workshops are no doubt a fantastic leap forward for digital art, we’d love to see GAFFTA’s mission extended to the broader digital community in a portal or social network that transcends geography and allows for the wider cross-pollination of ideas.

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05 NOVEMBER, 2009

Troika Moonshine 300

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Three random things, 300 words, a story.

Troika Moonshine 300 is a collective of writers tasked with creating 300-word stories based on three words assigned to them by another artist. Since 2007, these stories have spanned an incredibly rich range of styles, genres and voices, playing with the dynamic relationship between boundaries and creativity in the most inspired of ways.

Artist Eric Power chose to construct his story — based on the words driftwood, poncho and sacrificial — visually, in this beautifully animated short film.

Explore all the stories for a fascinating journey into the diversity of imagination.

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