PopTech Blog

Postcard from PopTech 18

PopTech is just around the corner and it's been exciting to bring together some old and new friends to the old (definitely not new, but still beautiful :-) opera house in Camden, Maine. There's a mood in the world around connecting design, technology, and people -- and there's no better place on earth than October 23 to 25 in one of the prettiest towns in the US with some incredible speakers mixed-in with a fantastic audience spanning the US and the world. I just spoke with WGBH's Innovation Hub Radio Host Kara Miller about why we want design more than ever in the digital era, and why being at PopTech 18 is an especially good idea right now.

Speakers at this 18th year of PopTech include: 

and the full list is right over here.

As of September 6 there are just a few seats left [registration link] -- hope to see you there, and if you aren't able to get a pass this year then definitely at PopTech 19! -JM

Know your rebels: Meet David D. Burstein

With PopTech: Rebellion just around the corner, we decided to ask our speakers a few burning questions. Get to know some of the fascinating people you'll see take the stage and sign up to join the Rebellion this Oct 23-25 in Camden, Maine. 

Speaker: David D. Burstein, CEO and co-founder of Run for America 

What's one thing you want the PopTech audience to know about you that's not in your bio?
Five years ago I began an effort to watch all of the greatest films ever made (numbering several thousand), and I have a little over 1,000 left to go.

What does being a rebel mean to you?
Questioning absolutely everything.

What are you reading?
Summer Meditations” by Vaclav Havel, “The Circle” by Dave Eggers, and “So Damn Much Money” by Robert Kaiser.

What are you listening to?
It’s summer, so the entire Van Morrison discography is on loop.

What are you working on at the moment?
Running Run for America, we’re trying to break gridlock in Washington and restore imagination and innovation into government by electing a new generation of hyper-talented leaders to office.

Who are you most looking forward to hearing speak at PopTech?
Sarah Lewis, I think she’s brilliant, I heard her talk a few months ago and she blew me away. Ditto on Courtney Martin, am a big fan of hers, we have the same publisher and we’ve been trying to get together for a while and I think it’s finally going to happen at PopTech.

Word association: Maine...

My rebellion soundtrack would be:
“Like a Rolling Stone” (Bob Dylan), “Jump” (Van Halen), “Satisfaction” (Rolling Stones), “You Can Get It If You Really Want” (Jimmy Cliff), “Stage Fright” (The Band), and “Rebel Rebel” (Bowie)…I had to.

If you could pick one historical figure to watch give a PopTech talk, who would it be?
Benjamin Franklin, he was the original American innovator and rebel.

Know your rebels: Meet Courtney Martin

With PopTech: Rebellion just around the corner, we decided to ask our speakers a few burning questions. Get to know some of the fascinating people you’ll see take the stage and sign up to join the Rebellion this Oct 23-25 in Camden, Maine. 

Speaker: Courtney Martin, author and Solutions Journalism Network co-founder

What's one thing you want the PopTech audience to know about you that's not in your bio?
I'm really that interested in other people's stories; it's not bullshit.

What does being a rebel mean to you?
Staying awake.

What are you reading?
Astra Taylor's new book, “The People's Platform.

What are you listening to?
Krista Tippet's “On Being,” obviously. Also “99% Invisible,” Slate's “Culture GabFest, “Call Your Girlfriend,” a relatively new podcast by my homies Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow, and the new Center for Investigative Reporting podcast, “REVEAL.

What are you working on at the moment?
Raising a human being, writing a book and a column, trying to convince journalists that it's our duty and privilege to write more about solutions, not just problems, finding the next TED Prize winner, living in a co-housing community, learning to say no earlier and with more grace, making applesauce etc.

Who are you most looking forward to hearing speak at PopTech?
I'm psyched for everyone and ridiculously honored that I get to be in conversation with two of my mentors and heroes, Parker Palmer and Krista Tippett.

Word association: Maine...
My friend J. Courtney Sullivan's bestselling novel by that title.

My rebellion soundtrack would be:
"None of Your Business" by Salt-N-Pepa.

If you could pick one historical figure to watch give a PopTech talk, who would it be?
James Baldwin.

Best piece of advice you've ever received:
I don't give advice; I ask questions so you can hear your own wisdom better.

Karaoke? Yes, no, curious. Go-to song?
"Since U Been Gone" by Kelly Clarkson.

Introducing the 2014 Class of Bellagio/PopTech Fellows

This post is co-authored by PopTech president Leetha Filderman, and Ken Banks, founder of kiwanja.net and FrontlineSMS. Together they are co-facilitators of the 2014 Bellagio/PopTech Fellows program. 

We are pleased to announce the 2014 class of Bellagio/PopTech Fellows, a diverse group of designers, social innovators, technologists and writers with expertise in technology, global health, poverty alleviation, environmental sustainability and informal sector economics. 

Sean Blagsvedt, Alexice Tô-Camier, Dominic Muren, Robtel Neajai Pailey, Solomon Prakash

This year's program is focused on rethinking livelihoods. Now more than ever, the world’s population is contending with a multitude of challenges: demographic shifts, environmental stressors, unrestrained financial capital flow, shifting political landscapes, emerging technologies, and changing economic growth patterns and labor markets – all of which are shaping the notion of what livelihoods look like today and may look like in the future. 

For two weeks this August the Bellagio/PopTech Fellows will convene at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in Italy. We will collaboratively work to define the notion of livelihood in the 21st century, while simultaneously exploring the challenges, opportunities and complex interdependencies that will impact sustainable livelihood achievement in the coming decades.

Our goal is to initiate a conversation designed to inform and inspire global, national and local efforts to improve livelihoods. Conversations will be complemented and challenged by an incredible group of catalysts, which bring a diverse and unique set of insights to the table.

Areas of exploration will include an examination of the central tenets of livelihoods strategy, the interplay between livelihood productivity at national and individual level, and the opportunities offered by the often-opposing formal and informal sectors. We’ll look at the positive and negative impacts of technology on livelihoods, and how both global security (and insecurity) and the geopolitical landscape impact sustainable development goals. It would be impossible to have this kind of discussion without recognition of the environmental challenges facing the planet, so we’ll be looking at how climate change and other threats could impact livelihoods development now and into the future.

Members of the 2013 class of Bellagio/PopTech Fellows presenting at PopTech 2013

Following their immersion at the Bellagio Center, the Bellagio/PopTech Fellows will reunite in Camden, Maine at PopTech 2014: Rebellion, where they will present their work and explore opportunities for collaboration with the global PopTech network.

About the Bellagio/PopTech Fellows program:
In 2012, PopTech and the Rockefeller Foundation created a joint Fellows program that brings together small, interdisciplinary groups for a two-week immersion program at the Foundation's renowned Bellagio Center in Lake Como, Italy. Learn more about the inaugural class. 

The Bellagio/PopTech Fellows program is designed to be a unique incubator of unconventional collaboration around critical topics relevant to the lives of poor and vulnerable populations, and also serves as a laboratory to study the nature of collaboration itself as a profound tool for creative problem solving and solution development.

President Obama awards Krista Tippett National Humanities Medal

At PopTech: Rebellion this October, Krista Tippett of "On Being" will produce her national radio show live from the PopTech stage. She’ll lead a conversation with culture critic Courtney Martin and Quaker author and educator Parker Palmer around “spiritual technologies” – disciplines to ground outer life that matters. It’s inspired by the notion that rebels across the ages have changed the world but depleted their souls.

In addition to "On Being" previously winning a Peabody Award and Webby, Krista Tippett was awarded one of ten 2013 National Humanities Medals this week by President Barack Obama. The National Humanities Medals are awarded for outstanding achievements in history, cultural studies, cultural commentary, filmmaking, and historic preservation. The announcement states:

The National Humanities Medal honors individuals or groups whose work has deepened the nation’s understanding of the humanities, broadened our citizens’ engagement with the humanities, or helped preserve and expand Americans’ access to important resources in the humanities.

Previous winners include writer Joan Didion, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel, Nobel Prize winner Toni Morrison, and filmmaker Steven Spielberg

Congrats to Krista Tippett and the "On Being" team! Join us in October to meet her at PopTech: Rebellion

Image: On Being

Three month countdown! Secure your PopTech lodging

We’re exactly three months away from the kick-off to PopTech: Rebellion! If you’re joining us this October and haven’t yet booked your lodging, we’re here to help. Call or email Colleen Lafferty, PopTech senior experience coordinator and Mainer, for assistance in finding a hotel, inn, B&B, or cottage that best suits your needs. She can be reached at 207-230-2425 or colleen@poptech.org.

If you’re interested in being in the thick of PopTech bustle, the following downtown hotels have a limited number of rooms still available. We’ve included the estimated walking distance to the Camden Opera House — the hub of most PopTech activity — along with typical rates. We encourage you to call hotels directly for availability and booking. Many establishments have blocked out the dates online to reserve space for PopTech participants like you! Happy hotel hunting and please don’t hesitate to contact us for help. 

Camden Riverhouse (800-755-7483)
3 minute walk to Camden Opera house

Blue Harbor House (207-236-3196)
4 minute walk to Camden Opera House

Windward House (877-492-9656)
5 minute walk to Camden Opera House

The Inns at Blackberry Common (800-388-6000) 
6 minute walk to Camden Opera House

Camden Harbor Inn (800-236-4266)
7 minute walk to Camden Opera House

Maine Stay Inn (207-236-9636)
8 minute walk to Camden Opera House

A Little Dream (800-217-0109)
14 minute walk to Camden Opera House

Norumbega (877-363-4646)
15 minute walk to Camden Opera House

Image: Doug Kerr via Flickr

How about a proper toast to 18 in Camden?

Hello there, PopTech historians! This marks the last leg of our journey through PopTech over the last 18 years. We hope you enjoyed learning about some of the fun (and eclectic) facts that define our history. Let us know your favorites with #poptech18. How about joining us this Oct 23-25 at PopTech: Rebellion so we can make some new memories together? Hope to see you there. (Missed Parts 1, 2 or 3? Give them a read.)

Fact #14: On Thursday, Oct 20, we had two “firsts” at PopTech 2011 (on the same day, no less). A head of state and a Nobel Laureate each took the stage: President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson of Iceland and Rajendra Pachauri. (They also participated in a Q&A together. Watch their 20-minute talks here and here.)  

Fact #15: Call us PopTech…just PopTech. Following PopTech 2013: Sparks of Brilliance, we bid adieu to the “!”.

Fact #16: In 2014, John Maeda joined PopTech as guest host. (Hear why you should come from the man himself.) ICYMI: John has been a long-time PopTech supporter and previous board member. What we’ve learned in our time working together so far: his enthusiasm is contagious and he asks really good questions.  

Fact #17: For many years, our conference program has followed the back-to-back 20-minute talk format. 2014 is the year of the remix. We’ll still feature some of those amazing 20-minute talks. But we’re also adding on-stage conversations led by some of the best voices on radio, panels with wildly talented artists and musicians, and a few surprises. (Scroll beneath the schedule to learn more about Krista Tippett and Joe Palca.)

Fact 18: In our long and winding conference history, we’ve explored a wide range of themes. See examples below. One thing we realized – we’ve rarely had a theme that was simply one word. Enter REBELLION. There’s something to be said about keeping it simple. We like this shift. Here’s to getting older and trying new things.  

PopTech 2000: Being Human in the Digital Age
PopTech 2001: Online, Everywhere, All the Time
PopTech 2004: The New Renaissance 
PopTech 2008: Scarcity and Abundance 
PopTech 2010: Brilliant Accidents, Necessary Failures and Improbable Breakthroughs  

And lastly, Fact #19: Over the years, we’ve considered permanently moving the PopTech conference somewhere more metropolitan. In an age where conferences are at every turn, we realize how special Camden is to our identity and convening. Hosting in a locale that’s off the beaten path certainly has its advantages. Participants don’t duck out for meetings. They aren’t coming for half a day then returning to the office. Instead, they’re at all sessions, all the parties, all of our random assigned lunches – and that’s something we don’t want to mess with. 


Moments from PopTech past

Summer Fridays! To celebrate the arrival of the weekend (and being 18), we're sharing the next batch of facts from 18 years of PopTech. Store these in your memory bank should a round of trivia break out in Camden at some point during PopTech: Rebellion. Have yourself a merry little weekend. (Here's part 1 and part 2 in case you missed it.) 

Fact #7: At PopTech 2006, Pulitzer-prize winning writer Thomas Friedman took the stage to give a frank talk on the reasons that “this isn’t your parents’ energy crisis” and asked us to redefine what “green” really means. 

Fact #8: At PopTech 2007, our board member John Legend performed and talked about his Show Me campaign, a movement to break the cycle of global poverty through access to quality education. Watch it here

Fact #9: PopTech <3 music. Musical acts we’ve featured at PopTech have ranged from Blitz the Ambassador to Imogen Heap, Zee Avi, OK Go, amiina, and Capital Cities. Dancing is always permitted and encouraged. Enjoy this Spotify playlist of PopTech artists from over the years.


Fact #10: Also at PopTech 2007, the Hungry March Band from Brooklyn stormed the castle and played alongside participants as they exited the Camden Opera House for the closing party.

Fact #11: Jelly fish above! At PopTech 2008, members of Festo suspended a giant jellyfish-like structure from the Camden Opera House ceiling. Aside from being visually interesting, “Air Jelly” was built on the principles of using technology to mimic naturally occurring designs. 

Fact #12: In 2011, when CNN reporter John Sutter described PopTech, he explained:

“…this annual conference in coastal Maine is…a chance to get a look into ideas and technologies that soon will change the world.”

Fact #13: True or False: At PopTech, you might see spacesuits sitting on stage. 
...True. At PopTech 2011, MIT aeronautics professor Dava Newman talked about her quest to create a better spacesuit. The mobility-enhancing “Bio-Suit” below would protect astronauts from the atmospheres and healthcare workers from germs. Watch Dava talk about the suit in this two-minute PopTech video

There's more! See you on Monday for part 4. In the meantime, let us know what else we should add with #poptech18. 

The life & times of PopTech, continued

In honor of our 18th year, we're taking a trip down PopTech memory lane. Throughout the week, discover facts and special moments about PopTech you may not have known. We want to hear from you, too! Add your memories to the conversation with #poptech18. And now without further ado, we give you part 2. (Missed part 1? Click here.)

Fact #4: Every year, we feature art installations in the Camden Village Green and around Camden. 

At PopTech 2013, Bland Hoke created “parkSPARK!” – an installation of vibrant (and useable) hammocks that used locally reclaimed float rope, mesh and lumber from a Maine barn.

Balloons, galore. At PopTech 2012, artist Jason Hackenwerth created “Annunciation” and “Bang Bang Boom” completely from latex balloons. (He also joined us at PopTech Iceland.)
At PopTech 2012, Pilobolus, MIT’s Distributed Robotics Laboratory and hundreds of participants and local community members teamed up for a collaborative art performance involving umbrellas fabricated with multi-colored lights, a camera fixed on a crane and a large screen. 

Tunisian-born artist eL Seed captivated PopTech 2011 with his live demonstration of “calligraffiti,” a mix of Arabic calligraphy and graffiti. Tying to the ethos of PopTech, his piece reads: "Give back to the world at least what you’ve received." - Albert Einstein.

Fact #5: PopTech 2006 featured a performance from the Sinikithemba Choir, a group of HIV-positive men and women who provide HIV/AIDS support in South Africa. We were so moved that it sparked our involvement in one of our first initiatives, Project Masiluleke, a massive global public health effort that uses the mobile phone as a low-cost, high-impact tool in the fight against HIV/AIDs and TB. Much of our mission work is inspired by PopTech presentations like these.

Fact #6: Collaboration is our middle name. And that of our participants, Fellows and speakers, too. A number of wide-ranging collaborations were born at PopTech over the years – check out a sampling below. Who will you meet at PopTech? 

PopTech Social Innovation Fellows Josh Nesbit of Medic Mobile and Raj Panjabi of Last Mile Health teamed up to combine the power of their two organizations. Their idea is to equip Raj’s remote community health care workers with the technological tools leveraged in Josh’s program. They’re the first collaborative project to receive funding from PopTech’s Impact Fund. Watch this five-minute PopTech video about their work together.

PBS NOVA producer David Condon met PopTech Science Fellow Adrien Treuille at PopTech 2011. This led to the creation of RNA Lab, part of the digital platform NOVA Labs, which encourages citizen scientists to participate in the scientific process. RNA Lab is an extension of EteRNA, a computer-basedgame co-founded by Adrien in which users design and fold real biomolecules, and as a result, help reveal better ways for drugs to target diseases.

At PopTech 2010, PopTech Science Fellow and TB researcher Sarah Fortune asked the audience if there was a way to crowdsource the analysis of bacteria. PopTech Social Innovation Fellow Josh Nesbit called out and connected her to Lukas Biewald, co-founder of CrowdFlower. At PopTech 2011, Sarah and Lukas talked about teaming up to catalogue TB’s bacterial cells and its long-term implications on science and discovery. Watch them present their collaboration at PopTech 2011

Kinetic sculptor Reuben Margolin and choreographer Gideon Obarzanek met at PopTech 2009 and a year and a half later, created “Connected,” a riveting performance that blends elements of their work. Watch this two-minute video about the performance.

More PopTech highlights are on their way - check back in on Friday!


We’re 18! A year for rebellion (and reflection)

We’re three months away from PopTech: Rebellion and knee deep in all things conference related. We’ve been gathering thinkers and doers in Camden, Maine since ’96. But 2014 is particularly monumental – we’re celebrating our 18th year. One might say we’re feeling…rebellious. (See what we did there?)

We’ve been busy dusting off archives and collecting arti(facts) to share throughout the week. Think of it as a memory album of sorts. Add your memories to the collection with #poptech18. Enjoy this look at PopTech over the years and consider joining us Oct 23-25 at our 18th celebration – PopTech: Rebellion

Fact #1: In the early 90s, Ethernet co-inventor Bob Metcalfe, former Apple CEO John Sculley and a group of technologists came together in Camden to explore the impact of emerging technologies on people. (FYI: This is how our name came to be.) We originally convened under the auspices of The Camden Conference, a public policy conference that’s still in existence. In ’96, with the technology conversation gaining steam, we split off to form the Camden Technology Conference that went on to be branded as Pop!Tech.

Fact #2: Until the early 2000s, PopTech was an all-volunteer organization. Our mission arm grew out of requests from participants for opportunities to get involved and create real and lasting impact. Fast forward to a corps of full-time employees that in addition to the annual conference run three Fellows programs, incubate social change projects, and host small year-round events. 

Fact #3: We have an extensive library of previous PopTech conference programs. See who took the PopTech stage way back when. 

From clockwise: Amy Cuddy, PopTech 2011; Clay Shirky, PopTech 2003; A real greeting at PopTech 2002; Neri Oxman, PopTech 2010. 

From clockwise: Conference programs from 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011; Malcolm Gladwell, PopTech 2004; Reggie Watts, PopTech 2006. 

Tune in on Wednesday for more #poptech18 fun facts. See you then.