PopTech Blog

New speakers added!

PopTech: Culture Clash is only two months away! We’re thrilled to announce new speakers added to the lineup at our 20th anniversary gathering. 

Joining the diverse mix of perspectives you’ll hear in October include: David Ferrucci, award-winning AI researcher who built and led the IBM Watson team from its inception to its landmark success winning against the best Jeopardy! players of all time; Amy and Ryan Green, husband and wife duo who developed the videogame That Dragon, Cancer to re-tell their son Joel’s four-year fight against cancer through deeply moving, poetic and imaginative gameplay; Asperger’s Are Us, a hilarious comedy troupe consisting of openly autistic people whose precisely worded, dark, observational comedy is balanced with absurd humor; Wayne Kramer of Detroit rock group MC5 and co-founder of Jail Guitar Doors USA, which harnesses the experience of playing music to rehabilitate inmates; behavioral scientist Francesca Gino, whose latest research shows how conformity is costly to our wellbeing and to the organizations we are part of, as it lowers both productivity and innovation; and Revolution Messaging CEO Scott Goodstein, who brought his punk sensibility and online movement making prowess to Obama for America in 2008 and most recently was responsible for the extraordinary online fundraising during Bernie Sanders’ campaign.

This year we’re diving headfirst into the controversial issues infiltrating the news and our daily conversations. You will leave PopTech with a fresh perspective on the current global challenges and be inspired to consider new approaches for change on the ground. We look forward to seeing you in October! 

Nicole Prause on studying orgasms, defying critics, and ideal dinner party guests

This year marks our 20th anniversary in bringing together people from all over the world to explore the ideas, people, and projects that are shaping the future. The countdown is officially on, and we can’t wait to welcome these wildly talented speakers into the PopTech community. Over the next two months, we’ll give you a peek inside their eclectic worlds. Join us October 20-22 at PopTech: Culture Clash to meet them in person.

Meet the speaker: Nicole Prause is a sexual psychophysiologist who uses a combination of neuroscience, custom physiology instruments, and statistical scripting to answer questions about how orgasm forms, the effects of sex films on relationships, whether brain stimulation can alter our sex drive, and how clitoral stimulation from a partner may improve our general health. 

You're one of the few remaining sexual psychophysiologists in the USA due to the challenges of conducting research in this country. What are some examples of the challenges you’ve faced and why do you think they exist?
You are not permitted to have sexual images on computers purchased with federal grant money, so we are not permitted to study sexual images in this country. When I attempted to study orgasm at university, the ethics committee refused to approve the study on the basis that I would not remove the orgasm component without citing any safety or privacy concerns. Whenever I report positive aspects of sexuality, I receive personal threats and hate mail to my colleagues and myself from therapists who depend financially on treating negative aspects of sexuality. There are political, structural, and financial pressures that have forced this research out of the country.

In a similar vein, what drives you to continue to do your work in light of these challenges?
There are two main reasons I continue the work. First, people are being shamed about their sexuality for others' profit. I have a strong visceral response to social justice issues in this area. Second, the best way to get me to do something is to tell me not to do it. That's just personality!

What are you working on at the moment?
We are working on brain stimulation to alter sex drive, physical measurements of orgasm, monitoring the brain response during partnered genital stimulation, debunking myths surrounding sex "addiction", and using sexual response to improve depression symptoms.

Describe your immediate reaction to the theme of “Culture Clash”:
When I saw the theme was culture clash I immediately thought "well, that's why they called!" My job is at the crux of culture clash! 

What books are on your nightstand?
The Rise of Superman, because I am trying to understand how a group I am conducting research on understands "flow."

Best song, band, album, or podcast you’ve recently heard:
I love the weekly Savage Lovecast by Dan Savage, because he tries to integrate science and lead challenging discussions about our assumptions about sexuality in our culture...but I can't pick just one. For song, "My Chick Bad" is my jam before every race I run.

Who are you excited to hear speak at Culture Clash?
Rahzel and Alan Alda. I am totally fascinated by beatboxing and have never had a chance to talk to someone so focused on it about the genre. I also had no idea how involved Mr. Alda was in science advocacy and want to hear his vision for how we retain/regain accurate science communication with the public.

You’re hosting a dinner party. Who are your dream guests and why?
1) Paula Radcliffe: Marathon phenom with tremendous depth of skill, character.

2) Richard McFall: My undergraduate advisor who I still use to judge whether my work is important.

3) Greg Siegle: Close collaborator who brings bizarre, fantastic perspectives to every problem.

4) Eric Garcetti: Mayor of Los Angeles, there is much I do not understand about how to be effective in helping my community.

5) Michael Shermer: Scientist known for his skepticism

My personal mantra is:
Go! I ain't got time for personal mantras!

Where do you reach for inspiration?
The news. I like to keep up with current events and I am inspired by social justice issues around sexuality.

My superhero power would be:
X-ray vision. Do you know how much genital science I could do without worrying about consent?

What advice would you give your younger self?
Masturbate more.

We like to karaoke at PopTech. Are you in? Go-to song?
I will definitely go, I promise to only laugh at others if I sing too.

Speakers announced for Culture Clash

As the cultural barriers that once separated us as people continue to give way, those that remain are both the source of great conflict, and also our greatest possibility.

We’re excited to reveal a few of the many speakers who will come together this October for our 20th anniversary at PopTech: Culture Clash.

Lizz Winstead, co-creator and former head writer of The Daily Show and co-founder of Lady Parts Justice; Jenna Wortham, writer for the New York Times Magazine and chronicler of technology's influence on culture, race, education, and health; Alan Alda, Emmy Award-winning actor and recipient of the National Academy of Sciences Public Welfare Medal; Esther Perel, psychotherapist recognized as one of the most original and insightful voices on couples and sexuality across cultures; Platon, world-renowned photographer and human rights advocate; Physics Nobel Laureate John Mather, from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center; and Grammy Award-winning musician, beatboxer and former Roots member, Rahzel, are just a handful of the eclectic voices you’ll hear from as part of this increasingly relevant discussion. Stay tuned as we share more speaker and program updates! 

Together we’ll examine the provocative issues that dominate the headlines and continue to raise our awareness and challenge our hearts. We will come away with a deeper perspective on what is happening and the possibilities that could come next, as well as the inspiration to take positive action in our communities. Add your voice to the conversation and join us for an unforgettable journey at this unique moment in history. 

Meet us in DC for July ICT4Drinks

Mark your calendar! We’re excited to co-host the July ICT4Drinks with our friends at TechChange and meet members of the Washington, DC ICT4D community. One lucky attendee will win a free ticket to our 20th annual gathering, PopTech: Culture Clash. Hope to see you then. 

When: Wednesday, July 20
Time: 5:30-8:30pm
Where: Piola, 2208 14th Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20009
Sign up: Register on Eventbrite

Celebrating a nation of makers

June 17-23 marks this year’s National Week of Making, building on President Obama’s Nation of Makers initiative that began in 2014. As Obama stated, during this weeklong event "we celebrate the tinkerers and dreamers whose talent and drive have brought new ideas to life, and we recommit to cultivating the next generation of problem solvers.”

Coinciding with the National Week of Making is the second annual National Maker Faire, taking place June 18-19 in Washington, D.C. It will feature makers from around the country as well as Federal Agencies such as the Department of Education, National Science Foundation, National Endowment of Arts, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Described as “part science fair, part county fair, and part something entirely new,” Maker Faire originally launched in the Bay Area in 2006 and has since grown to additional cities.

We’re excited to see what new technologies and inventions emerge from this weekend’s convening. If you’re in the D.C. area, free tickets are still available. More details on tickets, location and logistics can be found on National Maker Faire’s websiteIf you’re not local, follow along @natlmakerfaire and #NMF16. 

PopTech 2016: Culture Clash

A NASA explorer, a presidential joke writer, a sex scientist, a Nobel Laureate, a National Academy of Sciences award winner and a game creator…they will all come together on the PopTech stage this year for our 20th anniversary gathering, Culture Clash!

We will reveal our first lineup of speakers in a few weeks but we wanted to lift the curtain to give you a peek of what you’ll experience this October in the beautiful seaside village of Camden, Maine.

This is a big birthday for us, so we turned to the PopTech community to create the programming, ensuring an exciting mix of talks, performances, and provocative conversations. Hats off to our curatorial advisors and hosts for 2016!

Now, a surprise gift for you! Register before midnight on June 10th and only pay $1500, a 25% discount off the registration fee of $2000. Be sure to secure your place.

Plus, the first 100 people to register by June 10th will get a guaranteed seat in one of the new surprises this year: intimate fireside chats led by a Culture Clash Speaker or Host.

We are delighted to welcome back our longtime sponsors Toyota, Steelcase, National Geographic Society and N Square, and are excited to announce a new partnership with WIRED.

This is a PopTech you cannot miss! Join us for a lively exploration of what divides and unites us in an era of opposition. We promise, you will not be disappointed.

PopTech and Microsoft present: The Changing World of Work

Two years ago PopTech and the Microsoft Office Envisioning team partnered to create a documentary short that captured the forces influencing how we work now and into the future. Our exploration became a rich collaborative learning journey that uncovered a treasure trove of insights from diverse sectors and geographies. As we interviewed artists, futurists and leaders, complex patterns surrounding the very notion of ‘work’ began to emerge.

Enhanced connectivity has increased productivity but for some, threatens to squelch creativity due to constant distractions and a sense of “always being on.” We have the freedom to work from all corners of the globe as digitally connected teams; yet can experience isolation that results in disengagement. Rapid technology advances are creating new opportunities that are generating value faster than at any point in human history, yet provoking fear of massive job loss to automation and robotics.

Patterns gave way to questions: What is the role of a leader, particularly during these changing times? How do we live up to our potential? Are traditional brick and mortar offices constraining creativity? Are they even necessary? How do we create shared space – settings where humans and machines productively collaborate? How do we assess and accordingly act on the ethical challenges presented by advanced technologies?

Please join our exploration as we present what has now evolved into an eight-part video series, The Changing World of Work, a production of Microsoft and PopTech.

This post was co-authored by Leetha Filderman and Beth Cohen

Harlem First: Mapping the health of a community

Over the last several months PopTech has had the honor to partner with an elite group of collaborators on an emerging approach that strives to understand how social innovation design can influence the health of a community.

Harlem First: Mapping the Health of a Community celebrated our longstanding partnership with Design for Social Innovation at the School for Visual Arts (DSI) in New York, founded by PopTech Emeritus Board member, Cheryl Heller. The project leveraged the talent of PopTech Fellows and tapped the wisdom, commitment and energy of a number of Harlem-based organizations and community members, including the Arnhold Institute for Global Health, directed by PopTech Fellow Prabhjot Singh and Strive International. The role of social innovation design as a pathway to solution development is well documented in several sectors. Our instinct to blend aspects of social innovation (talent, technology, design, research and engagement with the community) has been at the core of PopTech’s mission for many years. Using community mapping as a tool to understand the factors that influence the health of a community was at the center of our work on Harlem First. Our early findings demonstrate the value of community mapping as an engagement tool – enabling community members to collect their own data – and more importantly, providing a path for citizens to co-create solutions to the challenges they uncover. Our notion that residents of a community see things that are invisible to others, and often go undetected in official statistics, was validated.

Harlem First: Mapping the Health of a Community was a multi-faceted initiative that provided numerous points of interaction, contemplation and relationship building. These exchanges, and the subsequent knowledge gained, were made possible through a host of community activities and an interactive gallery exhibition at the SVA Gramercy Gallery, all of which took place throughout the month of January. Our work on this early phase of the project culminated with the Harlem First Symposium, convened by DSI at the SVA Beatrice Theater on February 1. The event brought together health professionals, politicians, local agencies, designers, community leaders, Harlem residents and data scientists to hear a conversation about the insights this initiative has brought to light.

Panelists, including Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.; community leader and public servant, Clyde Williams; Prabhjot Singh, Director of the Arnhold Global Health Institute; East Harlem tenants’ activist Carmen Quinones; and Robert Carmona co-founder of Strive, represented health providers, government, community leaders and residents. The panel discussed community health through the lens of policing, surveillance and criminal justice; the impact of unemployment; the visibility of health services; affordable housing; and what a community loses when its longer-term residents leave. A video of the symposium is available here.

Our work on Harlem First was advised early on by PopTech Fellows Patrick Meier and Jake Porway. We were honored to engage 2016 PopTech Fellow Primož Kovačič, who traveled from Kenya and generously contributed his expertise in community mapping, teaching two master classes for DSI students, Harlem residents, community organizations and health providers. Reflections of his time in Harlem are shared in his blog post.

We would like to express our gratitude to staff and faculty of DSI for the enormous contributions they made. The initiative would not have been possible without their dedication, the commitment of first year students in the Mapping and Visualization Design class, and the creative brilliance of Kevin O’Callaghan, who brought our work to life in the gallery exhibition. The ability to see the invisible through maps was made possible by talented cartographer Gabriel Schuster. A full recap of all aspects of Harlem First can be found on the DSI blog.

Harlem First represents the beginning of a body of collaborative work. Please stay tuned as we continue to share our insights and expand the scope of this promising initiative.

Solutions outside the box that are really working

“Over 2 billion people in the world do not have bank accounts, which means that cashing checks and sending money can be difficult. Currently, this kind of money-moving incurs exorbitant fees for people in developing countries, says Joyce Kim, co-founder of Stellar.org. Stellar is a network that enables money to move directly between people, companies and financial institutions digitally. It digitizes the entire process, which drastically reduces transaction costs to almost zero.”

Stellar.org is just one of the groundbreaking organizations that writer Jenny Chen (@americanhaiku) learned about when she attended PopTech: Hybrid this past October.

Jenny attended PopTech as part of our collaboration with the Solutions Journalism Network, which promotes “rigorous and compelling reporting about responses to social problems.” SJN sponsored a contest to send one lucky journalist to the conference to write about promising “hybrid” solutions and models for positive social change. Jenny was selected to represent the SJN and to report on what she learned for the Huffington Post.

One of Jenny’s resulting pieces (excerpted above) highlights four innovative organizations from the latest class of PopTech Fellows and speakers that tackle global challenges in technology, education, financial inclusion, and healthcare. Read how OpenFn, the African Leadership Academy, Stellar.org, and City Health Works are taking hybrid approaches to problem solving that’s proving to be successful. Jenny also profiled Noora Health, an organization co-founded by PopTech Fellow Edith Elliott. Noora Health trains at-risk patients and their families with high-impact health skills so they can take care into their own hands and homes. 

Joyce Kim presenting at PopTech: Hybrid.

Fun fact/watch this: Courtney Martin, Co-Founder of the Solutions Journalism Network, took the PopTech stage in 2014 alongside Krista Tippett, Host of “On Being,” and author/educator Parker Palmer for a moving conversation on rebellion and the human spirit. 

PopTech: Hybrid talks now online!

Starting today, you can re-watch and share PopTech: Hybrid stage talks and performances any time, any place. Be inspired by Eric Liu as he urges us to celebrate the relentless hybridity of the American people and learn how Fred Swaniker is re-imagining education in Africa and beyond. Hear from Giorgia Lupi on how data-gathering can be a personal documentary and be swept away by Maira Kalman’s humorous reflections on the everyday experiences that influence her work. Be sure not to miss the 2015 class of PopTech Fellows sharing their impactful work in healthcare, human rights advocacy, financial inclusion, and conservation. 

There are so many moments in technology, design, science, social innovation, and culture to be discovered in the PopTech: Hybrid library.

Happy viewing!