PopTech Blog

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! 

Tune in: The Brain with David Eagleman coming Oct 14 on PBS

It’s been an honor having David Eagleman join us at PopTech not just once, but twice— in 2010 and 2012. His talks (“Possibilianism” and “Brain Over Mind”) are some of the most widely viewed PopTech talks of all time. Set aside time to check them out, if you haven’t already.

We're thrilled to share the news that he’s hosting a new science series on PBS that will kick off on Wednesday, Oct 14. This new show, “The Brain with Dr. David Eagleman,” features six one-hour episodes that “tell the story of the inner workings of the brain and take viewers on a visually spectacular journey into why they feel and think the things they do" through a blend of scientific data and personal stories. Visit PBS to learn more, watch the trailer below, and join us in tuning in this week. 

"For the past 20 years, I’ve been trying to understand how what happens in three pounds of Jello-like material somehow becomes us—what we feel, what matters to us, our beliefs and our hopes. Everything we are happens in here."  —David Eagleman 

Introducing the 2015 PopTech Fellows!

Since 2008 the PopTech Fellows programs have been identifying and mentoring some of the world's most talented individuals who are working to ensure the well-being of citizens around the world through scientific exploration, advocacy and humanitarian efforts. Today we are honored to welcome the PopTech Fellows class of 2015, a combined group of innovators and scientists who join a remarkable alumni network of 155 past Fellows.

The class of 2015 represents our first-ever combined class of social innovators and scientists, a decision that grew from our Fellows program retreat last year. Since the early years of the program, we have worked to create an atmosphere that supports the collaborative potential between Fellows. We hope to enhance that potential in this combined class of amazing innovators and scientists representing the fields of healthcare, human rights advocacy, financial inclusion, technology platform development and conservation.

Fellows and program faculty will head to North Haven Island in Penobscot Bay on October 15 for immersive sessions that concentrate on amplifying the scale and impact of their work. On October 22-24, the Fellows head to Camden, Maine to join the greater PopTech community at PopTech 2015: Hybrid.

The PopTech Fellows program is generously supported by the Autodesk Foundation, the Omidyar Network, the Rita Allen Foundation, National Geographic and Genentech

PopTech is 4 weeks away! Book your lodging

The one-month countdown is on. If you haven’t already secured a hotel, inn, B&B, or Airbnb for PopTech, consider this your friendly nudge. Below we’ve included an updated list of some of the accommodations in and around Camden that still have rooms available. As always, we suggest calling hotels directly to book a reservation, as many block out PopTech dates on their sites to reserve them for PopTech participants. Not sure how to get to Camden? Take a look at Plan Your PopTech. If you need any assistance, don’t hesitate to contact us at registration@poptech.org. See you soon!

Within walking distance:

Blue Harbor House (800-248-3196)
5 minute walk to the Camden Opera House
$169-$219 (Breakfast included)

Camden Riverhouse (800-755-7483)
3 minute walk to the Camden Opera house
$199-$249 (Breakfast included)
3 night minimum

Camden Windward House (877-492-9656)
3 minute walk to the Camden Opera House
$162 (Breakfast included; vegan and gluten-free options available)

Castle View by the Sea B&B (207-230-4426)
15 minute walk to the Camden Opera House
$159-$245 (Breakfast included)

The Inns at Blackberry Common (800-388-6000)
6 minute walk to Camden Opera House
$149-$289 (Breakfast included)

Swan House Bed & Breakfast (800-207-8275)
15 minute walk to the Camden Opera House
$120-$185 (Breakfast included)

Within driving distance:

Birchwood Motel (207-236-4204)
6 minute drive to the Camden Opera House
Discounted PopTech rate of $85 per night for those booking 2+ nights (Breakfast included)

The Claddagh Motel & Suites (800-871-5454)
10 minute drive to the Camden Opera House
$69-$129 (Breakfast included)

Glen Cove Inn & Suites (207-594-4062)
10 minute drive to the Camden Opera House
$94-$119 (Breakfast included)

Photo credit: Jamie McCaffrey via Creative Commons license

PopTech is coming to NYC

The PopTech Roadtrip event series has ventured around the U.S. and abroad, bringing together the PopTech community to explore new ideas and engage in interesting discussions. In partnership with Steelcase, we’ll be stopping next in…New York!

Join us on Thursday, September 10 for a compelling talk around gaming for good and an intimate evening of discovery and conversation. We’ll be joined by Asi Burak, award-winning game creator and social innovator, and President of Games for Change.

Did we mention that it’s free? Sign up, tell your friends, and get ready for what will be a fun and informative evening. Drinks and snacks will be served. See you then!

Date: Thursday, September 10
Time: 7:00pm - 9:00pm
Location: Steelcase WorkLife Center, 4 Columbus Circle, New York, NY 
Registration: Sign up here
The gist: Can games be used for good? Hear how from Asi Burak, award-winning game creator and social innovator, and President of Games for Change. He'll dive into the latest trends, challenges, and successful case studies of the gaming for good movement from around the world.

John Maeda on hybrid, Camden, and why you should be at PopTech

In just seven weeks, we’ll welcome 600 people to Camden for our annual gathering. John Maeda, hybrid extraordinaire, will join us for his second year of hosting. We sat down with him recently to learn more about this year’s theme of hybrid and why getting “stuck” in Camden is the best predicament. This is your last year to spend with John at PopTech. Don’t miss out

Tell us about hybrid—what makes you excited about it and why is it relevant to discuss right now?
In a world where so many norms and “truths" are shifting out of focus at the same time, it is the people who live across many worlds who become advantaged because they see the world through multiple lenses. If one doesn’t work, they can try the other they have. And the other. And so forth. The jack-of-all-trades was often derided as "the master of none.” But now the master of a discipline is rendered less powerful because his or her discipline is now evaporating.

What do you want participants to walk away from PopTech thinking and feeling?
That if they’ve always been a generalist, to not see it as a handicap. And for the expert, to recognize that being a multi-talented person is important to survive and thrive in the future.

Five-word pitch on why someone should come to PopTech this year:
Enjoy Camden! Meet new people!

At this point, you’ve been to Camden several times. First, as a PopTech participant, then as a board member, and most recently, as host. Any insider tips on Camden?
I relish the smallness of Camden. You are “stuck” in a beautiful place — I say “stuck” because it’s a great predicament to be in. And when you add in the interesting speakers and PopTech-goers, you’re all happy to be stuck together.

Describe this year’s speaker line-up.
Someone said to me that the lineup this year has a lot of people they don’t already know. That was my point in curating the program this year — which is my last year as host, a role I enjoyed last year and am honored to reprise this year — I wanted to gather people that everyone may not already know, but *should* know.

Switching gears a bit. We asked a bunch of speakers the following types of questions in the Slash series so we need to hear from you, too.

What are you listening to? The Beach Boys – Smile.

What are you reading? Brad Feld and Jason Mendelson – “Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist.”

Your mantra: From a mentor: “Holding a grudge is like eating poison, and hoping the other person dies."

Which historical figure would you like to see give a PopTech talk?
Jackie Onassis. I think she set the mysterious and aspirational tone for America in a way that set the course for how we are perceived in many parts today.

John Maeda in conversation with Maria Popova of Brain Pickings at PopTech 2014. 

Slash series: Ben Fry, data visualization/design

Speaker: Ben Fry is the Founder and Principal of Fathom Information Design, a design and software consultancy located in Boston. He holds a Ph.D. in Aesthetics and Computation from MIT. Fry has authored and co-authored multiple books on data visualization and develops "Processing" -- the programming environment he co-created with artist Casey Reas used by designers and developers all over the world. Fast Company includes Ben on its lists of “The 50 Most Influential Designers in America” and “The Most Creative People in Business 1000.”

What's one thing you want the PopTech audience to know about you that's not in your bio?
That it’s been several years since I’ve written a proper bio.

Wait, don’t tell them that.

What does hybrid mean to you from the perspective of your work?
Graduate school at MIT was my first chance to work in a truly hybrid environment: with a mathematician building interactive art, a computer scientist working in fashion, a trained statistician pursuing architecture. As someone trained in graphic design and computer science as completely separate fields, I could not have been happier. Then I realized that I was pursuing a single thing—the hybrid of the two—and would no longer be able to play them against one another. This was bittersweet.

What are you listening to?
When working, I usually listen to a lot of electronic music. But since the birth of my daughter in 2013, I’ve found myself listening to more classical. I’m torn between how it apparently helps un-crowd everything that’s happening, and feeling like an old man and resembling my father or grandfather. Still working to resolve this.

Who are you most looking forward to hearing speak at PopTech?
I love Maira Kalman’s work and am looking forward to hearing from her. And I was sold after seeing my hero Bob Sabiston’s talk from PopTech in 2014.

Word association: Maine...

If you could pick one historical figure to watch give a PopTech talk, who would it be?
Mark Twain?

Or maybe Borges? Benjamin Franklin?

My grandfather who was an engineer and my grandmother who was an artist—both of whom I never had a chance to know? Can you bring back the two of them?

The words you live by:
“We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us happy is something to be enthusiastic about.” – Charles Kingsley

Karaoke? Yes, no, curious. Go-to song?
Even worse than karaoke, I usually sing *and* play. And my piano/ukulele/guitar skills are as bad as most karaoke! Rest assured, only family is subjected to all that…talent, so the answer is safely “no.”