PopTech Blog

This week in PopTech: Quotable and notable

eL Seed PopTech 2011

There's always something brewing in the PopTech community. From the world-changing people, projects and ideas in our network, a handful of this week's highlights follows.

Give back to the world at least what you’ve received.

—French-Tunisian artist eL Seed’s thoughtful and fitting work of graffiti and Arabic calligraphy, produced during the PopTech 2011 conference, aptly expresses our shared commitment to positive action in support of world-changing people, projects and ideas.

When you do things on a small scale, you have to understand every part of the process. The smaller the scale you want to work on, the further back in time you have to go. There is such a lot of effort and intelligence and history that go into something as simple as a toaster.

Thomas Thwaites at PopTech 2011. If you enjoyed his PopTech talk, you'll love his new book entitled, The Toaster Project


Veterans Day highlight: Bryan Doerries' Theater of War

In honor of Veterans Day, we wanted to share with you a talk given by PopTech Social Innovation Fellow Bryan Doerries about his project, the Theater of War. This theatrical performance  presents readings of Sophocles’ Ajax and Philoctetes to military and civilian communities across the United States and Europe. By presenting these plays to those specific audiences, Theater of War seeks to create a dialogue, foster community, and de-stigmatize the psychological injuries of war.

Read more about Doerries' Theater of War performance at PopTech from a few weeks ago.

Hayat Sindi's i2 Institute connects youth with opportunity

Hayat Sindi sees a gap. The youth of her native country, Saudi Arabia, are very well-educated, with $40 billion invested in education and training in 2011 alone. But they are lacking opportunities. In fact, 43% of Saudi Arabian youth between the ages of 20-24 are unemployed and 70% want to leave the country* – some dire stats when looking at the future of Saudi Arabia and the morale of its youth.

As the first female from the Gulf to earn a PhD in biotechnology, the co-founder of Diagnostics For All, a visiting scholar at Harvard University, and PopTech 2009 Social Innovation and 2010 Science Fellows, Sindi wanted to provide Saudi Arabian youth, and young people from around the Middle East, with opportunities to apply the education they received to entrepreneurial and scientific endeavors - just as she had. In exploring how she could use her education and training to help these young people, she founded the i2 Institute, which she recently launched from the PopTech stage.

The i2 Institute was created to promote imagination and ingenuity for the next generation of innovators, bridging the gap between education and opportunity. Through fellowship programs, training, a peer community, annual conferences, a mentor network and financial investment, i2 hopes to function as an ecosystem that connects science to social need and people to possibility.

“My passion has been about improving the quality of science and engaging and inspiring the hearts and minds of young people. Strong societies depend on them. The future depends on them,” Hayat stated emphatically from the PopTech stage. We look forward to following the i2 Institute as the organization’s work unfolds.

* Source: i2 Institute

Shorts: Daniel Kish's echolocation in action

"They call me the real life batman. My claim to fame is that I click," explains Daniel Kish. His organization, World Access for the Blind, trains the visually impaired to achieve greater freedom through echolocation, a technique that simulates a bat’s night vision of perceiving the environment through sound. In this video shot during PopTech 2011, he hops on a bicycle to show us echolocation in action.

Last chance! PopTech 2012 Reykjavik + Camden ticket bundle

In a world fraught with shocks and disruptions, what causes some systems to break down and others to bounce back? In 2012, PopTech will explore the topic of resilience with two vital events — first in June in Reykjavik, Iceland and then in October in Camden, Maine.  We invite you to join us for what promises to be an extraordinary, international, two-part dialogue.

Register today for both, and take advantage of a $500 discount — available only through November 11!

Images reproduced under Creative Commons license. Top left: Haukur Herbertsson/Flickr; top right: Kris Krüg/PopTech.

Meet Shahidul Alam - and watch his PopTech talk on the power of pictures

“Pictures have a power and it is because they have a power that I decided to take [photography] on as the tool that it is,” explained Bangladeshi photographer, curator and social entrepreneur Shahidul Alam this past month at PopTech. As Alam spent decades photographing the world around him, he was compelled to ponder more deeply his role in the process of capturing and disseminating these images. He realized his responsibility was not just to document the lives of everyday people, but also to bring photography to the people of Bangladesh and beyond. As the founder of Pathshala, the South Asian Institute of Photography; Chobi Mela, the largest festival of photography in Asia; and Majority World, a global community interest initiative formed to provide a platform for indigenous photographers, Alam has accomplished just that.

Come meet Shahidul Alam this Thursday, November 10 in New York City at a reception and book signing for his new photography book, My Journey as a Witness.

Thursday, November 10
5:30-7 pm
Rizzoli Bookstore
31 West 57th Street
New York City

We look forward to seeing you there!

Shorts: Tony Orrico performs at PopTech

Artist and choreographer Tony Orrico impressed us with a performance of his work at PopTech’s closing night party this year. In this video, he creates a smaller scale version of his durational Penwald Drawings, in which he uses his body to inscribe geometric shapes on paper, recording his motion meticulously and with grace.

This week in PopTech: PopTech-ers making news

There's always something brewing in the PopTech community. From the world-changing people, projects and ideas in our network, a handful of this week's highlights follows.

  • Sarah Fortune's (2010 Science Fellow) collaboration with Crowdflower, a company that facilitates crowdsourcing small data tasks for people to solve, was featured in FastCo Exist for the success they've had with a protocol that is able to identify TB bacteria via crowdsourcing. Fortune says, "I consider it a workhorse tool for my research, and I personally conceive of it as a workhorse tool for biology in general." 
  • In more crowdsourcing science news, Adrien Treuille (2011 Science Fellow) was interviewed by Forbes about the games he builds to solve biochemistry problems. 
  • The Daily Beast profiled 2009 Social Innovation Fellow Hayat Sindi who launched i2, the Institute for Imagination and Ingenuity, at PopTech 2011. Dr. Sindi created the institute to bridge the gap between education and opportunity in the Middle East.
  • A new study that examines how fossils, climate records and DNA reveal the unpredictability of Ice Age die-offs was published in Nature and written by evolutionary biologist Beth Shapiro (2010 Science Fellow). The results from Shapiro and her colleagues have taken the science news media by storm with stories appearing everywhere from ABC Science Online to USA Today
  • CNN was in Camden for PopTech 2011 and chose a handful of speakers that they deemed the "5 most fascinating people you've never heard of." The list includes the "real life batman," a game designer, a connector and advocate for 'maker' culture, and the locust whisperer. Curious to find out more? Click through for the complete list and more, including video. 

If you'd like to receive a stream of these updates (and more) throughout the week in real time, follow us on TwitterTumblrFacebook, sign up for our newsletter, and subscribe to the PopTech blog.

Image: FastCo Exist

Murmuration at its best

For your viewing pleasure - this may be one of the most beautiful things you'll watch today. Murmuration, or the shape-shifting of flocks of starlings, takes place each fall as these birds migrate from Russia and Scandanavia. This video, from Sophie Windsor Clive, captures millions of starlings as they're swirling about the River Shannon in Ireland.

Interview: Unity Dow on rethinking Africa, promoting gender equality - and fighting mosquitoes

Unity Dow wears many hats. She’s a lawyer, a retired judge (who happens to have been Botswana’s first female high court judge), a prolific author of four works of fiction and one non-fiction, and an advocate for the rights of women and girls. During her PopTech talk, which we’ll be posting shortly, she shared her perspective on a spectrum of topics connected to her pursuits including rethinking the future of Africa, reimagining the role of women and girls, and reclaiming one’s self and identity in the process. We caught up with her after she left the stage to follow up on some of the most salient points from her talk.

PopTech: During your PopTech presentation, you said that, “Africa’s star is on the rise,” because there’s a new generation saying, “I love myself for who I am. How can I move forward without being Western?” When you think about the Africa of the future, what do you see?
Unity Dow: I see prosperity, I see peace, I see democracy, I see the things that every young person, or every person, wants for themselves. People forget, there’s a whole new generation in Africa who do not have the burden of the colonial past. They didn’t live through it. But on the other hand they’ve been raised to be Western, I mean literally – young people in Africa would be proud not to like African music, would be proud not to like African food. It’s a statement of pride to say, “My child does not speak my language.” But now people are saying, are you crazy? What have you done to yourself? And they’re beginning to look at themselves and say, “You know what? I’m proud to be African. I’m beautiful as I am.”

A lot of your work has been fostering that sense of confidence – like your work on equality for women and issues like HIV/AIDS.
I’ve been involved with HIV and AIDS from the first time I heard the word in 1988. I co-founded the first AIDS-specific initiative in the country. So I’ve seen a lot of that, how women have been affected and infected over time, and I think the good news is that the devastation of the year 2000 is not there any more. Drugs are working. Of course there are issues about how to keep a whole nation on drugs. But then, everywhere in the world, people are on drugs for all kinds of reasons.

In terms of the space for women, gender equality, I have begun to see a difference. I know people introduce me as the first female judge in Botswana – but women should not be first at anything any more. That should be in the past. There are four women judges in Botswana now. The new generation is much more independent, much more assertive. They have the same problems as women anywhere in the world. So I see a change, but I know it’s not going to be overnight. The more women who are out there, the better, the quicker the change.