PopTech Blog

PopTech 2011 blog recap: Part 1

We heard dozens of stage talks, saw incredible demos and performances, captured lots of video and wrote even more on our blog during PopTech 2011 - in addition to a constant flow on Twitter and Tumblr! And with the conference streaming live, too, we realize it may have been difficult to keep up with everything. That's why we thought we'd offer a two-part recap with highlights from what we covered on the blog this past week as the conference was taking place, drawing your attention to some of our favorite pieces on the blog:

  • Dava Newman showed us her new spacesuit design.
  • We interviewed Nobel Laureate Rajendra Pachauri about his climate change work with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
  • We heard the President of Iceland speak about his country's path to recovery on the PopTech stage and then had an opportunity to interview him in more detail.
  • We learned about a collaboration that was sparked at last year's conference between 2010 Science Fellow Sarah Fortune and Crowdflower founder Lukas Biewald to crowdsource tuberculosis research.
  • We hung out backstage with rapper/composer Blitz the Ambassador.
  • We introduced the Class of 2011 Science Fellows.
  • And we announced our first iPad app!

More to come...Stay tuned!

Image: Kris Krug for PopTech

Photo booth pics from PopTech's closing night festivities

Bkbooth captured some fun photos of presenters, attendeees, volunteers and staff cutting loose during PopTech's closing night party. Have a look through the entire album, which has just been posted online in its entirety.

Thank you for a wonderful PopTech 2011!

Thank you to everyone who made PopTech the incredible event it was this year. We look forward to seeing you next year. In the meantime, stay enthralled, stay challenged, stay safe and stay connected...

Zeb and Haniya, PopTech 2011 performers, at the Camden Village Green.

PopTech 2011 in images: Saturday highlights

Check out highlights from our last day of PopTech 2011. We hope to see you again next year!

Saturday round-up: Highlights, snapshots and quotable moments

eL Seed painting

Today we met an eleven-year old boy wonder, heard from Botswana's first female high court judge, listened to the Earth through its auroras and earthquakes, and got the lowdown from the White House's new head of the Office of Social Innovation. The "original Batman" taught the crowd echolocation, a man drew circles with his body and two Pakastani friends harmonized about their homeland.

Here’s what was most tweeted, what seemed awesome in the Opera House, and what had our staffers IMing each other from the rafters. Is your favorite moment missing? Add it to the mix!

"Art can help us explore and make tangible instincts we can't yet put into words."
— artist Daisy Ginsberg

Monetary expert Bernard Lietaer took 20 minutes to reframe the entire world economy for the audience at PopTech. He describes a possible flowering of complementary, business-to-business or inter-communal currencies that will create a more diverse, resilient economy. “Resilience requires more than one medium of exchange.”

The future is brown, the future is gendered, the future is fair.
-- Human rights activist Unity Dow

Co-founder of Ushahidi, and senior PopTech fellow Erik Hersman talked about the explosion of technology in Africa, where now a majority of people have traded and transferred bank funds using their mobile phones. “Five out of the world's top ten fastest growing economies are in Africa. If you’re an entrepreneur, why would you be anywhere else?”

With a good hand clap, I can hear a building from hundreds of yards away.
Daniel Kish, blind since infancy, who has perfected the art of human echolocation

Tony Orrico subjects himself to hours of endless repetition of gestures to produce beautiful drawings that trace the whole history of his efforts: “You can think of me as a print-making machine, but I keep the master copy.”

Molecular structure ain't nothing but a thang.
-- Reggie Watts

It's been quite a ride these past four days. We're just glad the pink monster managed to stay on his Vespa.

pink monster on a bike

Images by Kris Krug and Thatcher Cook for PopTech

Saturday talk of the Day: Daniel Kish on blindness and freedom

Daniel Kish is a self-described “real-life batman” who uses echolocation to navigate the physical world. Kish, who has been blind since he was an infant, depends on the click of his tongue to send sound waves out into the environment. Those waves bounce off his surroundings and return information to him through his sense of hearing. His ear is now so finely tuned that he can ride a bike through busy streets or go for a hike in the woods unaccompanied. In fact, neuroscientists have shown that his brain responds to acoustic signals as if they were visual stimuli.

But the most remarkable thing about Kish isn’t his sensory talent. It’s the way he has used it to empower sight-impaired individuals through his organization, World Access for the Blind. “We work with hundreds of thousands of students all over the world who cannot open their eyes. Yet the students we work with don't harken to the ideas of fear and limitation and restriction,” he told PopTech participants this morning. “We have found a way to help them open their eyes, to reclaim their freedom, to reestablish their own capacity to direct their lives in the manner of their own choosing.”


Interview: Vaishali Sinha and "Made in India"

Vashali Sinha

Vaishali Sinha's documentary film "Made in India" casts an unbiased eye toward a complex subject: that of Western couples' outsourcing surrogacy to Indian women.

PopTech: What inspired you make this film and to tell this story?
Vaishali Sinha: My co-director Rebecca Haimowitz came across an article in the LA Times in late 2006 about couples going to India to hire surrogate mothers, and she had been interested in surrogacy-related issues. I was also working on issues of personal choice and body politics. We met over a cup of coffee and found there were lots of intersections in our interests. So we decided to pick up the camera and find those who were involved in this process. We figured it had to be a documentary film because it was something that was happening right then.

How did you find the subjects of your film?
Back in 2007 when we started, it was hard to find couples who were speaking out about their experiences. Since then, things have drastically changed — there are blogs where couples connect and share. Back then, who we found to be most visible online was a marketing medical tourism company called Planet Hospital, which is featured in the film. Much like our American couple Lisa and Brian [the couple featured in the film], we found them online. They first connected us to Lisa and Brian and it pretty much happened chronologically as it happened in the film. 


Social Innovation Fellow spotlight: Jake Porway

Jake Porway

What if, instead of using data to figure out what movie to see, we used data to figure out what kind of world we wanted to see?

-- Social Innovation Fellow Jake Porway of Data Without Borders, which matches changemakers with numbers nerds to do good with data.

Image: Kris Krug

Interview: Alison Klayman on getting to know Ai Weiwei

Alison Klayman with Ai Weiwei

Alison Klayman is a freelance journalist and documentarian currently finishing a film about the Chinese artist Ai Weiwei. Ai is one of China’s most well-known and controversial artists, and in recent years has produced a body of work that is often highly critical of the Chinese government. In April 2010, Ai Weiwei was detained by Chinese authorities and held for nearly three months with virtually no contact with the outside world — an event that spurred much international criticism directed at the Chinese government. Klayman’s documentary, titled Never Sorry, tracks Ai’s life and work during the period Klayman was in China between 2006-2010. Klayman plans to debut Never Sorry in 2012 on the international film festival circuit.

PopTech: When you began shooting Ai Weiwei, did you have a sense of how you wanted to tell his story?
Alison Klayman: I really wanted to do a good job of letting people get to know him as a person. Through him you get to know so much about where China’s been and where it’s going. For me, it was about how he was finding his ways to express himself and how other people in China were responding to it. So it was a story about the diversity of opinion in China. To take one person, get to know him on a human level, and through that, start to appreciate that China was not a monolithic place at all.

Can you describe some of the challenges you’ve encountered not only in conveying the obstacles that Ai Weiwei faced, but also portraying them as the story continues to evolve?
I was thinking: How do I convey to people who might not be familiar with the subtleties of how things work in China, what is subversive, what is dangerous? How do you show somebody at a computer and make it feel like — this is big, you know? Like he’s doing something intense.

At first, the Tate show was going to be my artificial end to the film because I thought that his story could go on forever. Then his studio was destroyed [by the Chinese government] and I thought the studio event is going to have to be this post-script.

Reuben Margolin & Gideon Obarzanek are Connected

Collaborators Reuben Margolin, a kinetic sculptor and Gideon Obarzanek, a choreographer, met at the 2009 PopTech conference. The two felt an instant kinship in what they were trying to achieve through their work.

Watch the making of their show "Connected"; the beautiful result when a sculpture is asked to dance.