PopTech Blog

Collaboration alert: Yo-Yo Ma and Lil Buck (presented by Spike Jonze)

Here's an entertaining collaboration for your viewing pleasure - cellist Yo-Yo Ma and dancer Lil Buck caught on tape by Spike Jonze. Jonze explains:

The other day, I was lucky enough to be at an event to bring the arts back into schools and got to see an amazing collaboration between Yo-Yo Ma and a young dancer in LA, Lil Buck. Someone who knows Yo-Yo Ma had seen Lil Buck on YouTube and put them together. The dancing is Lil Buck's own creation and unlike anything I've seen. Hope you enjoy.

This week in PopTech: Concerts, community health and college

Zoe Intel

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.

  • Live 4 Sendai, a live concert and fundraising event for Japan, boasted many familiar faces from the PopTech stage. The event was hosted by Ze Frank (PopTech 2004, 2005) and featured musical entertainment by Imogen Heap (PopTech 2004, 2005), Amos Lee (2008), Zoe Keating (PopTech 2007, 2009) among others. 
  • SwiftRiver, a product that brings structure to crowdsourced information projects built by Ushahidi (PopTech 2008, 2009) was profiled in the New York Times last week. 
  • Abby Falik (Social Innovation Fellow 2008), founder and CEO of Global Citizen Year (GCY), which aims to institutionalize a global service “gap year” for young Americans between high school and college has been featured in the Christian Science Monitor to talk about how GCY is fundamentally transforming how young people understand and act on their responsibilities as global citizens. 

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: Intel

Watch Jonathan Harris' 'Today' today

When Jonathan Harris (PopTech 2007) turned 30, he began a simple ritual of taking one photo per day and posting it, along with a short story, to his website before going to sleep. He called the project, "Today".

Harris, along with his friend Scott Thrift of m ss in p eces, made a video about his year-long project after the 365th photo had been posted. It's worth watching all eight captivating minutes.

Interview: Emily Pilloton on chicken coops, farmers markets and sustainable design

High school students designing chicken coop models

Project H
Founder Emily Pilloton (Social Innovation Fellow 2009) has her hands full in Bertie County, North Carolina. She’s educating high school students about design and sustainability, prototyping chicken coops and planning a farmers market in a neighboring town. We caught up with her for an update.  

PopTech: What’s Project H up to in North Carolina?
Emily Pilloton: We have been working in Bertie County, the poorest and most rural county in the state, for two years now. Last year, we wrote a curriculum for high school education and became high school teachers. The Studio H curriculum draws from many of the design/build curricula you see in college-level architecture programs, like Auburn's Rural Studio, but does it at a high school level. The motto is "Design. Build. Transform." We teach design as a creative process, within a shop class environment, and put those skills towards solutions that Bertie County is asking for and desperately needs.

PT: How is Studio H different from other forms of design education in public schools?
EP: It is full-scale architecture - each year our students design and physically build one contextually responsive and socially transformative piece of architecture to house new innovative programming in Bertie County (this year, a farmers market pavilion for the town of Windsor).

Over the course of one year, our junior-year students earn 17 college credits and high school elective credit, plus summer wages to build the structure. My partner Matthew Miller and I are the instructors, teaching every day, three hours a day, within the school schedule. We have raised money to self-fund the entire program and offer it to the school district at absolutely no cost.

From San Francisco to Paris in 2 minutes

Beep Show made a time-lapse video of a flight between San Francisco and Paris taking a photo about every two minutes through the duration of the flight. All take-off and landing images are computer model renderings since the FAA prohibits the use of cameras at the beginning and end of flights. Spoiler alert! Around 1:10, the plane flies through the aurora borealis resulting in some gorgeous, otherworldly images.

Collaboration alert: Gideon Obarzanek and Reuben Margolin connect

The story of Gideon Obarzanek and Reuben Margolin began at the Camden Opera House during PopTech 2009.  Choreographer Obarzanek presented about the work Chunky Move, his Australian-based modern dance company that’s known for immersing dancers in a world of motion tracking and projection technology. Reuben Margolin, a California-based artist showed off his kinetic sculptures, objects that mimic nature that are mainly constructed from wood, pulley and motors. They saw each other’s presentations and knew there was an opportunity to create something together.

A year and a half later, Connected, the collaboration between Margolin and Obarzanek was first performed at Australia's Malthouse Theater in March. It will be performed again from May 10-14 at the Sydney Theater. 

In the following video, which includes voiceover from Margolin’s PopTech talk, Obarzanek provides a preview of the performance.

Additional images of Obarzanek and Margolin’s performance can be seen on Chunky Moves’ website.

And stay tuned as PopTech will continue to follow the story of their unfolding collaboration.

Image-wise: BrightSource Energy's mega wattage

BrightSource Energy is on its way to building the world's largest solar themal energy project with recently secured funds from Google and the U.S. Department of Energy. The company will generate enough energy in the Mojave Desert to power 140,000 California homes by the time it reaches capacity in 2013.

This won't be a set of photovoltaic panels like you might see on you're neighbor's roof; the solar themal system consists of thousands of mirrors that reflect sunlight onto a water-filled boiler, creating steam that spins a turbine and generates electricity. It's cheaper than conventional solar panels, but just as reliable. The Ivanpah system goes one step further by converting steam back into water, allowing it to use 95% less water than other solar thermal systems.

via Fast Company

Image: BrightSource Energy

One year later: Michael Blum on the state of the Gulf coast

Almost a year since the Gulf oil spill, Michael Blum believes we’ve still got a long way to go until we recover from the damage wrought on the coast’s shoreline, ecology, and community. Blum, a Tulane University ecology and evolutionary biology professor, has become an expert on the oil spill’s clean up efforts and the long-term environmental and health implications. We checked in with him to hear his take on what’s transpired since he spoke about the oil spill at PopTech this past fall.

PopTech: In your PopTech talk you’d said, "We're left with the question: How do we go from where we are now to where we need to be going?" How far do you think we've come since the oil spill last year? Have your thoughts shifted on where we need to be going?
Michael Blum: My instinctual response is to say that we haven't come far enough over the past year. There are a number of key milestones that might have been reached, but weren't. These include critical aspects of recovery, such as removing all oil from affected shorelines; the enactment of a comprehensive research and monitoring program by BP; and issuance of a long term vision for restoring the Gulf coast, focusing on areas of the Mississippi River Delta that were among the most impacted by the spill. Granted, such things take time, so we need to continue making forward progress, day by day, until we reach these milestones. Doing anything less would jeopardize the long-term health and well-being of the Gulf coast. 


Refugees saving refugees: On the front lines of the Ivorian crisis with Dr. Raj Panjabi and Dr. Yesero Kalisa

Dr. Raj Panjabi (left) and Dr. Yesero Kalisa (right) at Tubman Hospital in Zwedru, Liberia

The post-election crisis in Ivory Coast has been transformed from a political standoff to a humanitarian catastrophe. Ethnic groups loyal to strongman Laurent Gbagbo and those loyal to president-elect Alassane Ouattara have clashed with horrifying results: last week the Red Cross discovered 800 bodies in one village alone; on Friday the U.N. discovered another 118, many burned alive.

While Gbagbo's arrest on April 11 represents a turning point in the crisis, this shockwave of violence has created a refugee crisis in neighboring Liberia, as an estimated 100,000 Ivorians have poured over the border into the country in recent weeks. Their arrival has overwhelmed the already fragile and under-resourced rural public health system in southeastern Liberia.

2010 Social Innovation Fellow Dr. Raj Panjabi and his colleagues are on the front lines of this unfolding crisis. Their community-based health organization, Tiyatien Health, is working with the Liberian Ministry of Health and other partners at one Liberian district hospital and sixteen clinics in some of the areas most seriously affected. We spoke to Panjabi and Dr. Yesero Kalisa, Tiyatien Health's Clinical Director, who are heroically trying to provide care at the only hospital in the county, Tubman Hospital.

PopTech: What are you seeing on the ground right now?
Yesero Kalisa:
There are now more than 30,000 Ivorian refugees in Grand Gedeh, the county where we operate on the border with Ivory Coast. We’ve been seeing a rapid increase in refugees since January. Our small rural hospital, with only 80 beds, has been overwhelmed. People have been arriving with all manner of problems: gunshot wounds, injuries suffered in the wilderness, severe malaria, diarrhea, and worst of all, malnutrition. We’re running dangerously out of food.

Ivorian refugee at Tubman Hospital

Raj Panjabi: We lost a two-week old child last night in the hospital from hunger because the mother could not afford food and her breast milk had ceased.


Thinking ahead: The Hybrid Age

“We are living in a hybrid age,” explained Ayesha Khanna, Principal at the Hybrid Reality Institute, at the PSFK conference yesterday in New York City.   From the Stone Age to the Renaissance to the Industrial Revolution and the Information Age, we’ve now entered into this Hybrid Age. Taking place over the next few decades, this time period will be defined by a handful of specific factors, Khanna elaborated:

  • Technological proliferation where we’ll see an increase of objects – including ourselves -  embedded with technology.
  • Technological intelligence where machines will become smarter, will respond to our needs and as a result, will become social.
  • Technological innovation that'll be constant and disruptive.

OK, so perhaps the fact that we’re heading in this direction is no surprise, but the essence of what Khanna was insinuating during PSFK’s “What’s Next? A Panel on the Future” session yesterday was that we’re currently evolving and adapting into a new hybrid reality as our everyday lives become more entrenched with technology.