PopTech Blog

How about a proper toast to 18 in Camden?

Hello there, PopTech historians! This marks the last leg of our journey through PopTech over the last 18 years. We hope you enjoyed learning about some of the fun (and eclectic) facts that define our history. Let us know your favorites with #poptech18. How about joining us this Oct 23-25 at PopTech: Rebellion so we can make some new memories together? Hope to see you there. (Missed Parts 1, 2 or 3? Give them a read.)

Fact #14: On Thursday, Oct 20, we had two “firsts” at PopTech 2011 (on the same day, no less). A head of state and a Nobel Laureate each took the stage: President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson of Iceland and Rajendra Pachauri. (They also participated in a Q&A together. Watch their 20-minute talks here and here.)  

Fact #15: Call us PopTech…just PopTech. Following PopTech 2013: Sparks of Brilliance, we bid adieu to the “!”.

Fact #16: In 2014, John Maeda joined PopTech as guest host. (Hear why you should come from the man himself.) ICYMI: John has been a long-time PopTech supporter and previous board member. What we’ve learned in our time working together so far: his enthusiasm is contagious and he asks really good questions.  

Fact #17: For many years, our conference program has followed the back-to-back 20-minute talk format. 2014 is the year of the remix. We’ll still feature some of those amazing 20-minute talks. But we’re also adding on-stage conversations led by some of the best voices on radio, panels with wildly talented artists and musicians, and a few surprises. (Scroll beneath the schedule to learn more about Krista Tippett and Joe Palca.)

Fact 18: In our long and winding conference history, we’ve explored a wide range of themes. See examples below. One thing we realized – we’ve rarely had a theme that was simply one word. Enter REBELLION. There’s something to be said about keeping it simple. We like this shift. Here’s to getting older and trying new things.  

PopTech 2000: Being Human in the Digital Age
PopTech 2001: Online, Everywhere, All the Time
PopTech 2004: The New Renaissance 
PopTech 2008: Scarcity and Abundance 
PopTech 2010: Brilliant Accidents, Necessary Failures and Improbable Breakthroughs  

And lastly, Fact #19: Over the years, we’ve considered permanently moving the PopTech conference somewhere more metropolitan. In an age where conferences are at every turn, we realize how special Camden is to our identity and convening. Hosting in a locale that’s off the beaten path certainly has its advantages. Participants don’t duck out for meetings. They aren’t coming for half a day then returning to the office. Instead, they’re at all sessions, all the parties, all of our random assigned lunches – and that’s something we don’t want to mess with. 


Moments from PopTech past

Summer Fridays! To celebrate the arrival of the weekend (and being 18), we're sharing the next batch of facts from 18 years of PopTech. Store these in your memory bank should a round of trivia break out in Camden at some point during PopTech: Rebellion. Have yourself a merry little weekend. (Here's part 1 and part 2 in case you missed it.) 

Fact #7: At PopTech 2006, Pulitzer-prize winning writer Thomas Friedman took the stage to give a frank talk on the reasons that “this isn’t your parents’ energy crisis” and asked us to redefine what “green” really means. 

Fact #8: At PopTech 2007, our board member John Legend performed and talked about his Show Me campaign, a movement to break the cycle of global poverty through access to quality education. Watch it here

Fact #9: PopTech <3 music. Musical acts we’ve featured at PopTech have ranged from Blitz the Ambassador to Imogen Heap, Zee Avi, OK Go, amiina, and Capital Cities. Dancing is always permitted and encouraged. Enjoy this Spotify playlist of PopTech artists from over the years.


Fact #10: Also at PopTech 2007, the Hungry March Band from Brooklyn stormed the castle and played alongside participants as they exited the Camden Opera House for the closing party.

Fact #11: Jelly fish above! At PopTech 2008, members of Festo suspended a giant jellyfish-like structure from the Camden Opera House ceiling. Aside from being visually interesting, “Air Jelly” was built on the principles of using technology to mimic naturally occurring designs. 

Fact #12: In 2011, when CNN reporter John Sutter described PopTech, he explained:

“…this annual conference in coastal Maine is…a chance to get a look into ideas and technologies that soon will change the world.”

Fact #13: True or False: At PopTech, you might see spacesuits sitting on stage. 
...True. At PopTech 2011, MIT aeronautics professor Dava Newman talked about her quest to create a better spacesuit. The mobility-enhancing “Bio-Suit” below would protect astronauts from the atmospheres and healthcare workers from germs. Watch Dava talk about the suit in this two-minute PopTech video

There's more! See you on Monday for part 4. In the meantime, let us know what else we should add with #poptech18. 

The life & times of PopTech, continued

In honor of our 18th year, we're taking a trip down PopTech memory lane. Throughout the week, discover facts and special moments about PopTech you may not have known. We want to hear from you, too! Add your memories to the conversation with #poptech18. And now without further ado, we give you part 2. (Missed part 1? Click here.)

Fact #4: Every year, we feature art installations in the Camden Village Green and around Camden. 

At PopTech 2013, Bland Hoke created “parkSPARK!” – an installation of vibrant (and useable) hammocks that used locally reclaimed float rope, mesh and lumber from a Maine barn.

Balloons, galore. At PopTech 2012, artist Jason Hackenwerth created “Annunciation” and “Bang Bang Boom” completely from latex balloons. (He also joined us at PopTech Iceland.)
At PopTech 2012, Pilobolus, MIT’s Distributed Robotics Laboratory and hundreds of participants and local community members teamed up for a collaborative art performance involving umbrellas fabricated with multi-colored lights, a camera fixed on a crane and a large screen. 

Tunisian-born artist eL Seed captivated PopTech 2011 with his live demonstration of “calligraffiti,” a mix of Arabic calligraphy and graffiti. Tying to the ethos of PopTech, his piece reads: "Give back to the world at least what you’ve received." - Albert Einstein.

Fact #5: PopTech 2006 featured a performance from the Sinikithemba Choir, a group of HIV-positive men and women who provide HIV/AIDS support in South Africa. We were so moved that it sparked our involvement in one of our first initiatives, Project Masiluleke, a massive global public health effort that uses the mobile phone as a low-cost, high-impact tool in the fight against HIV/AIDs and TB. Much of our mission work is inspired by PopTech presentations like these.

Fact #6: Collaboration is our middle name. And that of our participants, Fellows and speakers, too. A number of wide-ranging collaborations were born at PopTech over the years – check out a sampling below. Who will you meet at PopTech? 

PopTech Social Innovation Fellows Josh Nesbit of Medic Mobile and Raj Panjabi of Last Mile Health teamed up to combine the power of their two organizations. Their idea is to equip Raj’s remote community health care workers with the technological tools leveraged in Josh’s program. They’re the first collaborative project to receive funding from PopTech’s Impact Fund. Watch this five-minute PopTech video about their work together.

PBS NOVA producer David Condon met PopTech Science Fellow Adrien Treuille at PopTech 2011. This led to the creation of RNA Lab, part of the digital platform NOVA Labs, which encourages citizen scientists to participate in the scientific process. RNA Lab is an extension of EteRNA, a computer-basedgame co-founded by Adrien in which users design and fold real biomolecules, and as a result, help reveal better ways for drugs to target diseases.

At PopTech 2010, PopTech Science Fellow and TB researcher Sarah Fortune asked the audience if there was a way to crowdsource the analysis of bacteria. PopTech Social Innovation Fellow Josh Nesbit called out and connected her to Lukas Biewald, co-founder of CrowdFlower. At PopTech 2011, Sarah and Lukas talked about teaming up to catalogue TB’s bacterial cells and its long-term implications on science and discovery. Watch them present their collaboration at PopTech 2011

Kinetic sculptor Reuben Margolin and choreographer Gideon Obarzanek met at PopTech 2009 and a year and a half later, created “Connected,” a riveting performance that blends elements of their work. Watch this two-minute video about the performance.

More PopTech highlights are on their way - check back in on Friday!


We’re 18! A year for rebellion (and reflection)

We’re three months away from PopTech: Rebellion and knee deep in all things conference related. We’ve been gathering thinkers and doers in Camden, Maine since ’96. But 2014 is particularly monumental – we’re celebrating our 18th year. One might say we’re feeling…rebellious. (See what we did there?)

We’ve been busy dusting off archives and collecting arti(facts) to share throughout the week. Think of it as a memory album of sorts. Add your memories to the collection with #poptech18. Enjoy this look at PopTech over the years and consider joining us Oct 23-25 at our 18th celebration – PopTech: Rebellion

Fact #1: In the early 90s, Ethernet co-inventor Bob Metcalfe, former Apple CEO John Sculley and a group of technologists came together in Camden to explore the impact of emerging technologies on people. (FYI: This is how our name came to be.) We originally convened under the auspices of The Camden Conference, a public policy conference that’s still in existence. In ’96, with the technology conversation gaining steam, we split off to form the Camden Technology Conference that went on to be branded as Pop!Tech.

Fact #2: Until the early 2000s, PopTech was an all-volunteer organization. Our mission arm grew out of requests from participants for opportunities to get involved and create real and lasting impact. Fast forward to a corps of full-time employees that in addition to the annual conference run three Fellows programs, incubate social change projects, and host small year-round events. 

Fact #3: We have an extensive library of previous PopTech conference programs. See who took the PopTech stage way back when. 

From clockwise: Amy Cuddy, PopTech 2011; Clay Shirky, PopTech 2003; A real greeting at PopTech 2002; Neri Oxman, PopTech 2010. 

From clockwise: Conference programs from 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2009, 2010, 2011; Malcolm Gladwell, PopTech 2004; Reggie Watts, PopTech 2006. 

Tune in on Wednesday for more #poptech18 fun facts. See you then.

New speakers added, one amazing PopTech experience

We’re thrilled to announce that General Stanley McChrystal, Helen Fisher, Hiroshi Ishii, Sarah Lewis, and Bob Sabiston will be joining us at PopTech this October. We're also excited to share the news that some fascinating conversations will be held on stage. Krista Tippett, host of popular radio program "On Being" will talk with Courtney Smith and Parker Palmer on spiritual technologies - inner disciplines to ground outer life that matters. Joe Palca, science correspondent for NPR will lead a Big Idea session with Bryan Shaw, Maria Oden, and Adam Steltzner on what drives them to do fascinating work. 

At PopTech, a rebellious spirit is worthy of celebration. It’s the secret behind many of the greatest advances we’ve witnessed in tech, design, science, business and politics. It’s why we’re calling together a band of rebels in Maine this October. And it’s why you should be there, too.

PopTech isn't just a conference. It's a three-day immersion where the ideas are big, the people are friendly, and the connections are real. Here in the postcard village of Camden, Maine, you'll find 600 like-minded thinkers and doers all sharing one amazing experience:

  • Mind-blowing talks and performances in the town's beautifully restored 19th century Opera House.

  • Breaking bread at local eateries with new friends and old at randomly assigned meals.

  • Getting up close and personal in breakout sessions and workshops.

  • And forming lasting connections at the parties, happy hours, and get-togethers.

No matter where you’re from or what role you play, you'll leave PopTech with the knowledge, tools, and relationships that can help you in ways you didn’t think possible. Make 2014 the year you experience the PopTech magic.

Image: By Dudesleeper (Wikipedia cc) from The 30 Most Beautiful Small Towns in the World

13 speakers added to PopTech 2014 line-up!

Check them out! Today we revealed 13 additional speakers who will take the PopTech 2014: Rebellion stage. Join us October 23-25 to hear from Paola Antonelli, Regina Dugan, Joi Ito, Platon and many more. 

Meet them all here

Collaboration alert! PopTech Science Fellow Adrien Treuille + NOVA Labs

Our annual conference often sparks diverse collaborations between participants, Fellows and speakers. (See here, here and here, to name a few.) Collaboration is at the heart of what we do and we see it as a tool for creating social impact. 

It’s why we’re excited to share the news around a recently announced collaboration between our friend David Condon at PBS NOVA and 2011 PopTech Science Fellow Adrien Treuille. It's called RNA Lab, part of NOVA Labs, which is a "new digital platform where 'citizen scientists' can actively participate in the scientific process." It involves an engaging game that might one day change the world by helping scientists better understand RNA.  

The RNA Lab is an extension of EteRNA, a computer game co-founded by Treuille, in which users design and fold real biomolecules and as a result, help reveal better ways for drugs to target diseases.

Check out the result, play the game, and help solve the mystery of how RNA work!

PopTech 2014: REBELLION

Get ready for a jam-packed, three-day exploration of how the spirit of rebellion has inspired progress across technology, science, medicine, design, business and more. Expect stage talks, smaller group sessions, workshops, happy hours and some great parties. All in beautiful Camden, Maine.

We're thrilled to announce John Maeda as our host for this year's event. A long-time friend and a legend in the design world, John has his own very special reasons for wanting you to attend.

You’ll hear some amazing speakers and performers on the Opera House stage, and who knows? They might just be sitting next to you at lunch!

Camden has been our home for nearly 20 years. If you've never experienced the joy of being in Midcoast Maine with 600 of the most curious and interesting people (and even if you have), 2014 is your year. Let the countdown begin

Ask harder questions...and freeze your jeans

Peter Durand on Ned's 2010 talk

Every day is World Water Day for some in our network. This weekend we connected with Ned Breslin from Water for People and Sameer Kalwani, former CTO at Sarvajal, to talk about what each of us can do to make a difference. The result? Three very different ways to help.

  1. Freeze your jeans. (Hint: It's a way to kill germs without wasting water.) 
  2. Invest in disinfecting UV LEDs (LEDs with wavelength of 254mm). This would provide a means for disinfecting water that uses less power than the tube lights we typically use now, and can be used anywhere. Currently, these disinfecting UV LEDs are too expensive.
  3. "Ask harder questions about long-term impact. Asking harder questions about results in almost anything can bring out the best in people, push them beyond the simple to the profound, and help us imagine bumpy but transformative paths to change. Don't just be satisfied that work has been done (like a water well constructed in Kenya), but make sure that water flows from that well forever. Make sure that those who claim to be solving a big problem are actually doing so, and do not be fooled by simplistic ansers to complex problems. By asking hard questions on impact we have a chance to change the world for good."

Watch and share these talks by Sameer Kalwani, Ned Breslin and Eric Stowe from SPLASH.

Introducing the PopTech Roadtrip! Check out the route and sign up today

This spring, PopTech is going cross country! Join us and our partners at Steelcase for an evening or morning of networking, awesome (and short) talks, and of course, good food and drink. Whether you’re interested in social impact or simply a fan of interesting people and ideas, see if we’re coming to your city and sign up for a fun time below. Want to bring a friend or two? The more the merrier! Just make sure they sign up also. But hurry - space is limited. See you soon.

New York - Thursday, April 24
Chicago - Monday, June 9
Santa Monica - Wednesday, June 11 
San Francisco - Thursday, June 12