PopTech Blog

Posts by Kristen Taylor

Fellows Friday: What They're Up To This Week

Our PopTech Social Innovation Fellows are a very busy group—here’s some of their recent news (nominations are open for next year’s class, please help us find the 2010 PopTech Fellows by nominating now):

Emily Pilloton of Project H Design has been eating pie (recap) from PieLab in Alabama,

Project H Road Show
Flickr image from Project H Design.

and the Design Revolution Road Show Airstream is on its way right now to Savannah, Georgia. You can help Project H Design win funding from the Pepsi Refresh project by voting for their rural North Carolina design program in the next two days.

Also in the running for funding, Jason Aramburu of re:char is a finalist in the Unreasonable Institute’s summer incubator program. You can fund his attendance through the Be Unreasonable site during the next 25 days.

Worth Noting

Hayat Sindi’s Diagnostics For All has been granted exclusive rights to microfluidic technologies developed in George Whitesides’ lab at Harvard Univeristy.

FrontlineSMS founder Ken Banks is on his way to the MENA Women’s Leadership and Technology Development Conference in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), that “aims to help women innovators from the MENA region take their causes/projects to the next level through social media and emerging online tools.”

At Thursday’s Greener Gadgets Conference in NY, Eben Bayer talked about Ecovative’s material that “can be molded into custom shapes…unlike some bioplastics, the material doesn’t require food crops.”

In Nairobi, PopTech friends at frog design are helping with the launch of the iHub, a social innovation coworking space that Erik Hersman and the Ushahidi team are launching with the Nairobi tech community in early March.

Applications are open for Abby Falik’s Global Citizen Year until May, the priority application deadline is March 15th. Find out more and see the video.

Why Peter Durand Draws During PopTech Talks

We just found this great video from PopTecher Jerry Smith of Peter Durand, better known as @alphachimp, who creates large, colorful visuals as talks happen on the PopTech stage and during the PopTech Social Innovation Fellow training.

In the video, Peter explains the difference between the new fields of graphic reporting and graphic facilitation—both use visuals to make learning easier and more accessible. He describes the challenge: “I turn the information into something.”

Find out why he thinks some kids can’t concentrate in school (and how graphic reporting might help those who learn visually):

For more on education and engagement, Dennis Littky spoke at PopTech 2009 about personalizing curriculum and why alternative approaches are crucial to learning.

For more of Peter’s PopTech art, see this section of the Alphachimp blog. And follow his thoughts on Twitter and on Tumblr.

Want to meet Peter and watch the art as it happens? Join us at PopTech 2010, October 20-23 in Camden, Maine.

Video: Nicholas Felton on News and Infographics

You may have heard about Nicholas Felton’s personal Annual Report, where he compiles the sum of his yearly experiences—in 2009, 33,817 music tracks, 38 chairlift rides, $0.05 per mile to fly—into a comprehensive view of his daily life patterns. (Want to visualize your habits? Use his site Daytum.)

For PopTech 2009, Nicholas collaborated with Rob Deeming and Ken Reisman to analyze one week of The New York Times’ front pages along with the associated comments and user-generated content.

From the research, they created the report What We Are Saying, where emoticons are weighted and findings include the profound: “We Are Not the Sum of Our Headlines.”

Find out more about the report and how conversations are mapped in the report:

What do you think the report says about larger patterns of conversation around the news?

The New PopTech Social Innovation Widget

We are excited to be part of the Social Actions’ Social Entrepreneur API (a great database of social entrepreneurs including our PopTech Fellows and social innovators at other organizations).

Today we have a shiny new PopTech Social Innovation widget for you to embed and share to search for more about our Fellows:

Click the ‘Add This Widget’ text above to embed and customize the widget for your site.

Thanks to the Skoll Social Edge team (their post announcing the widgets)—please let us know if you put this widget on your site. Happy social innovation searching!

New Videos: Kacie Kinzer and Jonah Lehrer from PopTech 2009

Two more talks from PopTech 2009, both on the unexpected—Kacie Kinzer tells us how robots can make humans act more like humans, Jonah Lehrer gives evidence that in some instances, outsider intelligence may be the most valuable.

Watch Kacie Kinzer on robots and acting human (Vimeo).

Designer Kacie Kinzer recently released a cardboard robot in New York City bearing a flag that read, “Help me!” Its mission? To safely cross an area park by relying on strangers. With the help of 29 passersby, the robot made the journey in 42 minutes, reminding us of the importance of small acts of kindness.

For more on the tweenbots, visit the tweenbots site, Kacie’s portfolio, and read what the NYT Freakonomics column thinks about the the interactions the bots enable.


Watch Jonah Lehrer on outsider intelligence (Vimeo).

Author (How We Decide, Proust Was a Neuroscientist) Jonah Lehrer has made his career writing about the subtle science of the mind. We tend to hand out tough problems to experts, yet Lehrer suggests that, paradoxically, lacking expertise on a subject can reveal solutions to otherwise intractable problems.

For more, visit Jonah’s personal site, his The Frontal Cortex blog, and read his recent Wired article.


What do you think about the tweenbots and outsider intelligence?

Link List for February 12-16

A few articles from the past week:

“The World’s Cheapest Cell Phone” by Andrew Price on GOOD

“Vodafone has made what it’s describing as the “world’s cheapest phone.” The Vodafone 150 will sell for less than $15…This is good news. By providing people in the developing world with access to banking and healthcare services, mobile phones can have a dramatic and positive impact on people’s lives. The M-Pesa money transfer system, Frontline SMS:Medic, and Project Masiluleke are just a few examples. Of course, we still have to work out that e-waste problem though."

FrontlineSMS: Medic‘s Founder Josh Nesbit is a PopTech Social Innovation Fellow (see his PopTech 2009 talk; nominate a Social Innovation Fellow). Find out more about PopTech’s Project Masiluleke.


“Non-Profit Design” by John Emerson on Social Design Notes

“You might be surprised to learn that the largest charity in the world is not run by Bill and Melinda Gates, but is one that promotes and supports innovation in the field of architectural and interior design. That’s the ”http://www.economist.com/businessfinance/displaystory.cfm?story_id=6919139">Stichting INGKA Foundation, the Dutch Foundation that owns IKEA.

…In my survey of design-centric non-profit organizations here are some I thought were notable. This list is not exhaustive (for instance, it does not include some amazing educational institutions, museums, or documentary projects) and the examples here are all US-based, but take a look."

PopTech is delighted to be included on this list.


“Is There a Master Metric for Evaluating Public Media?” by Jessica Clark on MediaShift

Each of these elements represents a measurable category of activity that helps media projects convene publics around issues:

* Reach: How many people encounter the project across various screens and streams: TV, radio, streaming audio, blogs and websites, Twitter, iTunes, mobile applications, and more?
* Relevance: Is the media project topical within the larger news cycle? Is it designed to stay relevant over several news cycles? Is it particularly relevant to targeted publics concerned with a specific issue, location, or event?
* Inclusion: Does the project address a diverse range of targeted audience, not just in terms of race, but in terms of gender, age, class, geographical location and beliefs? How open is the architecture for participation, collaboration and discussion?
* Engagement: Does the project move users to action: to subscribe to a site, contribute material, to write a letter in response, to pass on a link, donate time and money, sign a petition or contact a leader?
* Influence: Does the project challenge or put the frame on important issues? Does it target “influentials”?Is it it “spreadable” or buzzworthy?

Nuances in metrics and impact to help organizations decide what and how to measure from two researchers—applicable beyond public media.


“10 Free Things Every Social Entrepreneur Should Have” by Halle Techo on Social Earth

A good overview of ten areas social entrepreneurs should pay attention to immediately upon deciding to realize their idea.


Other good articles and posts on social innovation that you’ve noticed this week? Let us know in the comments.

PopTech Reads: Connected (and a new video with James Fowler)

I met up with PopTech 2009 speaker James Fowler (video of his PopTech talk, his “Colbert Report” appearance) last weekend in Los Angeles to find out what’s happened since October with Connected, the book he co-authored with Nicholas Christakis, how the research is being used, and the danger of not thinking of ourselves as part of networks:

Convinced? Let’s find out if we can grow stronger as a PopTech network.

Join PopTech staff as we read Connected during the rest of February.

You can buy Connected on Better World Books or find an independent bookseller on Indie Bound and join discussion about the book on the Goodreads community site.

We’ll ask if you have questions about the book in early March and follow up with James. (If you have questions now, please leave them in the comments.)

Know a great book we should read together in 2010?
Drop us a recommendation: hello [at] poptech [dot] org

Video: James Fowler and Dean Ornish

How long should you walk during a week to grow brain cells? Can your friends’ friends impact your health?

We’re releasing two videos this week from PopTech 2009 on how networks affect personal health: Dr. Dean Ornish and James Fowler.

Thoughts? Let us know in the comments.

For more than thirty years, Dr. Dean Ornish has demonstrated the power of a healthy lifestyle as the best kind of preventive care. These choices, Ornish reveals, can "turn on” disease-preventing genes and “turn off” genes that promote illness. Dr. Ornish has published a number of best-selling books on the subject; the most recent is The Spectrum.

- Dr. Ornish on WebMD, on Facebook, and Twitter @DeanOrnishMD.
- Attend Imagine Solutions conference with Dr. Ornish, Feb 22-3 in Naples, Florida.
- Visit Preventative Medicine Research Institute forums (Dr. Ornish is Founder and President).


Can your social network make you fat? Affect your mood? Political scientist James H. Fowler reveals that social networks have clusters of happy and unhappy people within them. With Nicholas A. Christakis, Fowler recently co-authored, Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives.

- Visit the Connected book site, buy a copy on Better World Books, and join the discussion on Goodreads.
- Check out a recent video interview we conducted with James.
- Learn more on James’s co-author Nicholas Christakis’s Harvard site.

From the Archive: Jaron Lanier at PopTech 2002

Digital theorist Jaron Lanier has a new book out, You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto (find out more about the book in a recent WNYC interview), and he appeared at PopTech 2002 to discuss virtual reality (and play the piano!). Some excerpts from Jaron’s talk:

Ending Poverty and Personal Genomics

This week, two talks from PopTech 2009 on the use of science to end poverty and to personalize medicine:

Esther Duflo, MIT economist and co-founder of the Poverty Action Lab, asks why the world’s poorest people tend to stay poor. Duflo’s pioneering research applies randomized trials, used extensively in drug discovery research, to development economics.


Geneticist George Church believes that genome sequencing can bring us closer to personalized medicine. Several years ago, Church launched the Personal Genome Project, a public database that connects genes to diseases as well as physical and biological characteristics. (100,000 volunteers are expected to contribute by 2010.)


What do you think about these talks?