Seeing Eternity in a Daffodil: making robots, making life.

Human beings have always been fascinated with making life, in its many forms, and with all of the tools and technologies of the day at our disposal.  Our cultures, histories, and myths are steeped in tales of the making (and taking) of life: gods who make human beings to do their biddings; gods who transform themselves into human beings, if only temporarily; ancestral figures who transform themselves into humans; strange hybrids of gods and human beings with blends of skills and powers, as well as the misappropriation and abuse of them.

In this talk, Dr. Genevieve Bell will explore a distinct set of narratives about making life by focusing specifically on those that employ technology. Specifically, she will examine how, where, and why we might locate robots within this larger set of cultural and historical conversations.

The word “robot” had immediate and global resonance when it first appeared in the 1920s, in no small part because it conjoined centuries of literary and technical activities. We had already built mechanical objects (and indeed mechanical people), and we had imagined making life.  Thus the very idea of the robot immediately typified a rich and contested cultural history of technical strivings and literary imaginings; and it has ever since.

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Visitor Experience as a Catalyst for Institutional Change

Shelley will share the story of a new initiative at the Brooklyn Museum which launches in June and empowers visitors to ask questions using their mobile devices with experts answering incoming queries in real time. Through this process, the Museum has truly shifted to a user-centered and iterative approach for concept, design, and build. This project seeks to engage visitors more deeply and, in turn, provides the institution with an incredible opportunity to learn more directly from its audience to advance great institutional change.

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The Manipulable City

Barely five years ago Auckland seemed a city without hope. In a breathlessly short period it has reinvented not only its physical form, but its own imaginings of its future. The radical speed and scale of that transformation reveals a new kind of culture, a new kind of opportunity, and a new responsibility. The time available to exploit this situation is short. The only sensible response is to start running.

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The Web’s Grain

We’ve been talking about what it means to design natively for the web for ages, but the conversation has been rekindled with the prevalence of responsive design paired with the unpredictability of devices, environments, and connectivity. If we look at the web as a material and not as a canvas, how do its affordances guide a designer’s hand?

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The Surprising Neuroscience of Gender Inequality

When it comes to the tech industry and gender, the situation isn’t pretty. Yet despite the glaring ugliness of scandals like Gamergate, the prime culprit in gender inequity is likely not overt sexism. Implicit bias, a normal byproduct of our neural design, leads well-intentioned men and women to reinforce the status quo, while constricting creativity and limiting strategic vision. Join Janet Crawford in an exploration of the biological basis of bias and the responsibility we all hold in changing the story.

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Light a candle, curse the darkness and win the war on general purpose computers to save the world

If we’re going to solve the serious, existential risks to the human race – things like environmental apocalypse – we’re going to need social and technical infrastructure that can support evidence-driven, public-spirited institutions that can help steer us to a better place.

Alas, we’re in trouble there, too. We’re living in a nearly airtight bubble of corruption and coercion. The only policies that states can reliably be expected to enact are those with business models – laws and actions that make someone incredibly rich, producing the private wealth necessary to lobby state to continue the policy and keep the money flowing.

There’s always been practical limits to how wide the gap between the rich and poor can get – at a certain point, elites end up spending more money guarding their wealth from the ever-enlarging, ever-more-desperate cohort of poor than they’re getting from corrupt policies and self-dealing relationships with the state.

But technology changes all that. The automation of surveillance and coercion makes the business of maintaining social order vastly cheaper, and therefore increases the amount of wealth the very richest can keep to themselves rather than doling out dribs and drabs to the rest of us.

Thus the miseries of a technologically supported system of feudalism dwarf those of the darkest days of kings and lords. And the ever-dwindling accountability of ruling elites means that evidence-driven policy is harder and harder to enact, and when it is, that policy needn’t be in the common interest.

We need to crack the airtight bubble. We need to find a way to begin unravelling the knotwork of decades of neoliberal corruption.

The first step to this is to seize the means of information. We need computers that we do what we tell them to do, and networks that we can trust, in order to carry out a program of popular reform for good governance, fairness, and equity.

We can do this, and we will do this. Because this is a policy with a business-model, and policies with business-models are the only policies the modern state can be relied upon to enact.

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Designing for Context not the Device

Designers often think “context” is the simply the device someone uses to interact with websites and apps. But context goes far beyond that. Time, proximity, and state of mind are just a few contextual clues we can use to make our designs more responsive to peoples’ needs. Use simple and effective tools like context maps and charts to move beyond the device mindset and into something much more useful: providing the right content in the right place at the right time.

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At the intersection of photography and data visualization is a place where optical techniques reveal complex phenomena and data viz starts to resemble a photographic process. PhotoViz investigates the opportunities and crossover between these two mediums and their value in a world overwhelmed by both data and photos.

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Everything is a Remix

This presentation will explore centuries of culture to demonstrate how remixing — creating music from samples of existing music — is a good metaphor for all varieties of creativity. I’ll discuss some of the myths of creativity, present several popular examples of remix-like technique, and show how creativity — like remixing — is the result of three basic techniques: copying, transforming and combining.

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Give It Away, Give It Away, Give It Away Now

The Web has radically transformed who can create, what we create, and how we create. It’s also changed the nature of what can be shared. This talk will examine how the byproducts of our creative work can have a tremendous impact, and will discuss how being open by default has the power to change the world.

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The values are the experience

These days, most organizations are at least intellectually convinced that the user experience matters to the bottom line. What most people don’t yet understand is that a user experience isn’t crafted from pixels, content, CSS, or even a friendly call center agent. Every aspect of an experience—whether it’s mediated by technology or by human employees—is really built from the shared values of the organization. Designers can either find ourselves becoming victims of those values…or we can learn how to get the most out of them.

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A Very Dark Matter

In physics, the darkness is the most illuminating place to look if you want to understand the Universe right now. We now know that 26.8% of all matter is dark. And dark energy accounts for 68.3% of all energy.

So nearly 96% of the Universe is dark. It is there; but invisible.

Our understanding of the dark universe is not just the result of scientific research and technological innovation. Artists have been active in producing some of the most powerful and persistent ideas about the possibilities of of invisible universe we exist within. Just as the cartographers of the past worked hand-in-hand with artists who illustrated and interpreted the new worlds they discovered, the dark universe is being mapped, visualised and sonified by artists.

Honor’s talk will touch upon how culture can help illuminate the darkness.

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Writing in the Real World

Whether or not you identify as a writer, you probably write every day. Most writing goes unnoticed, but emails, proposals, creative briefs, and blog posts are all meaningful forms of written communication. Developing your writing skills can strengthen your relationships, give you clarity when you need it, and transform your work. In this session, we’ll look at big and small ways to improve your writing.

We’ll talk about how to get past the fear many of us feel at the beginning of a project by reframing the way you think about writing. You’ll learn how to move in stages through the writing process—even on small projects and short blurbs. We’ll talk about how to communicate your ideas clearly, kindly, and in your voice. And finally, we’ll throw out the rules you were taught in school and replace them with some practical self-editing tips to make your writing polished and uniquely your own.

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The Crossroads of Should and Must

Who hasn’t asked the question “How can I find and follow my true calling?” Elle Luna frames this moment as “standing at the crossroads of Should and Must.” “Should” is what we feel we ought to be doing, or what is expected of us. “Must” is the thing we dream of doing, our heart’s desire. And it was her own personal journey that inspired Elle Luna to write a brief online manifesto that, in a few short months, has touched hundreds of thousands of people who’ve read it or heard Elle speak on the topic.

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Making private communication simple

Over the past 20 years, cryptography has been transformed from a poorly understood and scarcely available regulated munition to a well developed and freely distributed technology.  However, in contrast to the predictions of 90’s futurists, this has not changed the shape of communication — privacy is likely at an all time low, while surveillance is arguably at an all time high.

This talk will explore some efforts to tip the scales in the other direction.

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Words as tools

So much of the discussion about words focuses on whether a word is ‘real word’ or not, ignoring the important question: does this word do the job it’s supposed to do? How can we evaluate words of English for effectiveness? How would we provide writers and speakers with the right word-tool for the job, whatever that job may be?

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Customer service and the chamber of secrets

 Your customer service team have access to incredible amounts of information about your customers; how they talk, how they think and what they want to achieve. But it may never reach your designers, developers, product managers or marketers.

Learn how to unleash the customer secrets trapped inside your customer service team through practical tools, processes and systems.

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Responsive Fonts

Using an interpretation of “responsive design” as a framework, Kris will explain how fonts have been—and continue to be—responsive by their very nature. We’ll dip into 500 years of typographic history, dabble in a spot of human optical perception & try to nut out what’s going on at the level of the letterform.

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The magic and mystery of Big Data

Harper Reed, former CTO of Obama for America and of, will walk us through Big Data and how we can use this mysterious technology in our businesses.

Just kidding.

He hates big data. He’ll tell us why.

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Product Strategy and Customer Success

A successful product launch needs more than modern beautiful design. Much more. And if by some rare miracle, you actually had  a successful launch, keeping it going involves dealing with much much more opinions, data points, constraints and stakeholders than you ever wanted. Before you launch a product or feature you have infinite degrees of freedom, once it’s out there it’s a different beast.

This talk is based on experience from the trenches, from founding start-ups, launching firework products that fizzled out in days and juggernaut products that went nowhere and took too long to get there. It will cover  theory, techniques, and tactics for designing & launching new features and new products, including how to evaluate a new product or feature, how to solicit feedback for your product, how the jobs-to-be-done framework can help, and above all how to ensure your product is  focussed on your customer’s success.

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The Pyramid at the Bottom of a Garbage Bin

Songwriter and international troubadour Jason Webley tells a musical tale of history, synchronicity, crowd-funding, poetry, and garbage.

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