The theme of TEDGlobal 2012 was “Radical Openness” — a topic that caught the eye of Design Mind magazine. The publication, from longtime TEDGlobal supporter frog, has dedicated an entire issue to the conference. Including Q&As with speakers, behind-the-scenes looks at preparations for talks and an abundance of endeavors related to talks, we picked a few of our favorite articles from this unique vantage point of the conference. Below, some pieces to peruse.
“What’s the Value of Collaborative Consumption?” by Hannah Piercy
Rachel Botsman was an early champion of the ‘collaborative revolution’- how renting, swapping, and other traditional forms of sharing have been scaled via new online and mobile technologies and social networks. She co-founded the Collaborative Lab, an innovation consultancy focusing on shared consumption, and co-authored What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption. Botsman helped define the collaborative consumption movement and its impact on business, public service, and daily life. She shared her thoughts and insights with Hannah Piercey via Skype from Australia.
HP: How is collaborative consumption shifting how we understand ownership?
RB: There are different motivations and context is really important. In some instances, people are actually motivated by self-interest — which is okay. It’s often about cost, convenience, being able to access a unique space, or even being able to get an errand done in an efficient way with a Task Rabbit. So, there’s the self-interest but part of the beauty of the movement is that the self-interest is paired with community and a social mindset.
“The End of Education As We Know It” by Scott Barry Kaufman
Imagine being 6 or 7 years old again, learning about addition and subtraction for the first time. How wonderful would it be, while taking a quiz, to be able to rub a genie’s bottle and choose from a number of on-the-spot metaphors for mathematical concepts, like what a fraction really means? Or picture this:
Rather than working through equations in daunting rows on a sheet of paper, your task is to play a game on a tablet computer in which you share a dinner table with aliens. There’s a bowl of apples in the center of the table. Suddenly the apple bowl zooms in, focusing your attention on the task at hand, which is to divide the apples equally. The aliens have a strong sense of justice, and will let you know if you don’t give them their fair share. If you answer correctly, you earn stars, which you can redeem for all sorts of goodies (new games, onscreen props, and so on).
These examples may seem charming and even silly—and they’re meant to be. They’re also designed to engage students in learning by harnessing online, interactive media to hone their math skills in entertaining ways. But they’re not just playful games. The two described above are real software applications developed by Shimon Schocken, a professor of computer science at Israel’s IDC Herzliya, an educator with wise eyes and a deep, authoritative voice.
“How Far Should Governments Open Up?” by Hannah Piercey
Beth Simone Noveck, former (and the first) deputy chief technology officer of the United States, is an attorney and law professor who works to shape governance in the Internet age. Noveck, who presented at TEDGlobal, advises governments on effectively using technology to build transparency, participation, and collaboration. Noveck recently spoke with Hannah Piercey.
HP: How do you define “radical openness” in respect to your work?
BN: For me, it refers to the move that we must make from hierarchical, centralized, concentrated, enclosed institutions, whether they’re government or corporations, to open, collaborative, transparent organizations. If we want be effective in the way that we work, we have to do so in an open way. It’s not only about shifting the default on data publication from closed to open but about shifting the default of how we make decisions and how we spend money.
“Brainiacs” by Ernest Beck
Imagine this scene, in the not-so-distant future, inside a device manufacturer’s Silicon Valley headquarters: The company’s designers and engineers have made a bold decision to hook up volunteers to a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine, which can measure brain activity and blood flow over time in response to stimuli. The subjects finger a new smartphone prototype that is slimmer and lighter than any of its predecessors, with a bigger screen and blunter edges. And the designers carefully watch the brain responses, seeking clues to what might excite customers to buy yet another gadget.
This hasn’t happened yet and might not for some time. Yes, neuroscience technology, such as fMRI, is advancing rapidly and is aiding doctors and scientists in mapping the brain to better understand human behavior. But any effort to use this data to create products with attributes that nudge customers to them remains a challenge. As much as it would make designers’ lives easier, “there isn’t a buy button” within the human brain, as Read Montague, who holds duel professorships at University College London, in neuroscience, and at Virginia Tech, in physics, pointed out in a recent interview.
“The Maker Movement Meets Big Business” by Reena Jana
On a recent rainy morning I walked through the front door of a former bank in downtown Brooklyn to find myself in a dusty lobby with cracked windowpanes. An elevator ride took me to another floor where I found cluttered rooms filled with lopsided bookshelves, used beakers, and dirty wine glasses. Finally, I arrived at my destination: a nonprofit organization called Genspace, where an unlikely community of artists and attorneys, high school students and Ph.Ds, venture capitalists, and architects regularly come together to get their hands dirty, literally—experimenting with, say, growing synthetic leather from bacterial cellulose.
That’s what the lively Genspace lab, behind its dingy façade, is all about. “We offer the possibility of getting into science hands-on,” Ellen Jorgensen, a TEDGlobal speaker and co-founder of the organization, told me. “We help people become able to talk more about and understand biology. Potential inventors can learn here.”