Monday, September 15, 2008

IgniteNYC: intro to the Web 2.0 Expo

On Monday evening, Sept. 15, the reception IgniteNYC served as the kick-off for the Web 2.0 Expo. Never having been to one of these things, I wasted my time coming early and having no one to talk to. I couldn't even figure out who to talk to, because most attendees were attending the New York TV Festival -- NYTVF (you can tell from all the media sponsors's logos seen in the picture above). Part of the "social" aspect of the event was a cupcake decorating contest (you can see the "winners" in the lower left corner of the picture above).

This IgniteNYC post describes who gave talks in pecha kucha style: each person could have a maximum of 20 slides, running at 15 seconds each. Some seemed barely relevant to the theme of the expo, such as those dealing with cupcakes (come on, who can eat them, with such an overload of sugar?), magic at the Democratic National Convention (whatever my political leanings, what did this have to do with Web 2.0?).

But some of the talks were interesting. Raffi Krikorian's facilitates self-monitoring of energy consumption, Sam Lessin gave a wake up call to how we view our privacy in today's world, and Don Carli spoke about the carbon footprint of all our computer issues (making one realize that anyone who espouses "green" attitudes and uses a computer is a hypocrite). Some were amusing: Deb Schultz's "Alley vs. Valley" was a spot-on comparison of working in New York City versus working in San Francisco, Andrew Schneider's experimental devices for performance might really have a chance - maybe not the projection of lips on someone else (it reminded me of the 1960s cartoon Space Angel), but the sneaker devices that generated rhythm, not to mention the wrist things that could produce a variety of sound effects. (Broadway: watch out! Or maybe Fringe festivals...)

I found the most interesting talks coming from Audacia Ray and Jennifer Pahlka. Ray spoke about the relationship of pornography to innovation. She pointed out that porn was in part responsible for the adoption of VCR (over Betamax), since there was more porn available in that medium (despite Betamax's better quality). Ray characterized the porn industry as one that was run by the stakeholders, but that recent developments on the Internet - namely a more socialized world - had challenged that. Now there are a number of sites where users can upload their own porn stills and videos -- so who needs the companies that produce the stuff? In fact, she said, many people prefer to watch, comment, and interact with each other's porn through these websites than the impersonal ones of big companies. In this way, they are fulfilling the web 2.0 dictum of interrelating with one another. Watch for ongoing changes in this industry.

Jennifer Pahlka's talk was humorous and more. Entitled Technology Anxiety: Jello and Web 3.0, she used the metaphor of cooking for showing the development of technology. She compared utilitarian cookbooks of the post-World War II era to beginnings in technology. She showed advertisements that tried to portray stoves and ovens as new devices where one just pushed a single button that would create a finished meal - just like promises of technology. Continuing in this vein, she showed that a little bit of cooking knowledge could create some really awful confections from those who didn't know how to cook, just as it had in the technology world among those less creative or innovative. In speaking of the threat or fear that some have of web 3.0 (which was characterized as a world that would leave us out), she made a funny metaphor to Jello sculptures, where one could put in all sorts of food within the Jello and have it magically "work" simply because of the medium of Jello. She warned us about having such illusions in the Web 2.0 world. Very nice.

It would have been nicer if the presentations were vetted a bit more and were a bit more releavant, but I guess the mood was to party with beer (served on the house) and cupcakes.

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