Archive for the ‘innovation’ Tag

On NextFest

Finally got to check out NextFest, sponsored by Wired (and apparently Toyota, Citigroup, Xerox, and Acer) and located in Millennium Park through Sunday.  There wasn’t a great deal to see – don’t get me wrong, the stuff they had was pretty great, but in terms of billing itself as the foremost exhibition of future technology, it came up a bit short in quantity and complexity of exhibits.  Given that it’s Chicago, however, I guess I should be grateful for any glimmer of the future.

Even if I felt the specifics were somewhat lacking, however, what I took away from the whole spectacle was some renewal of hope in the future.  I don’t know that technology in itself can save us; whether having faith in and taking comfort in science is misguided; or whether it’s okay that companies like Toyota or Xerox are coming up with as many, if not more, ideas than the traditional research centers of the universities and NASA.  It’s been just long enough since I read Toffler’s book that I can’t quite remember whether I’d consider myself a futurist, but I’m sure new technologies must fit in there somewhere.  This is not to say that new technologies will be the best answer – sometimes going back to old technologies (see:  renewed interest in and use of cisterns in residential homes) is the best thing to do, especially if we can use the infrastructure that’s been lying around.  But I think the shift in thinking we need to make is, not to ask “how can technology make my life easier?” but “how can technology make my life more fulfilling?”  It seems that a lot of inventions are meant to do the work for us, leaving us with empty time and energy that we pour into inventions that ultimately just distract us.  I’m okay with still doing some work – I’m not okay with feeling like I’ve done nothing, and had more time to do it.

In other news, I’m warming up to the idea of podcasts – and luckily they are available as regular webcasts, as I’m still not that personally-wired as to carry my MP3 player everywhere.  These are worth checking out:

* Pretty much anything on NPR.  My station of choice is WBEZ Chicago, with podcasts of individual programs.

* Planetizen – the urban planners’ online network.  Includes weekly updates and interviews

* KunstlerCast – a series of interviews with James Howard Kunstler, the anti-suburbs writer (best-known book, “Geography of Nowhere,” haven’t gotten to it yet).  He’s acerbic and sometimes pompous, but has some great insights into “the tragicomedy of suburbia.”

* Brain Science Podcast – “For everyone who has a brain.”  Dr. Ginger Campbell talks about a variety of studies of the brain.  Thanks C for the recommendation!!

I’m a pretty big fan of the idea of “radio” – in the sense of learning through audio recordings and interviews – rather than video at this point.  Maybe because my eyes have been so tired for the past year, it’s nice to give another sense a chance to take over for a while.

In conclusion, podcasts are kind of great.  I need to explore for some more good ones, I highly recommend running a search of your own for something you like!

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