As part of the Vivid Festival, X Media Lab returned to Sydney in June 2010 to look at how the creative and media industries are adapting to a changing world where societies very different to the existing dominant cultures are rising and asserting their place in the global economy.
X Media Lab’s Global Media Ideas conference day was billed as exploring “cultural and commercial content in a global world; creative ideas and innovation in media and technology; international media business opportunities; new media and new geographies; and new platforms, applications, and content.” It didn’t disappoint.
The great thing about X Media Labs is how it brings disparate ideas together and exposes the audience to worldwide trends and developments. The June 2010 Sydney X Media Lab was no exception with a great range of diverse speakers. Here’s a brief rundown of their themes, more comprehensive coverage can be found at Brad Howarth’s Lagrange Point blog;
Dubbed “the father of the ring tone”, Ralph Simon took us on a tour of innovation that started with the Sex Pistols, through applications like Red Lazer and sites like TuneWiki, which uses crowdsourcing to translate music lyrics, to end with mHealth applications where diabetic children use their mobile phone games to test their blood sugar levels. A broad and exciting view of where the mobile Internet and gaming platforms are going.
Dana Al Salem
The founder of Fanshake, Dana showed us how her site is used to connect bands with their fans. Her view is that today’s Gen Ys are just like their hippy grandparents except today’s groovers are wealthier have more technology. An interesting take on “the more things change, the more they stay the same“.
Gotham described his journey of setting up superhero cartoons for young Indians and intertwined it with a story of his travels through Pakistan as a journalist. His hope is to replace the influence people like Osama Bin Laden have on the youth of South Asia with more positive role models.
The divide between the richer cities and poorer rural areas in developing nations is often just characterised as a migration story as millions of poor agricultural workers migrate to the cities. Parmesh gave us a broader perspective on what is happening in India including some fascinating case studies of how comparatively older technologies such as satellite TV and SMS mobile messaging are changing rural India.
Among the geeks and developers, Joy was probably the most anticipated of the speakers having being a designer with Apple and vice president of design innovation at Yahoo! Joy showed us how designers are moving from the “look” of computer programs to “feel”. She also showed us how crowdsourcing has worked for other projects including the fantastic Johnny Cash Project which reworks his Ain’t No Grave into a group video.
The Chief Operating Officer of twofour54, a content creation hub in Abu Dhabi, Wayne took us through the opportunities of 340 million Arabic Speakers covering diverse cultures and where 200 million are under the age of 25. His presentation showed us much of the development plans of the United Arab Emirates and how the kingdoms are seeking to be the Arab world’s creative centre.
The entrepreneur label is often too easily given away, but no-one could begrudge Nick Yang, founder of KongZhong, ChinaRen.com and Wukong.com for using the title. Nick walked us through his journey of being a young student of Stanford, his return to China and both his and China’s growth over the last decade. He also showed us how his latest venture, Wukong.com, aims to change how search engines work.
Rob Mason and Scott Halcom
Local flavour was provided by Rob Manson from Sydney’s MOB Innovation Lab and Scott Halcomb from from SystemK in Japan, who walked us through the worlds of augmented reality. Rob concluded their joint presentation with the view that object recognition is going to change the way we see the world.
Like Nick Yang, Haidong is the founder of a Chinese Internet service, this time Hudong.com which is a “knowledge media” run along the lines of wikipedia that acts as a news and fact service. His presentation on how social knowledge changes the world was thought provoking in how societies are reclaiming their culture and history back from mass media.
Technology Columnist with The New York Times and International Herald Tribune, Anand challenged us to think about the ethics of the digital world and how foreign cultures are now beginning to colonise the dominant anglo-US culture. Personally I struggled with some of Ananda points as our online ethics should be no different to our off line standards and the US domination of global media stems from it being the richest nation, as other countries catch up with US living standards their cultures will reassert themselves.
Like Anand, John forced the audience to think; he invited us to consider the problem of the television producer where audience fragmentation has meant we’re approaching the point where the only profitable TV productions will be reality shows and advertorials. John as an Executive Vice President of Starz Entertainment was well placed to walk us through this dilemma. John finished with a call to consider how dis-intermediation will help rebuild the fortunes of those who want to provide well written screen productions.
As corporate development manager at Google, Amin was probably almost as highly anticipated as Joy Mountford had been earlier. Unfortunately his speech on the development of technologies from the Internet’s “Big Bang” fell flat, largely because the audience know this topic. The talk probably would have worked better with an audience of financiers or CEOs who don’t live this topic the way the X Media Lab audience do.
To finish a long, stimulating and challenging day Robert Tercek walked us through why great minds like Lord Kelvin, Edison and Einstein had missed emerging technologies in their times and how we can avoid it. Robert sees great opportunities for innovators as successful, large companies entering new markets don’t know more than anyone else and in many cases are blind to the potential of these sectors.
Overall, X Media Labs was another stimulating and fascinating day. The entrepreneurs and artists who had the opportunity to be mentored over the next two days by the speakers were very lucky to be exposed to this sort of talent.
The key message from this X Media Labs came from Parmesh Shahani when he said “don’t just look at India as a market, look at it as a source of innovation and inspiration”. We shouldn’t be just looking for the obvious, easy markets but watching the bigger trends that are developing around us.