IdeaFestival

Debbie Millman: "When people ask, 'why you?' what do you say?"

KET interviewed speaker and designer Debbie Millman at the IdeaFestival, and has released the edited video on YouTube. I thought I'd post it here in case you haven't yet seen it and note a few things that stood out to me while listening to the conversation with Renee Shaw.

Branding, Millman says, is "deliberate differentiation" of product or service, "a way for people to understand it." Elaborating a bit later on the subject, she said that our choice of brands is an expression of "the tribes we belong to."

"Brand choices are not rational. They're "highly, highly emotional." That understanding, incidentally, parallels a change in the economics, which does not view human choice, solely, as a product of logic that weighs the available evidence before making self-interested choices. Rather, behavioral economics is interested in the emotional content and motivations behind those choices.

In a discussion about our culture of instant gratification, Millman points out that even organizations opposed to consumerism deploy branding in support of their efforts.

As an educator, she uses brand exercises to prompt students to think about their own identity.

"When people ask, 'why you?' what do you say?" And a moment later: "If you don't understand your motivations, whether as a person or a brand, you're never going to make a difference." In a world defined by speed and instant communication, "branding brings together an expertise cultural anthropology, an expertise in behavioral psychology. You need to have expertise in finance, commerce, economics...."

In an interesting detail, Debbie Millman said that the sewing patterns laid out by her mother, a seamstress, were an inspiration for her love of word art later in life.

KET will post its interviews with IdeaFestival speakers on a regular basis. Follow the IdeaFestival @ideafestival on Twitter, or at /IdeaFestival on Facebook and we'll point them out.

Stay curious.

Wayne

Pic: Lindsey Stirling playing violin

In a surprise performance right before a talk on the multi-verse, Lindsey Stirling gave an amazing, florid, melodic, beautiful, and slamming violin performance.

Let's just say that any world that can produce this kind of music is a world in which I want to live.

Many of the pictures that you will see here can also be found in the IdeaFestival 2011 Flickr pool. Please! Join and contribute your images.

Wayne

Dr. Sugata Mitra: Learning as emergent phenomenon

Thrivals is using Matt Ridley's The Rational Optimist as the basis of Thrivals 4.0, using everything from evolutionary biology to economics to study the principle of exchange, and in particular, asking and answering the question, how do ideas develop?

They have sex of course.

And they are emergent.

Dr.Sugata Mitra, whose Hole in the Wall project inspired Slumdog Millionaire asks "can children, left to themselves, teach themselves?"

As it happens, he has some experience with that question. Feeling unhappy with the vast slums surrounding him in India while he was teaching privileged children, many years ago began experimenting. He first put a DIY ATM (since banks had experience with outdoor computers) in a building wall.

Then he left the country.

Coming back in few months, Dr. Sugata Mitra, chuckling at the thought, said that the children immediately told him "they wanted a faster processor, a better mouse." But because they had been given a computer that only spoke English, they had also, to his surprise, learned English. He shows the Thrival attendees at IdeaFestival 2011 pictures of a 10 year old boy and his seven year old pupil clustered around the terminal, learning.

At the end of five years, from 1999 - 2004, the children's literacy shot up in every location where Hole in the Wall operated - "to the level of an average office secretary."

He next challenged school children to speak well enough so that speech-to-text software on a computer would output understandable English. In his absence, the students had, again, made use of the Internet downloading software with English speakers, and taught themselves the speak the language with an English - not Indian - accent.

He recounts how Tamil-speaking children in southern India taught themselves advanced genetic concepts, and heard from one misguided child such student that "apart from the knowledge that the improper replication of the DNA causes disease, we have understood nothing else."

Dr. Mitra clearly believes in the value of the "grandmother effect," and uses it to great effect, asking children to act as grandmothers - to simply nod affirmatively behind students and say, "isn't that it wonderful. How did you arrive at that?"

C.C. Chapman tweeted a video of the Granny Cloud linked above.

Children will self organize around the big questions, not what is the Eiffel Tower? But who built the Eiffel Tower and why? Why do we dream? "You know," they've said, "there's this Freud and he...."

Self-organizing systems that discuss big questions and important ideas? Sounds a lot like the IdeaFestival.

Over time, Dr. Mitra has come to believe based on his work that "education is a self-organizing system with learning as an emergent phenomena," and that 1) reading comprehension, 2) information searching and 3) systems of belief are the three parts critical to the success of an education. But if "children can learn to read by themselves, then the educational system can be turned upside down."

Wayne

 

Renee Blodgett: IdeaFestival "for Those Who Are Forever Curious"

IdeaFestival regular and founder and editor of We Blog the World, Renee Blodgett, has posted a comprehensive blog entry describing many of the presentations she heard at IdeaFestival 2014, saying:

IdeaFestival is the one event that I’ve jumped on an airplane for every year, bound for Louisville Kentucky to make the time for a four day discussion on creativity and innovation. Last year’s event coverage will give you a taste of who they attract and while the focus may change slightly depending on who’s on the main stage, the mission remains the same: to Stay Curious.

...Think of it as an intellectual playground in one of America’s most interesting southern cities where people celebrate ideas, creativity and transformational learning across multiple disciplines, including science, technology, design, education, philosophy, business and the arts.

Give it a read. You won't be disappointed. Our own round up of stories about IdeaFestival 2014 may be found here.

Stay curious!

Wayne

Image: Geoff Oliver Bugbee

Galaxy "littered with planets"

Paul Gilster reflects on the latest information from the space-based observatory Kepler, which in a period of months has trebled the number of planets outside of our own solar system. Its haul of 1,200+ candidate bodies includes five that are believed to be near-Earth sized planets in the "habitable zone" of their parent suns, or orbits where liquid water is likely to be present. Follow up observations on the ground will further characterize these finds.

Above left is the field of view for Kepler. And at right, candidate planets are identified by their approximate location in the field of view. To put this in perspective, fifteen years ago we knew of no other worlds besides the nine described textbooks. Isn't it amazing that as soon we are able to detect planets elsewhere in the Milky Way, there they are?

Wayne

Images: NASA/Ames/JPL-Caltech (l) and NASA/Wendy Stenzel (r)


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