Monday, September 9, 2013

power, disruption, and lies

It's been nearly two weeks since I was in Malmö, Sweden for the Media Evolution conference... and I'm still on a high. I can't even help it. I put so much pressure on the serendipitous opportunity--half of me expecting (the other wishing) it to ease my doubt and provide answers as I tackle my French internship, hone in on my thesis for the spring, better articulate what it is I want to do afterwards. And you know what? It delivered, in every which way and then some. I still don't understand how that's possible.
Then again, I do. The conference kicked off with an opening keynote by Dr. Suzannah Lipscom, a historian, who said things like "it's the power to do good, the dance of the production of change, of the unpredictability of the future which makes us all liars" when taking apart the theme of this year's conference and then left us with historical examples of how, "we can use informal power to change behavior." My nerdy aspirations ran wild as experience paired inspiring presentation with insightful yet informal chats on innovation in contemporary media with a British feminist, American researcher, Dutch web programmer, Swedish artist, etc.
Before lunch on that Thursday, I listened to practical advice from Matthew and Fabian such as, "hypothesize your acquistion channel - where do they 'hang out' online?" I've already integrated this tip and many more regarding "lean marketing" into my work at PageYourself. " I also received some clarification into how I'd like to contribute to Change Making after hearing Lina and Marcin talk. I was especially blown away by Lina's Equalists Project, a campaign for equal representation for women and other minority groups across industries that has been built almost entirely on humble Facebook pages. It's rapidly expanding and I'm eager to get involved.
Afterwards, on the menu for our mid-day meal: lemon-baked turkey breast marinated with capers and parsley alongside a wheatberry salad with roasted paprika vinaigrette. I enjoyed a sparkling water and plenty of great conversation as well.
Then we jumped right back into creative and critical thinking with Cindy Gallop. I cannot even express to you how incredibly provocative her keynote was. Please just watch it. Originally a global advertising consultant, she is now focusing on a project to tap into, "the single most untapped pool of resource: personal good intentions," and another to disrupt the porn business. Yes, really. She's doing so in the most amazing way, proving that we can, "integrate social responsibility into the way we do business."
I went on to contemplate online harassment as I heard the heartbreaking personal accounts of Laurie and Anita with Kate's academic insight. Though emotional, I felt hopeful in the presence of their grace and bravery. And later, as Ruth presented Un-Convention and Foro Di Eixo, I realized how effective passion can be in mobilizing individuals into forces of collective good. Ariel, a designer turned space enthusiast, reaffirmed the fact as she shared the story of her movement for citizen space exploration.
With all potential floating in my head, I took advantage of the free glass of happy hour wine, mingled a bit, and then retreated to the Doc Lounge for The Yes Men screening. Little did I know I'd actually have the chance to ask Mike Bonanno a question I'd been wondering since my Global Advocacy class. His answer to how they measure their success: "our mission is not for The Yes Men to be better liked, but for the issue to get as much attention as possible. The point is to give voice to activists and victims." I was almost too satisfied with his response to recall the director of Searching for Sugar Man's keynote. A good night's sleep was so necessary.
Thankfully, I got one. So much so, that I had to rush out of Liselott's apartment, through Malmö, and to the contemporary Slaghuset Thursday morn. I made it to James' keynote just on time. As a seasoned critic of technological dependence, I was struck by his declaration that "technology is not a mutual good, it's a tool." It is up to us. My awe was followed by this thought: gosh, I wish I had a robotic clone to annotate Emily's beyond crowd-funding anecdotes while I learned how visual media affects culture and identity...
Alas, I did not, so I just soaked up the research inspiration as An proved how, "remix culture is a way to take control of the narrative," Tricia advocated for trust as we "preserve spaces for informal modes of interaction," that allow our elastic selves to flourish, and Kenyatta told the timeless (albeit with his comedic edge) story of the .gif. I'll admit I followed the other presentations with #theconf.
For some larger picture perspective, I went to the presentation on thinking about Now in the Past. It was wonderful to hear from Matt, someone who has clearly found his professional calling in his belief that, "the history of the future is borne of optimism." The concept aligned closer with Åsa's approach to urban planning than expected. "What defines cities is the people who live in that city." With all those ideas, I pondered my master's thesis as I ate lunch that day: salmon with sour cream and roasted dill-potatoes.
Before I knew it, the conference part of The Conference was over. (There were a few more presentations but I was too overstimulated for them to have had an impact). I cannot imagine anyone but Alexis, co-founder of Reddit, giving the closing keynote on "the importance of giving a damn about the people who are about to use and consume what you create." He's right. Lagom, a Swedish word roughly translating to a Goldilocks-esque "just enough", isn't acceptable when it comes to tackling the challenges facing society and media. I ended the night at the Malmö Festival, spent most of Friday on that Sustainable Tourism excursion, ate a Saturday lunch in Copenhagen, and walked away with the what and where of my eventual master's thesis.


  1. Wow, Danielle... this sounds incredible... and right up my alley! What are you doing your Masters in? xxx

    1. It would've been extra wonderful if you could've been there! I'm doing an MA in Global Communications. xo

  2. The size of those pieces of carrot cake is completely unAmerican :p

    1. Haha, fair enough. It was good though! You're going to have to wait for a look at the ridiculously large slice of Parisian carrot cake my friend and I shared last night.


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