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February 6, 2008 - 3:30 a.m. PST - Geneva, Switzerland
I'm attending Lift 08 in Geneva, Switzerland. Not too long ago, I pinged a conference organizer/attendee-heavy board and asked them to name the top three conferences they felt I should attend in 2008 knowing what I do for work and play. Lift, a conference about "the challenges and opportunities of technology in our society", quickly bubbled to the top. So I did a little research which mainly consisted of me grilling Near Future Laboratory's Chief Mad Scientist, Julian Bleecker. Julian and a few other past participants reassured me that this was the European conference not to miss. I was told that the event would be intimate and that I would have a real opportunity to hang with the European technocrats. It didn't take much arm-twisting for me to want to go.
The first day consisted of an interesting selection of workshops to attend. Narrowing down what I thought would be best for me, I attended self-proclaimed hacker, Mark Wubben's session 'Forgetful Interfaces'. Wasn't sure what I was in for. But a thoughtful and rather lengthy discussion about privacy and forgetfulness arose. The session seemed rather personal with different participants recounting the existence and deletion of their own online artifacts. Data, storage, ease, and cost were all factors that seemed to determine whether or not people cared about being “forgotten”. Someone claimed that “we can’t make computers less binary. So long as it remains binary, it remains okay”. And I'm cool with that.
The second workshop I attended, ‘teenagers/generation Y and technology’ proved to be equally as engaging and interesting. David Brown, former co-founder and CTO of buy.at, moderated it. The four well-spoken, well-coiffed, and well-educated teenagers did a good job explaining and defending their thoughts. Chloe, Luisa, Elliot and Liam hail from the crème de la crème of their peer set volunteering on humane projects abroad while enjoying a good life attending one of Switzerland’s finest private schools. The teens explained that they used Facebook for nearly everything – leaving messages, emails (without attachments), and for photo documenting. All their friends on Facebook were also their friends in real life. However, they didn’t seem to want to use the computer much at all. They didn’t shop online, preferring to shop in real brick and mortar boutiques basically due to trust issues. The internet was mainly used for school and when they used it, it was really to schedule activities in "real life". Lastly, the teenagers used their mobile phones for communication and coordinating but didn’t text as much as their European cousins because it’s still cost-prohibitive in Switzerland. These teenagers were a lot like their American counterparts with a less plugged-in lifestyle.
Overall, the two workshops laid the foundation for what I expected for the next couple of days -- interesting conversations. The audience was mostly young, friendly, and all were eager to learn and exchange new ideas. And this is a beautiful thing.
A cool little walkway under the road bridge at the river end of the lake