Today I spent about three hours at "Media X: Research, Collaboration, Innovation," a conference at Stanford on the direction of new media. It was made up of 20-minute presentations from all over the media map, from a doctor showing advancements in virtual surgeries (See a mummy in 3-D!! See a missed polyp in a virtual colonoscopy!!) to why Second Life is beating out the game of Everquest. (Answer: Because you own everything you create in Second Life. Instead of signing the Terms of Agreement for Everquest -- you know, the small print you don't read -- which indicates that anything you create in Everquest is owned by....Everquest.) Citizen journalism and multimedia training Web sites duly were noted. Two unexpected things:
1) A discussion on how e-mail is damaging your closest relationships. B.J. Fogg, a professor at Stanford, spent a year interviewing 112 women living in Sonoma County about their relationships and e-mail. He chose women, he says, because they care about relationships, nurture them, and are articulate about them. Plus, he lives in Sonoma County, so it made it easy for him to get the interviewing done over such a long stretch.
After six months, he realized what the women were telling him: E-mail is no good for close personal relationships. It isn't intimate enough. For those you really care about, get back on the phone, send letters, meet up for coffee.
He even says your close working relationships are too important to handle by e-mail. This realization led him to create a new way to communicate with your voice via computer, a widget you can load onto any Web page that will allow instant voice chat, called YackPack.
2.) A fun talk by Paul Saffo, on sabbatical from the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto. Saffo explained that Silicon Valley is built on failure, not success. Interactive TV failed so big in Silicon Valley "you could see the crater from the moon." All those talented people were sitting around when the 20-year-old Internet came along and they decided, What the heck, let's give that a shot. Look what happened: a giant success built on the previous failure.
So he encouraged the audience to "cherish failure," because the next big breakthrough will come from something that has been failing for about 20 years and is about to break open to success. His forecast: robots. Why? Because of how people are reacting to something as simple as the Roomba vacuum cleaner. Two/thirds of owners name their Roomba, and one/third take theirs on vacation.
People, he says, want to have a new relationship with technology.
Oh, and the red shirt? I volunteered at the conference, and got a red T-shirt!