Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Lincoln's Mysterious TED@MotorCity Event Kicks Off Auto Show Week

Last night's stunning TED@MotorCity event, hosted by Lincoln at the Max Fisher Theater in Detroit, was a hit. Themed "New Tomorrows", the event's surprise A-list speakers delivered a succinct roundup of key ideas that will shape the future.

We heard from Thomas Goetz executive editor of WIRED, Dale Dougherty founder of MAKE and the Maker Faire, Craig Newmark of craigslist.org; Detroit poet Jessica Care Moore; Detroit journalist and author John Gallagher; and Lisa Gansky, author of "Meshed".

Poet Jessica Care Moore at TED@MotorCity in Detroit

There was a certain amount of mystery in the lead-up to this event... the invitation that materialized in our mailboxes stressed that it was non-transeferable, and asked,

"Please don't blog or tweet about this event," and "Please do not forward this link."

Really?! I can't make a Twitter avatar banner?

The invite said little about the evening's program, and gave no indication how we got on the list in the first place. So we were all wondering... separately... what the event would be like, who would speak, and who would be there.

Well, the event was first class all the way, with attentive staff, beautiful food, the Lincoln MKX and Lincoln's first-ever hybrid, the MKZ on display and available for test rides on legendary Woodward Avenue. A real Detroit Auto Show party. It was a much smaller crowd than TEDxDetroit, so the event had an intimate feel. And even the artists, makers and geeks dressed up a bit for it. Read more...

The Triumphal March from Aida played as we took our seats, while the heavy doors to the Music Box Theater rolled closed (shades of the final act of that opera... nice touch!). Then Gary Bolles of Xigi kicked things off as Curator of the event.

Craig Newmark talks with Gary Bolles at TED@MotorCity in Detroit

Thomas Goetz, Executive Editor of WIRED Magazine | Goetz informed us that the average lifespan of Americans has dropped, even while modern medicine has gotten more sophisticated. Obviously, a result of our poor health habits.

How about using engaging data reports and dashboards (color and graphics, anyone?) with feedback loops linked to one Big, Ole Satisfying Graphic that goes up and down in response? Get people involved in the metrics that ultimately determine their health.

Thomas used the Toyota Prius as an example: Prius drivers get obsessed with the readout on the dash that tells them the mileage they're getting. It goes up or down in real time in response to the way they are driving. You end up keeping half an eye on that gauge. Driving becomes a game where you strive to engage in the behaviors that increase your mileage. Why not apply that psychology to health behaviors?

I especially liked Goetz's quote, "Designers have this great secret called... color!" To which I would add, smart companies have this great secret called... designers!

Dale Dougherty, Founder of MAKE Magazine and the Maker Faire | You can tell Dale is a Maker because he was grinning from ear to ear the whole time he was on stage. Makers are happy, happy people, because they have so much fun.

(I somehow heard about MAKE early on and ran out and bought the first issue when it hit the newsstand. I love reading about the projects in MAKE and sister magazine CRAFT, where people knit LED lights into sweaters and so forth, although, really, I'd rather just knit a scarf. But that just proves that Making is a spectator sport.)

Dougherty pointed out that a few generations ago, it was normal to be a hands-on maker; now Makers are considered a bit on the fringes. But really, we're all Makers, it's an essential part of human nature, and we need to mainstream it again. And get Making back into schools. (Temple Grandin said the same thing when she spoke in Ann Arbor in September.) And encourage Maker hives, hacker spaces and Maker Faires in our communities. Yeah!

By the end of Dale's talk, with slides of motorized cupcakes, we were all grinning ear to ear.

(Check out Ann Arbor's Makerspace AHA! (All Hands Active))

John Gallagher, Author and Architecture Critic at the Detroit Free Press | John described the genesis of urban sprawl in the primordial soup of cheap gas, and called for a return to communities that allow us to live where we work and play.

Gallagher encouraged us to think of the open spaces in Detroit as a blank canvas, then picture...

Light rail, walkable neighborhoods, and inclusive roadways that allow for motorized and non-motorized transportation. Urban farming, for access to fresh, healthful produce, and for the reduced environmental impact of locally grown food. And linear parks, daylighted streams, and turning run down buildings over to artists. Hell, yeah!

Some European cities are doing these things, with success, and we need to adopt the Euros' "Let's try it" mentality.

(I spoke with John after the talk and told him about The Woodward Project on YouTube. Please, watch this excellent presentation of Detroit's descent into sprawl, and vision of the Woodward Corridor (which never really lost as much juice as the rest of the city) as the backbone of a revitalized Detroit, if we recognize and nurture it as an existing linear community.)

Jessica Care Moore, Poet and Detroiter | Well, Jessica knocked us out at TEDx Detroit, and she did it again last night, with an impassioned urban roll call, a sure-tongued naming of the things that no longer work in our cities or never did

"...the deadbeat dad is now obsolete..."

And calling on

"...we who knew New Orleans before she was renamed Katrina and dispersed across the country..."

to build a new world from the ruins and lessons of the old

"...because my four year old has a dream. Make it a reality..."

She ended by looking into the audience and saying,

"...in this room, I see ideas everywhere. Do you?"

(I live tweeted her deadbeat dads line, and got followed by the Twitter account for @CrappyDads.com. Check it out.)

Craig Newmark, Founder of craigslist.org | Craig was interviewed onstage by Gary Bolles, and told us that 60 million people per month visit craigslist.org. That's not enough for him, since he's "trying to connect everyone on the planet."

Clearly, he knows a lot about getting people connected. And he thinks a lot about what connected people can do.

Newmark shared a vision of crowdsourcing technologies changing politics and business as usual. Identifying responsible journalism, bringing accountability to politicians, and rating charities for effectiveness and calling out fakes. Using connectedness to make a very large world safer in the way that a small world is safe: miscreants have fewer places to hide, and the powerful are kept in check because they can't insulate themselves from accountability. (Did I get that right, Craig?)

Craig notes that The Daily Show has become arguably the only reliable mainstream news source, and it's comedy. Because, "If you want to tell people the truth, make them laugh, " and, "If you're funny, you can say things that would otherwise get you killed."

Newmark also sees himself as doing customer service for a living at craigslist.org. And with 60 million users every month and so few problems, his faith in humanity is restored. So go out and connect.

Lisa Gansky, author of "The Mesh" | Last up was the immanently quotable Lisa Gansky. In fact, she's a one-woman sound bite machine, so I'm just going to step aside:

"The future is about sharing. We come from a long history of sharing."

Gansky shows a picture of planet earth and calls it, "The mother of all sharing platforms."

"Access trumps ownership. It's the new culture of sharing."

(At this point @lmorchard tweets me, "@tunie of course the problem with access over ownership is that someone controls and can revoke your access." Heh, now visions of Zuckerbook dance in my head.)

"We're more connected to more people on the planet than ever before, except if you're sitting next to someone."

"A brand is the voice and the product is a souvenir."

"Zipcar is not a car company, it's an information company."

"One of the biggest benefits of connectedness is sharing failures as well as successes."

"Where artists and innovators engage, cities thrive."

It was an inspiring evening, and a nice companion event to the larger, freewheeling and more exuberant TEDx Detroit last fall. Many thanks to Lincoln, TED Global Partnerships, and Gary Bolles for everything that went into this event, and @CharlieCurve cuz I bet he was involved, too.

See a gallery of pics from @SlayterCreative here: and from @wguru here: .

And great writeups from @BecksDavis here: and @SlayterCreative (with thoughts on the marketing angle) here:  and @CGJohnson here: http://bit.ly/flxYmo and a New York Times article here: and the writeup on the TED.com blog: .
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