PSFK Looks At The Future Of Everything

I think of PSFK's annual New York City conference as Next-Gen TED, since it brings to the stage a series of wickedly smart designers, marketers, entrepreneurs and thought leaders, many of whom you have never heard of before. PSFK, a design/research firm and think tank headed by visionary Piers Fawkes, offers cutting-edge insights that span disciplines.

Take for example food designer Emilie Baltz, whose work crafting designer cocktails (that you lick off a plate) for the Museum of Sex takes one form and function and transcends it into another experience altogether.  Or Billie Whitehouse, whose FUNDAWEAR through her company WE::EX connects physical experiences to your clothing such as vibrating underwear for those who … ahem … want to remain intimate in a long-distance relationship. 

"What does this have to do with media?" you might be thinking. Well, everything. Media is experiencing an unprecedented transformation, crossing platforms, expanding its engagement with viewers, and generally stretching the boundaries of what it is and what we do. So a company like WE:EX that enables us to enhance the sports-fans-viewing experience with tech-infused clothing that signals us when the athlete is excited, nervous or elated, helps us more deeply engage with the content, as if we were there right in the middle of the game.



Turn the Media Paradigm Backward and Upside Down

Björn Jeffery of Toca Boca tackled the print to digital challenge that many magazines are facing today. He reimagined the idea of a magazine by starting with the digital concept and making a magazine experience rather than vice versa with Popular Science magazine, one of the first to migrate to the tablet with a video component.

His work with “Sesame Street” turned the concept of tablet ownership upside down. Coining the phrase the “pass-back effect,” Jeffrey realized that parents were taking tablets and passing them to the children in the backseat of their cars. “It was a radical notion at the time where we increased children’s ownership of the device” and created content that spoke directly to the child rather than through the parent, he said.

Rodrigo Niño of Prodigy Networks believes that “the crowd has the power to make change” and has put the power of the crowd into real estate, funding multimillion-dollar skyscrapers in Colombia via crowd-funding. So I am thinking, if millions of dollars can be raised for a real estate project, why can’t the crowd fund television series for those networks with the vision but maybe not the budget for ambitious programming projects?

YouTube’s Kevin Allocca upended some preconceived notions about what makes a video popular on his service. Providing social and authentic experiences helps drive viewership. But what constitutes an engaging experience differs across locales. Example: A four-minute video of elks crossing a road garnered over a million views, but mostly in the western US. “Tech makes global possible but it is still local,” he said.  It is impossible to predict if a video will be popular or hit the cultural zeitgeist, but, according to Allocca, one thing is certain: “knowing how video works is to understand how creativity works.”

We in the media are in the business of implementing creativity, but we may be trapped at our desks doing routine tasks day after day. One day spent in the presence of creative iconoclasts can help us look at the whole world with fresh eyes.
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