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April 22, 2013

PSFK 2013 Conference Recap: Technology Should Make Us More Human

PSFK Conference 2013

The 2013 PSFK Conference - New York kicked off with a captivating presentation titled 'Life With Extra Senses'? by contemporary artist Neil Harbisson. Neil was born colorblind and has permanently attached a cybernetic eye, an antenna so-to-speak, to his head which allows him to hear color frequencies. He explained that through technology he is not becoming more machine but moving closer to nature as he is uniquely in-tune with his surroundings.  He is like a dolphin using echo-location to better navigate or a Palaeolithic hunter-gatherer using smell to determine taste and safety. Technology is making us more intuitive, more organized, more social' more human. And, here is how:

Storytelling should exist in multiple dimensions

The easiest way to trigger multiple senses is to tell stories in multiple dimensions. And why shouldn't we? We have successfully added a digital layer to our physical world. Food designer and writer Emilie Baltz talked about her exploration into creating and digitally chronicling meals that trigger our feelings of desire, love, and lost. Through taste and sight, we can feel emotion. Think of the last gastronomic delicacy that made you shed a tear, and I am not just talking about cheese steak spring rolls.

Neil Blumenthal, of the famed Warby Parker, attributed their success to the continuous narrative in their brand aesthetic, e-commerce platform, customer service, and now brick-and-mortar retail spaces.  Human beings are connected through storytelling. It is how we pass down our history and build community. And, the Warby Parker community is the same online as it is in person, which not only builds brand loyalty but increases brand evangelism.

Redefine 'touch'? points

Tied to storytelling are touchpoints, how brands interact with their customers. In an integrated-everything world, we have to re-evaluate our interactions just as we are re-evaluating silo-ed marketing campaigns. Brands aren't just meeting people at the cashier or on the tv screen anymore. Brand interfaces are everywhere, even on your Nicki Minaj Pandora station. A panel on 'How Technology is Driving Brand Innovation'? featured representatives from Avery Dennison, NBC Universal, IPG Media Lab, and Waggener Edstrom and focused on the cross-hybridization of traditional and new media and the extension of the screen. Technology is so integral to our daily lives that brands need to think of themselves as a resource to everyday function. The touchpoint should become the 'passion point'? and aim at solving problems of the human condition.

Remember the time Apple shut down Google Maps, and we were all lost for a few months? Think that essential.

Bring everyone to the (digital) table

We are all probably believers of the 'Content is King'? theory. Because that content, whether enriching or mindless, is inevitably being shared. As Abigail Posner of Google pointed out, we share videos of everything from screaming goats or the latest buzzworthy commercial. Human emotion is infectious and formatting content in easily shared tidbits (Twitter, Vine, Youtube, memes, or the like) enables our innate desire to come together. And this coming together around the proverbial roundtable is easier than either. Co-working spaces like Benjamin Dyett's 'Grind'? allow us to work anywhere. His talk emphasized the shift away from 'corporations'? to 'communities'?. Technology has knocked down walls and allowed us to roam free along the countryside (or the Starbucks in most cases) and explore new experiences while still connected.

We are even able to physically build communities. Through the magic of crowdfunding we can essentially lay the building blocks for entire cities. Founder & President of the Prodigy Network Rodrigo Nino discussed how the tallest building in Colombia, the BD Bacatá, was funded by 3,500 Colombians and not a single corporation or institution. For better or worse, technology is making it easier to connect to our fellow (wo)man.

Treat time like the commodity it is

But life is short, and then you die. Through all the technological advances, we still have not become the Terminator, and we will not be back (atleast not in the form we are used to). So, we should treat time like the precious commodity it is. Though we are now accustomed to everything updating in 'realtime,'? we have to stop and take stock in our real time. This is something creative production agency Mssng Peceseloquently displayed with their new product, ThePresent, a clock that measures time annually and gives us a sense of the cycle of the Earth and seasons rather than the EOD deadline.

Author Douglas Rushkoff reminded us that our digital age means that we are always on-call as pointed out in his new book 'Present Shock'?. We are constantly in heads-down smartphone-on mode, so when we do look up, our physical experiences should be as enriched as our constant stream of digital information. Rachel Shechtman  is capitalizing on this notion of all-encompassing brand experiences that intersect retail, media, and publishing on an ever-changing (albeit monthly) basis via her concept store, 'Story.'?

The overarching message of PSFK 2013 was that technology is making it easier to do everything, especially be more connected to our world. How do you see technology connecting us to the world around us and making us more human? Were there any other points that struck a chord with you at the 2013 PSFK New York Conference?

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