Brief thoughts on Lift 10

I’ve been super busy since getting back from Lift, but here are some delayed thoughts on my time in Geneva.

As previously mentioned, I was super lucky to be awareded a Student pass to the Lift Conference in Geneva. There have been some great talks in previous years, and I’d watched lots of them online, so was intrigued as to what it would be like to be there in person. As expected, the draw were not the talks themselves (which were decidedly mixed, it must be said), but the many opportunities to meet other attendees, both in workshops and the breaks between sessions. It was also great to have Ishac and Jacek there as well (exhibiting and volunteering, respectively) – being in a room of 800 strangers is tiring, so it was a relief to regularly be able to go talk to somebody familiar before taking the plunge again!

Some stand out bits and pieces, in no particular order:

> The Reinventing books, magazines and newspapers in the digital age workshop which kicked off day one promised much, and the initial discussion bit was interesting (slides here), but the main workshop bit felt like a bit of a disappointment to me – but I think that was mainly because I’ve become so spoiled thinking and working in a similar way (collaboratively, openly, rapid-fire) at CIID, whereas for most of the other participants it appeared to be more of an eye opener.

> Chris and Kenichi’s Animal Superpowers project (RCA Design Interactions, 2008) was super fun – some really playful thoughts, beautifully executed.

> The Hacking Venture Capital workshop by Fred Destin was, to my great surprise, great – I was expecting interesting but generally dry numbers and strategies, instead it was engaging and a fascinating look into a world that has always been a bit of a mystery to me.

> Enjoyed hearing Björn Jeffery talk about some of Bonnier’s design principles for mag+ from their perspective, having talked with Jack and Timo about it previously, but it was a pity his speaking slot was so short.

> Russell’s talk was nominally about ‘Printing out the Internet’, and he did talk about Newspaper Club a bit, but also touched on various other experiments with combining the internet and intangible (meta)data with the physical world. The mentions of analogue friction and magnificent bits of infrastructure made me smile and think of my thesis, and then reminded me that I didn’t yet know what I was going to do with those thoughts. But nice thoughts they were. And who could forget that big red button?

But still, many of the presentations were suprisingly poor, both visually and their delivery – even when the thoughts themsleves, once you persevered past those rather large obstacles, were interesting. I’m always puzzled by how people manage to take perfectly acceptable and functional, if bland, defaults, and put so much effort into creating large distractions out of them instead. The talks where the twitter backchannel was more interesting than the talk itself were, suffice to say, not the winners! Fortunately, the good ones were pretty good, and there was enough food for thought to go around.

As a reflection on the conference as a whole, over the three days, I found it interesting to notice how used to multitasking I was, especially while watching conference videos online – suddenly trying to force myself to give my entire attention to the same thing happening directly in front of me, without other tabs to flick to, went surprisingly against some sort of ingrained instinct. The sign of a good talk was, quite literally, the ones where I didn’t feel the urge to open my laptop and only half engage, but where I wanted to take it all in, both visually (and not just slides, also body language) and the presentation itself.

Overall, it was a great experience, and I’m really pleased I went (despite losing a precious week of thesis-thinking-time!). I loved exploring and feeling my way around a new city. It was my first time at a proper, formal conference, so that in itself, aside from any content or people, was interesting. I met a bunch of great people – in workshops, through the exhibition and the volunteer teams, and through randomly talking to (former) strangers during breaks. I hope to stay in touch with a couple of them, and that, surely, has got to be good.

And then, as suddenly as I had arrived – it was Sunday night, I was back home, and on Monday morning it was back to CIID, and back to work!

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