Californian trip doggy bag
Having spent 2 weeks in California for ETech 2008 as well as meetings with other like-minded people (academics, designers, start-ups, people from the entertainment/design industries and foresight think-tanks/consultants), I tried to list some of the things that struck me ("what did I learn?"). The first thing that I really felt was the fear of an economic recession, especially for everyone relying on private money (even academics when they do private research). Lots of people, unlike Europe so far, fear something similar to what happen 7 years ago and led to lay-offs, less money in innovation/R&D/new media/weird stuff. The consequences that is often feared by people I met would be a the focus on the short-term (and US companies are already more short-term oriented than european one), more actionable/productive work than speculative/long-term projects.
Another element is that I encountered similar feelings that I have about academia being stuffy and the need to do "something different" but related to the circulation of knowledge and at the same time participating in design/foresight/shaping the future. Perhaps it's because I met people who did not have/wanted their tenure or the sacrifice of academic research competition.
So, I then notice how some structures receive some interest because they sit in between different worlds/process: Kitchen Budapest, Jump Associate or trendcentral (or even the near future laboratory). There seems to be a curiosity towards this new ecology of trendspotting, strategy consulting and think-made tank firms or boutiques.
Next, though was the difficulty in starting off ubicomp/"objects of the future" companies: both to find a domain and also because the western world has given up some much of its capacity (interest?) to create hardware (mostly to China) that it's difficult to make it possible and understandable to others.
As usual, it's always good to hang out/talk with people trying to work on similar aspects (user experience research, think tanks, foresight) because it allowed me to discuss potential services/ideas I/we can offer (though LIFT or the near future laboratory).
And of course, it was the opportunity to work on our pamphlet with Julian, observe California and take pictures of sidewalk, pavement, scifi city and other weird stuff as usual.