Conferences Redux '09 - Micro-Redux

 by Martin Belam, 4 April 2009

You have to wonder about the value of a micro-redux of a redux session of some of the biggest technology events of the year. Nevertheless, I've eventually got around to putting together my notes from an evening I spent in the Sense Loft in Soho watching the 'Conferences Redux' session promoted by the Innovation Forum.

Conference Redux homepage

The two lasting impressions will undoubtedly be the pain of sitting on those stools for a couple of hours, and Matt Jones presenting a summary of Etech showing his invention - the world's first (and, I suspect last) vegetable powered golfing sim game.

Spring onion powered Matt Jones Golf '09

Anyway, here is what struck me on the evening:

The numbers thing

Max Gadney made one really telling point in his brief sum-up of things from TED, which was to do with information visualisation. He felt that in the rush to do ever whizzier 3D interactive graphics, we were maybe over-looking the fundamentals of explaining to people what really big numbers like billion, trillion and zillionaire actually mean.

All the lonely people

Alexander Grünsteidl presented a short video mash-up of The Beatles 'Eleanor Rigby' coupled with lots and lots and lots of still shots of isolated digital nomads at SXSWi, littering the floor in their scramble for electricity to recharge their gadgets.

Of course, there was no small irony in the fact that a great deal of the people at the Conference Redux session were similarly hunched over their laptops, taking notes about the video ;-)

The end of an era

Alan Patrick had been to both TED and SXWSi, and he thought that they were both 'end of an era' experiences, from very different spectrums. He also said he had been going to say that the economies of Web 2.0 were rubbish, but thankfully, the credit crunch had spared him the bother.

Alan Patrick at Conference Redux

He noted that since the cost of attending TED was so high, delegates tried to squeeze the maximum value out of attending every possible session, whereas at SXSWi, people were happier just to hang out and network.

Another point he made was that at SXSWi, if a session was no good after 5 minutes, people dashed for the exit, using Twitter to locate where the nearest 'good' session was.


A big theme that came out of nearly all of the talks was that biotech, sustainability, and the future of urban living had loomed large in the technological future being discussed at Etech, TED, Lift and SXSWi.

I'm one of those people who wavers between thinking "We are all doomed" and "It'll be OK, shiny bright new technologies will solve these problems". It was encouraging to hear about some of the shiny bright new technologies, and the people working on them.

Lots and lots and lots of resources to check out

The organisers of the event gathered together a lot of links to the things that were mentioned, as have some of the individual speakers. Here are just a few:

The Sensephere

I had rather hoped that the Sense Loft would be kitted out like the Sensesphere from William Hartnell era Doctor Who. On that front I was, unsurprisingly, disappointed.

William Hartnell as Doctor Who with The Sensorites

It seemed like a well equipped venue though, even if - as I said - I was in purgatory from sitting on the stools by the end of the night. I must be getting old...

Conference Redux

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