Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sensor-based Knowledge Networks - Mobile Camp Dresden 2011

Dresden not only attracts tourists that sprawl into the city center (or downdown as we say in the North American plains) - it is also an attractor to mobile computing developers, web designers, and researchers in the field.

Last weekend Dresden was for the third time hosting Mobile Camp (currently only in German, but at the closing ceremony the crowd pretty much favored the extension of the event into the international sphere (!)), where questions, new developments around mobile computing were the driving forces. All Friday already the venue of the Faculty of Computer Science of the Technical University of Dresden was flooded by hordes of IT folks, students, and lots of cool projects (cyber-physical systems, 3D visualizations of large-scale ionic accelerators, and the IT crowd of the region - named Silicon Saxony).

Faculty of Computer Science TU DD Copyright: Frank Hamm
So it became a "three-day event" covering from state of the art research via business development to barcamp-like venturing into the future. We soon realized that mobile devices play already a vital role in our daily life - which way is it to become in the near future?

For session (no. 4) I had invited David Orban, Advisor of Singularity University, just currently CEO of dotSUB, and actively researching and lobbying for the Internet of Things. He is very active in the sensor-based knowledge networks especially on the open source format #SPIME.

Anyway due to schedule and timezone shift we decided to do session in Dresden, where Dirk Spannaus was grateful to help with his knowledge from his work at IBM and in Africa around mobile computing. As a side-effect I pretty intuitively decided during the session planning early on Saturday to ask the crowd whether there would be any interest to learn more about TranscendentMan and Ray Kurzweil's work. To my surprise a couple of dozen hands rose up - so a session was fixed for late afternoon.

While flowing around the vast area of the Faculty of Computer Science, meeting new and old friends and fiercely feeding the Twitterwall (#mcdd11) I could feel the "field" that enabled all protagonists of the days to co-create something not easily to catch in words - a "sense of future emergence".

After doing two sessions, the one on sensor-based networks and a second one on #Museum20, where together with Robert Badar of Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden we discussed in which easy to take steps new technology can be embedded in arts institutions, I had trained away my nervousness quite a bit (thanks you all of you, for making me grow on this :-)).

At 5pm I entered the large room where proper video coverage was possible and to my surprise around 30 people were awaiting the unexpected (the movie is yet not open to public in Germany). While doing the final installations I asked, who of the crowd would know about Ray Kurzweil. Roughly ten hands went up. I asked for someone who wanted to explain in his/her own words what Ray's work stands for - which was thankfully taken with no hesitation (there already was a sense of community, which I was missing during the first session in the morning on the sensors, where it half-way through the session was more a frontal lecture with no dialogue emerging).

Learnings from the two sessions on Sat & Sun:

  • Good: even short clips of a few minutes induce vivid conversation, immediate feedback from audience on implications and thought side-effects, emotionally touching story (enabling much more open conversation - only what touches us is worth to be talked about)
  • Tricky: not knowing how the audience reacts (as I had to cancel a semi-public event screening the complete movie just the week earlier, due to lack of interest)
  • Learned: it doesn't need the complete movie to get the conversation going, focus of conversations shifts due to the experience and background of the people (Sat: more on implications on education, Sun: more the fear of "allowing" bots to capture our body (in a sense mobile phones already are an extension of our body ;-))
  • Action: will provide more show times in Dresden (first of the movie clips & conversation on implications) >> restarting OpenCoffeeClubDresden (a loose meeting of students, entrepreneurs, citizens on relevant questions of today)

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