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Emerging Technology 2008
Jon Lebkowsky, 30 Nov 07

Our own Alex Steffen is a keynote speaker at ETech 2008, O'Reilly's Emerging Technology Conference, March 3-6 in San Diego. ETech is an excellent jam session on technology innovation, also exploring the implications, ethical and otherwise, of new technology developments - worldchanging stuff. The social web of today pretty much had its gestation at Etech gatherings in the early 2000s.

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Is there a good link to past eTech presentations as mp3 or video?

(I think I asked here at WC 3 years ago about how seriously people were working to replace "meatspace" conferences with virtual ones. I feel now, as I did then, that the problem is really about the profitability of conventional conferences, and that essentially "no one speaks" for the less energy and environmentally intensive path.)

Posted by: odograph on 30 Nov 07

"The social web of today pretty much had its gestation at Etech gatherings in the early 2000s."

Sorry to double post, but maybe I should ask, that if the social web of today could not "gestate" on the social web, what good is it?

Posted by: odograph on 30 Nov 07

There are many links to past ETech sessions – as far as I know they're all recorded, and all posted as podcasts. You can find some of those links via the ETech blog:

I totally agree about the need to go virtual with conferences, and many do have a virtual component. A couple of thoughts to the contrary, though:

1) Virtual is never the same as f2f, and I've found that relationships and ongoing conversations are far more robust when they're not strictly virtual. You ask about virtual gestation of the "social web" - much of that work was happening online, but there was real power in coalescing blog and social network developers in one place to talk about it (in 2002-2003, especially). I first heard some of Tim O'Reilly's thoughts about "Web 2.0" (much of which is "social web") in conversations at ETech, some time before his seminal overview was published.

So I think much or most of that "gestation" was happening online, but it was catalyzed by physical meetings, and especially by discussions at Etech and South by Southwest.

2) How many would have to stop attending conferences before flights and other travel-related sources of carbon spew were truly reduced? I'm not saying we shouldn't reduce the number of physical conferences, I'm totally on board for that; in fact I was thinking to post about it as a potential solution. But if conference-goers are getting real value from their travels, if I ask them to give that up, I'd want to show how it will have an impact, with some since of the metrics.

Offsetting is increasingly common, but I don't trust that approach. Sort of like recycling: I may feel better about my consumption if I'm recycling containers like crazy, but how do I know that the containers I toss in the bin are truly recycled? I've heard that substantial volumes of materials that are "recycled" actually still find their way into garbage dumps, because there's no market for them. Similarly, when I pay for offsetting, how can I know that the dollars are used to fund "real" offsets? I'm skeptical.

Posted by: Jon Lebkowsky on 30 Nov 07

I hope you'll permit me this rueful observation: suburban types, at home tending their gardens are part of the problem, but trendy city dwellers, jetting around the world, are part of the solution.

(I appreciate your comments, and buy them to some degree, but a lot is really just about who's ox is gored, and who's identity is reinforced.)

Posted by: odograph on 30 Nov 07

To follow up, TreeHugger reports from Scandinavia:

[...] Either way, videoconferencing is enjoying a revival of sorts here in Scandinavia as bandwidth gets better, HD videoconferencing is emerging and companies are being forced to take a harder look at travel policies and carbon impacts. Telia, Sweden's now-privatized telephone company, said it saves 70 million crowns (more than US$10 million) a year by its "green" travel and meeting policy. And the Swedish Road Administration said it has made 50 percent of its major meetings videoconferences. The first step to a green travel policy is determining whether a meeting is actually even necessary - Telia's travel has dropped 30 percent since implementing its policy. (Did the folks in Bali think this over?)

Did they indeed (but good to hear that "a harder look at travel policies and carbon impacts" is taking root).

Posted by: odograph on 7 Dec 07



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