I am grateful for the opportunity to attend LIFT conference this year (thanks to organizers).
What left me thinking after the conference was the access to information, both in terms of breadth and speed. Within minutes, video recordings of talks became available online. The army of healthily pulsating Apple logos seen from the speakerâ€™s stage was daunting, tappitytaptaptap, opinions and snippets of the talks being available and marked online as soon as they came to existence, in peopleâ€™s ears and eyes. You are there, but at the same time you can potentially be anywhere.
LIFT was a big contrast to the academic conferences I am more used to, such as CHI, DIS, DUX, Ubicomp, and Mobile HCI. What you see in these conferences as audience is guaranteed to be old, usually at least 1 year. You as a shy speaker have little to worry about the presentation because your paper is your real glory. Having been published in these conferences can be considered that you earned a little stamp of quality for your work, at least in the eyes of your professors at your graduate school. Your paper might end up being read by less than a handful of people, but thatâ€™s ok â€“ because you registered your name in the ACM digital library. Who knows, perhaps in 10 years there will be some other graduate students who will cite your publication? OK, I am overly negative now. Being a Korean and because of my personal upbringing, I am and will be perpetually chased by the favoritism to meritocracy â€“ subsequently I still respect the academic institutions and their authorities.
But the world has changed. Itâ€™s about the influence. Information not found through google may have less value to humanity in general; outdated information goes through devaluation not necessarily because of the content but because of streams of other information we have to digest everyday.
Information is power. In many countries in Asia â€“ knowledge and information has been used as a weapon to keep the general public out of power. The infrastructure will soon be there for any willing individuals to have access to the gigantic information pool created in the online universe. But there, we are defining a new type of meritocracy: Ability to search, ability to filter, ability to ignore, and ability to build and control online identity and reputation.
It is uplifting to hear the story of an undercover video clip made online by Humane Society, prompting USDA investigation which lead to recalling of millions of kilograms of beef; it is scary to watch the interview of a Korean celebrity against all the malignant gossips created around him, amplified and spread by the Internet. We are marching towards creating human societies in the subjective online universe â€“ comprised of smaller bubbles of entities with their existence endowed by the attention and interests they manage to evoke; others wither into ether, or in memory and emotion of their creators.
I have no showmanship when it comes to speak in front of hundreds of pulsating Apple logos or unfamiliar people. I felt standing on a street on stage in front of LIFT audience and camera crews, a street that I cannot perceive how it is shaped, where it was, or how crowded it will be. I felt I was leaving a piece of me in a space that is not governed by the natural law of time. There was no protection of the wall that academic conferences provided, making the information not so accessible. Would I be able to get used to being on such spaces? Itâ€™s a question mark. After all â€“ so long as I donâ€™t google myself, those spaces minimizes their existence for me to a certain extent.
There is always a battle in preparing my talk to cut the material short to fit 20-min stage time I am usually given. 20 minutes is still way too short for me as I usually work with 1 hour or longer slots of time at my work place. But I do understand very well my value as a speaker is up to my ability to condense whatever material I got into the given time slot. After all, many professions depend on how well we tell the story, not on how well you do your job in your own world. My LIFT talk was mainly about the process of setting up a design competition in communities we went to for quick yet much focused ethnographic research, as a complementary method to understand the communities we knew almost nothing about. I didnâ€™t go about its value and validity much, which probably disappointed some people but probably would have bored lots of people who do not work in the related professions if I did.
A few remarkable things for me about LIFT: I had the honor of being in the same session with the reverend Genevieve and Paul â€“ which will be very memorable for a long time to come. I met a few brilliant minds that I never knew before, through the smartly arranged social breaks. I enjoyed experiencing the little Swiss moments, like the cheese fondue dinner, slices of cheese at lunch time, crisp air and Genevaâ€™s efficiency. If you are around and available â€“ come join next year! Or you can always watch videos online, without the extras.