LIFT Asia 08: Money, cities, vigils, islands

We’re back in Seoul now, after having seen the first full LIFT Asia to its eminently successful conclusion.

Let there be no doubt that pulling off something like this across the (cultural no less than physical) distance that separates Korea from Switzerland is A Big Deal. So congratulations are in order for Laurent Haug, Sylvie Reinhard, and the LIFT team, as well as Daum’s Jaewoong Lee, prime mover on the Korean side of the house. Thanks for all your hard work.

I have to admit that I was initially pretty skeptical about having the conference on Chejudo, Korea’s honeymoon/resort island – I thought hotel costs and the flight down from Gimpo might present a significant barrier to entry where younger attendees especially were concerned – but it doesn’t seem to have been an issue. The crowd was much younger and less corporate than I’d feared: probably not such a great thing for the dealcentric entrepreneurs in the Swiss contingent, but most excellent good as far as I’m concerned.

Contentwise, I thought this was an unusually strong brace of presentations:

– “The future of money” is a phrase that’s been in the air a lot this last year; my own interest stems from two of Jan Chipchase’s 2007 posts, the first about the Ugandan practice of sente, and the second about audio cues in the Japanese Edy mobile payments system. If these are two data points from the field, what might other points on the line they describe look like? And with regard to urban informatics specifically: how might the cash transaction, that most basic of daily big-city rituals, be inflected by new technosocial practices around money? Further enthused by Chris Woebken’s work in the area, this is something I’ve been giving quite a good deal of thought to lately.

LIFT’s session on just that topic, then, could not have been more timely, or more interesting. Featuring talks from domain expert David Birch and none-other-than Bruce Sterling, the talks ranged from nitty-gritty reasons why we might want to replace cash (e.g., it’s both inherently expensive and regressive, and poor people pay disproportionately for using it) to soaring rhetoric about the place of digital money in the future reunification of the Korean peninsula (!). Tons of, augh, value for money here…

– Nurri and I both really enjoyed Ilpyo Hong’s amazing talk on activism and the newer media. He started with a history of the mass candlelight vigil in Korea – a recent enough phenomenon here that its origins can be traced to an identifiable core of middle-school girls – moving on to a discussion of Hope Institute and its platform for large-scale social activism. Hong’s organization leverages (again, you’ll excuse the expression) the Web’s unmatched penetration into everyday life here to discover which issues could most benefit from the kind of attention they can bring to bear, and then refine suggestions for specific action. It’s the sort of thing to kindle the greying embers of idealism in a cynic’s heart.

– My own talk was part of an unusually coherent package; I thought it complemented Jef Huang and Soo-in Yang‘s wonderful talks very nicely.

I gave a framing spiel called “The Long Here, the Big Now, and other tales of the networked city,” and then Jef and Soo-in grounded the ideas I’d been tossing around in specific projects. Jef showed some projects addressing how various everyware technologies, used in conjunction with mega-scale display surfaces, might enhance urban life; Soo-in followed that by sharing just how far the Living City work has come along in the last year. (It’s clear, for example, that the Living Glass work has been conceived as part of a coherent suite – better: an ecosystem – of related interventions in the urban fabric.)

Great work all ’round, a lot of fun to participate in, and a double heaping helping of kudos to Nicolas Nova for having put these particular ducks in a row.

For now, we’re holed up in the piss-elegant and wonderfully gangsterish Imperial Palace hotel, with its gold-veined Louis the Umpteenth mirrors, blind masseurs and slinky hostess girls. (It was an Internet Deal.) Will have much more to say on our return to Helsinki.

2 responses to “LIFT Asia 08: Money, cities, vigils, islands”

  1. Laurent says :

    Hey Adam,
    thanks for coming. I think we just had our best ever event, and you played a big part with your talk but also advices and support.
    Now is the hard part: waiting for the next conference. Lift is such a high for me that I’m kind of getting addicted to these moments of over-stimulation… and waiting for the next one is getting tougher ;)

  2. nicolas says :

    kudos for your contribution too

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