Posts about davos08

Davos08: Conversation v. performance

Last night, I got to go to a cultural dinner with a dozen artists scattered around the room: pick your person, pick your medium. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma was at the table behind; Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, writer and director of the wonderful film The Life of Others to the left; theatrical artist Peter Sellaras to the rear; musician Peter Gabriel limping (on a broken foot) from over there.

I grabbed a chair at novelist Paulo Coelho‘s table because I’d heard some of his story of interacting with his community of readers at DLD and wanted to hear more (and I’ll call him to write a longer post soon). I was having a ball but then the dinner shifted to presentations from the artists, starting with Catterina Fake, who showed how she enables art from everyone on Flickr. Some of the talks were good, some weren’t.

What really struck me was the contrast between conversation and performance. Of course, we value performance from artists. But given the opportunity to converse — on a blog or at a dinner — we have a richly different experience: probing, questioning, responding, learning. Is conversation art? Well, of course it can be. I don’t mean to say one is better than the other, but once the artist stands before an audience, it can become an act of showing off. It becomes, almost by definition, self-conscious.

Now clearly, artists can’t afford constant conversation. But note that more and more, artists are using their art to promote their appearances — note Madonna’s new representation deal that puts concerts first and Peter Gabriel’s argument that pirated CDs are marketing for concerts. It’s not just a matter of economics — the record business falling apart — but also of a new relationship between artists and fans, who seek more of a personal touch, more of a relationship. Coehlo, in return, also seeks a relationship. That is why he blogs.

In an era when media, including art, are becoming dominated by the internet, we need to recognize the impact of the idea that the internet is less about content and more about relationships. Is art at its heart content or a relationship, a conversation?

Davos08: David Gergen boogies

Last night’s Google party is the party of parties in Davos — and isn’t that, itself, a commentary on its power in this world. There you have the old and powerful and the young and powerful mixing to loud music and sushi. It yields wonderful scenes like this one: long-time White House adviser David Gergen boogying:

Davos08: Collaborative innovation

In a session on collaborative innovation — a theme of this year’s Davos — Mark Parker of Nike tells the crowd that Nike plus — the gadget you put on your shoe to hook you into your iPod and the internet and a network of runners — has hit 40 million miles run so far. What’s coolest is that the system connects runners so they communicate and get together to organize races. The internet is all about making connections. Those who enable those connections win.

Later, Reuters’ Tom Glocer says the company has an internal innovation program that budgets money to ideas employees can submit in one page.

Davos08: Wireless

“If you defend the status quo when the quo has lost its status, you’re in serious difficulty,” says Sony head Howard Stringer in a panel on the future of mobile. “It’s a most exhilerating time” because it’s all up in the air. A year ago, he says, cable companies were negotiating from a position of strength. But look at their stock prices now; they reflect the walls falling around them. This has made them nicer to deal with. But he’s not saying he’s sitting in daisies himself. “It’s going to be hard to hold onto the price of content.” Then again, he turns to a Chinese mobile phone mogul and says that if Sony could sell just one song to each of his 500 million users, his music company would be instantly (and apparently finally) profitable.

Stringer, the funniest man at Davos (far funnier than Al Gore), says out of nowhere that he likes Google. Why? asks moderator David Kirkpatrick of Fortune. Because Google’s going to buy wireless spectrum and they’ll be in his business even more. The only reason he came onto the panel to be close to Google’s Eric Schmidt.

NBC’s Jeff Zucker says mobile is not that important to the network. Nonetheless, they’re going to put out 2,200 hours of programming on mobile from the Olympics.

Stringer says young people will drive usage in ways we can’t predict. The hot fact passing around conferences this week is that novels written — written — on mobile phones are selling like crazy in Japan. Stringer says mobile will be the platform for everything.

Google’s Schmidt asks what’s new “and I think it’s the arrival of short-form video as a category.” He says it’s not a replacement for a prior form but an entirely new form.

He also says he is so bullish about mobile as a business because he believes the players are motivated to make sense of the current lack of standards and create a unified platform.

There’s much discussion about openness from regulation to devices to business models. From the audience, Jonathan Zittrain asks about whether an open system will bring us viruses on our phones and a new frontier of unreliability. Schidt responds: “Open platforms are like Linux, not like Windows.” Oohs from the geeky audience.

Michael Arrington asks FCC Commissioner Kevin Martin about the open letter Google wrote requesting openness in the upcoming spectrum auction, wondering whether this made the decision harder — as pressure — or easier, as covering fire with the other commissioners. “The open letter is nothing like the pressure that others can put on in more private ways. I actually appreciated the openness of it,” Martin responds.

Somebody asks whether any of the companies represented planned to include scent — olfactory functionality — in phones since it’s the only sense not addressed by the internet. Gawd, and you thought it was irritating to hear other people’s mobile phones. I dread having their smells waft my way. Another person from the audience whether anyone is working on holographic images to replace the tiny screen on mobiles. That doesn’t seem to be in the works, either.

Davos08: David Cameron on small video

I ask David Cameron about WebCameron and how he talks to the small camera instead of the big one — recorded on my small Reuters mojo camera.

Here’s my Guardian column on Webcameron.