Build and XOXO
Build is a five-day long conference hosted at the Waterfront Studio_ _located in Belfast, Ireland. Created by Andy McMillan, the three day event is nominally about the craft of some of the internet’s best minds but it’s actually a rare creature. Participants can hold group discussions, work with others, on their own or even come down for the day to play and relax. Globally renowned designers and web practitioners are invited to speak, pulling in an international group of attendees. It also features “hands-on workshops, a day of practical, an evening of film, live music, evening lectures, a craft beer festival, a pub quiz, a pop-up shop, markets, exhibitions, meetups and parties.” Maker-oriented workshops like leather craft, chocolatiering and coffee roasting, complemented with the festival, fringe event and great local elements makes for a well-rounded and personal event, focused on creating a memorable experience.
The XOXO conference is similar in nature and co-created by Andy Baio and the very same McMillan. Located in Portland, Oregon and hosted in The Yale Union Laundry Building, XOXO is said to be a “celebration of disruptive creativity”. It’s divided into three parts: the Market, the Conference and the Fringe program over a four-day period. The downstairs portion of the building is the Market, consisting of small food businesses native to Portland. The Conference is the main focus of XOXO, on the upper floor, featuring talks by leaders of creative communities, creators and start-ups. The Fringe program takes the overarching ideas from the conference and binds them with local venues to create a series of unique events: lectures, workshops, hackspace, live music, film screenings, indie video games, a craft beer festival, meetups and parties.
“Great minds think alike” seems to apply here. Baio started working on his conference and after speaking with McMillan, they realized their plans had so much in common that they should simply join forces, creating what would become the largest Kickstarter event project ever. Where Build started from a web conference and spread to a more diversified lineup, XOXO seems to have sprung from the vibrant Portland scene. Whatever the genesis, they are both superbly crafted and offer remarkable combinations of the things that excite us.
“Converge to Inspire” is the slogan at the Eyeo Festival, a four-day long festival at the Walker Art Center in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota. Pre-festival workshops start the affair, followed that same night with a keynote presentation and the Ignite Eyeo event—where a handful of speakers are each given five minutes to present 20 slides. Creative technologists and great artists travel from all over the world to be able to connect and exchange ideas through presentation, workshops and conversations. It’s the fusion of art, interaction and information that unveils the upcoming possibilities of the modern age.
The best overarching description of the event was tweeted by Design Technologist and Lecturer, Sha Hwang: “high resolution, real time flocking simulation of artists, designers, coders, makers.”
The SHARE conference takes place in Belgrade for three days per year. It started in 2011 as a way to exchange progressive ideas and knowledge in the fields of society, technology, the Internet, music and new media. “SHARE gathers more than two thousand activists, bloggers, engineers, programmers and artists from Serbia and internationally, in three days of interesting lectures, workshops and meetings at the Dom Omladine. The lectures are given by leading international stars in the field of Internet activism and social changes, cyber dissidents and world-class bloggers, who will educate the audience on new forms of activism and approach in use of new media and advanced technologies.” On the same grounds, there is also a “Share market”: participants can leave an item—a book, photo, drawing—to share with other or take something in return. “Share by Night” was a nighttime festival hosting electronic musicians from around the world.
“PICNIC is a leading European platform for innovation and creativity.” They are more than your average conference, they are a festival. PICNIC is comprised of activities, lectures, workshops, competitions, debates and discussions—anyone can buy a ticket and join in! The festival, launched in 2006, takes place once a year in Amsterdam during a few days in the month of September. The PICNIC festival also aims to solve the problems that companies can’t solve, with people from all professions. It’s a place to exchange ideas and develop new concepts and applications for technology. “Through our activities, we address the mega trends of our time and explore how to creatively apply technology in order to meet business, social and environmental challenges.”
The Do Lectures’ message is extraordinary in its simplicity: “people who Do things can inspire the rest of us to go and Do things, too.” Each year, for three days, a small set of people are invited down to Fforest in Wales, UK to talk about what they do—be it big, small or extraordinary. They gather in small lecture halls, around fires and at dinner tables to discuss ideas and plans of action to initiate change in the world. After the conference, the talks are posted online, on their website, for the world to watch. “The one thing the Doers of the world Do, apart from Do amazing things, is to inspire the rest of us to go and Do amazing things too. They are fire-starters.”
It started off as a conference for web geeks—heavy on the web development and design. Now,_ dConstruct_ has evolved into a conference that fuses web technology, design, culture and society. It takes place every year on the first Friday of September in Brighton, UK and pulls in folks from all over Europe. For one day, a series of talks and workshops are organized: some sessions are more practical while the majority are all about vision and perception. The topics are not at all conservative: from playfulness and creativity to digital preservation and science fiction. The conference is inspiring brain candy for the technological mind—with the option of education through workshops. It will have every participant impassioned and yearning to research new ideas and to try new techniques.
ZURICH.MINDS, founded by Rolf Dobelli, is a community of leaders in science, the arts and business. It’s about the exchange of ideas between scholars and luminaries that pass through, or that live in, Zurich. The flagship conference meets once a year and several, smaller, conferences happen throughout the year—all by invite-only. “We are driven by passion and curiosity. We strive for deep understanding and love new ideas. Our goal is to improve the quality of our decisions as private individuals, as role models and as citizens of this planet—and to inspire others to do so.” Past speakers and attendees have included, but are not limited to: Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Paul Romer, Matt Ridley and Antje Rey.
Pause Talk is a creative forum that takes place at _Cafe Pause _in Tokyo’s Ikebukuro district. On the first Monday of every month, at 8 p.m., a small group of about 20 creative participants—a mix of newbies, regulars or anyone passing through—gather and discuss projects and various upcoming cultural events happening in Tokyo. Their own photographer, Michael Holmes, is there to capture it all on camera. It really embodies the essence of any good forum or conference: a bunch of like-minded and interesting individuals, rarely sticking to one specific topic, simply hanging out and sharing what’s on their minds and their calendars. There are many such small monthly events around the world, we like Pause Talk for the tone of their communication, the helping and advice-giving aspect as well as the decidedly pan-national/expat vibe it seems to convey.
The Farmhouse Conference is a backyard storytelling gathering—but far from a barnyard conference. The Farmhouse is an old plantation home located in the heart of Hollywood, right off Sunset Blvd. and is a coworking, co-living space (though, as the residents put it, it’s really Civ’s place—a veteran canine—she just lets them use it.) The conference takes place annually with ten speakers—five men and five women. No projectors or slides are involved, just incredible stories told by amazing people all under a 100 year old avocado tree. After the day of talks, everyone parties the night away with free booze, music and treats under the beautifully lit tree. When all is said and done, participants are welcome to camp out in the backyard with their own equipment. The Farmhouse Conference makes our list for its format, tone and eclectic mix of speakers.
Creative Mornings was launched in 2008 as a free monthly lecture series for creative types. Since its creation in New York City, it’s expanded to include a multitude of cities around the world such as: Los Angeles, Berlin, Auckland, Milan and Geneva. The lectures concentrate on one topic: the innovation of art and technology or as Tina Roth Eisenberg, the Brooklyn-based founder of Creative Mornings, calls it “Art+Tech=Magic!” Each talk is about 20 minutes long with free coffee and a light breakfast provided for by the organizer. It begins at 8:30 a.m. and by 10 a.m. everyone’s already off to work! It’s a lightweight conference that does not take up an entire day but still offers both lectures and interactions between like-minded people. The best way to start the workday.