It's the middle of October already and in much of the northern hemisphere sweaters are coming out of closets while yellow and red leaves spin their way down from tree tops to slick pavement. It's also that time of year in which 500 idea addicts from the science, design, and business worlds all descend upon the quintessentially quaint seaside village of Camden, Maine for Pop!Tech, an annual conference that touts itself as “a one-of-a-kind conference, a community of remarkable people, and an ongoing conversation about science, technology and the future of ideas.”
A conference to discuss the future of ideas is not entirely unique. Pop!Tech sits in good company with TED, Davos, the Aspen Ideas Festival, Louisville-based IdeaFestival, and others. But what sets this year's Pop!Tech conference apart is its focus on free, multilingual distribution of conference presentations and the organizers’ recruitment of bloggers from around the world to document the discussion in Portuguese, Mandarin, Spanish, Arabic, Farsi, and Swahili. The hope is that, beyond documentation, the bloggers will serve as a bridge between the 500 conference attendees privileged enough to afford the $3,500 registration cost and the 1 billion plus users of the internet worldwide.
To help strengthen that bridge Pop!Tech partnered with dotSUB to provide an easy way for internet users to help subtitle and translate videos of conference presentations. Already eight of the videos have been subtitled in Russian, Chinese, Portuguese, Swahili, Farsi, Arabic, French and Spanish. You can now watch Thomas Friedman talk about environmentalism and Bunker Roy discuss social entrepreneurism in Swahili, for example.
Among the polyglot bloggers who have been given small scholarships to attend Pop!Tech and reflect on their experiences, nearly all of them have been frequently featured here on Global Voices. Juliana Rincón (who held a successful web campaign to raise supplementary money for her costly trip from Colombia to Camden) is a veteran contributor here on Global Voices and also a leader of the Rising Voices project, HiperBarrio. She'll be covering Pop!Tech in Spanish at her personal blog, Medea Material. Blogging in Arabic will be Global Voices Middle East & North Africa Regional Editor (as well as Arabic Language Editor) Amira Al Hussaini. Though unable to attend in person, quintessential bridge-blogger Jacky Peng will be tuning in to the live webcast of the conference and reporting his reflections in Mandarin. Paris Marashi of the celebrated video blog This Iranian American Life will pen her thoughts about the conference in Farsi. Tiago Dória is official bridge-blogger for the bustling Portuguese-speaking corner of the blogosphere and Global Voices Sub-Saharan Africa Editor Ndesanjo Macha will be writing in Swahili at Jikomboe.
Given their shared penchant for all that lies between the intersections of technology, society, and business, it should come as no surprise that the once separate domains of elite, jet-setting conference-goers and always-connected bloggers are increasingly starting to look like the same crowd. Also unsurprising, both groups are learning from one another. Bloggers – stripped of their keyboards, Google-searching, and video-editing – come to realize the importance of eloquent speaking and face-to-face emotional connections. Conference organizers, meanwhile, have come to understand that the two to three day physical event is only one element of a larger process: sustained communication and collaboration. Ideas are wonderful things and have always been at the heart of slick annual summits like TED and Pop!Tech. But turning brilliant ideas into well-conceived and thoroughly committed projects is an art for which the tools of web2.0 are particularly well-suited.
The theme of this year's Pop!Tech conference is “The Human Impact” and the list of speakers promises for some innovative thinking on how human beings impact the world and how the world impacts us in return. But an innovative idea is often only as valuable as the distance it is able to spread. We'll be looking forward to the reporting and reflections of our blogging friends as they help us focus the global conversation later this week. If you would like an email reminder to tune into the livecast of the conference beginning on the 18th, you can request one here.