Disruption – Of Beats over Lunch and Little Bulletins

This post is a part of the blog relay leading up to Media Evolution The Conference 2013. I spoke there last year and is happy to contribute with this text. This is the first post in the relay. Tomorrow Lauren Anderson of Collaborative Consumption will take over the baton.

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Last year at Media Evolution, like many other conferences I’d been at, I had the pleasure of doing what happens at many a conference. Besides my own session with Tricia Wang, curated by Geraldine de Bastion we did the obvious.- mingled in between sessions, shimmied through the crowds, and traded pleasantries in between the gaps in the conference program. But not on one day! On this day, I happened to peek behind two big doors and stumble across something that changed the way I saw breaks at conferences – specifically the lunch break.

 

“It’s called Lunchbeat,” she said shouting at the top of her voice so I could hear. It wasn’t just that we had a disco ball and red strobe lights for lighting, or that the ambience of the place was such that you couldn’t tell what time it was outside – day or night. “Come on!” she yelled as she twirled around and along with other strangers who would soon turn out to friends.

We danced away our lunch break, and occasion otherwise reserved for sitting down with sandwiches in our hands and balancing drinks on our laps, with napkins and half-finished sentences between bites.

My lunch was disrupted, and I’ve never been the same since
 

Lunchbeat helped me meet dozens of new friends, 9 of whom I have had the pleasure of making a deliberate effort to meet up with since then, in different parts of the globe. The fact that our lunch was interrupted and replaced by an hour of grooving, jiving and shaking a leg it brought us very close – and what sealed the deal was visiting the bathhouse later.

I’m not here to discuss the merits and demerits of the word disruption, its context and example, or whether it warrants our special attention. I am, however, here to paint a picture that besides the lunches, lights, beats and breaks there’s an underlying element of connection that we’ve yet to break.

Globally, we have yet to disrupt our own views and perceptions of the emerging parts of the world. Trapped between those that we are already similar to and the international media – what’s there to be made of the African continent besides lions, diamonds and war? What of the different kinds of written word content that we consume or create? How accessible is it offline to a world that’s gone not just mobile-first (as one sexy Silicon Valley startup might put it) but mobile-only (tablet included in this case)?

 

I got the chance this past week to judge Culture Shift in Johannesburg, South Africa and see a team put together over 48 odd hours hacking their own solution. This generation, thanks to Twitter, waning attention spans and an inundation of content and messaging, may prefer short-form content with a focus on participation in the final product. If this is true, then why not create a solar-powered vending machines – for poetry and prose? A genius idea that puts in the hands of the audience the chance to create micro-anthologies of poems and mixed media, and if put in different parts of the globe – say Palestine and Israel or Pakistan and India or Northern Nigeria and the South – who knows what cultural exchanges could come forth. 

 

Whether someone eventually beat boxes to a few pieces of poetry printed out of this machine, or they sit back with a sandwich in one hand, a napkin in the other and balancing a drink on their lap, what we know is disruption may be closer than we think: all it takes is one devious look away from a regular break in the day. And perhaps a song to get us going.

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The conference is sold out but you can buy tickets to attend the evening program here.

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