Five things from REMIX NYC


My colleague Alice Walker and I have just spent three days at REMIX NYC summit, a conference devoted to the innovative possibilities at the intersection of the arts and technology. The conference comprised 23 hours of speaker panels, debate, founder stories, keynotes, performances, site visits at a different venue on each day (Google NYC HQ, MoMA and Bloomberg HQ).

After so many thought-provoking sessions, it was almost impossible to come up with just 5 takeaways for museums and cultural institutions, but here we go…

Create participatory experiences. An overriding theme of the conference was about how facilitating active participation in visitors/users creates empassioned and committed communities, brand loyalty, high quality content and lasting connections. We heard about the communities created by Maker Faire, Secret Cinema, Kickstarter, Wikipedia, FIRST and RED and the positive impact, free giving of time and innovative thinking that continue to emerge from these organisations.

 Be a romantic. Tim Le Berecht 'changemaker' and author of The Business Romantic, charmed and inspired the audience at REMIX NYC with his mission to bring the romantic spirit back to business. For him, the visitor experience must not be about giving the audience what they think they want but instead to ensure that there’s the level of mystery, difficulty and hardship required to inspire passion, loyalty and continued interest. In the same vein, Randy Weiner spoke about his nightclub, The Box, whose special treatment of VIP attendees means putting them to work. Rather than inspiring revolt amongst this hard-to-please group, this approach leads to VIPs returning again and again.

Follow your conviction, develop a clear purpose and others will follow. From Stephen Zucker (Khan Academy) to Ryan Seashore (CodeNow) and from Dean Kamen (FIRST) to Brad Hargreaves (General Assembly), many speakers explained how once they had found their clear purpose, based on an authentic conviction, defined challenge or passion for change, that they were able to inspire others to partner, support or just to buy in and give their time. Some extremely inspiring founder stories.

Museums are all in the memory business. Jake Barton (Local Projects) talked of his realisation that ‘all museums are in the memory business’ and that his role is to stimulate deep experiences and create lasting memories. Quoting Confucius, he argued that the best way to inspire visitors retain information about a museum visit or to become truly engaged with education is to give them a puzzle to solve.

There are many paths into a creative and/or tech career. We heard from many places the importance of investing in the right people to set up a business or start up for success. Dan Goods works for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab but he’s an artist not an astro-physicist – so he works truly at the intersection of art and tech. His route to NASA was anything but traditional, involving complex glass bottle art projects and flunking out of the school, but his work there is all about bringing complex concepts and data to life and capturing the mystery of the universe by doing so. Not a dry eye in the house during that presentation and clearly an inspired hire by someone at NASA.


Special mentions:

Seb Chan from Cooper Hewitt for a sneak preview of the ‘Pen’ – sure to be the talk of the museum community for 2015 and the ‘new’ Art Lens/Cleveland Museum of Art

Tod Machover, Professor of Music and Media, MIT Media Lab, for a window into the incredible work he does with audio and community engagement for his ‘Symphony for a city’ series. Waiting with baited breath for A Symphony for Lucerne in 2015.

Jess Butcher, CMO, Blippar, for successfully demo’ing very cool Blippar tech on an iPhone in front of the entire REMIX audience. Pretty plucky undertaking.

Sree Sreenivasan, Chief Digital Officer at the Met, for walking the walk around sharing information, credit and tech knowledge in the museum community – and for his son suggesting that Glenn Lowry might be his father’s mortal enemy (he’s not!)! And for a very successful launch of the new Met app.

Check out the WNYC website for podcasts, slides and other info about the conference.

What have I missed? Join the conversation here.

- author