DCWEEK Keynotes Warner Theater Title BoardOver 2000 people crowded Warner Theater this week for the DCWEEK keynotes that capped off Give2Max day, which raised $2 million for local non-profits in 24 hours.

“Washington DC is the best place to start a new business,” said Mayor Vince Gray, as he declared November 2011 the first ever “Technology Month” in Washington DC.

Co-produced by iStrategyLabs and Tech Cocktail, Digital Capital Week, or DCWEEK “is a week-long festival in the US capital focused on bringing together designers, developers, entrepreneurs, and social innovators of all kinds.”

Six presenters spoke at the keynotes Wednesday about the role of technology in mobility and transportation. What does our future digital world look like, and how will we use technology to get us there?

DCWEEK Keynotes Stage DesignGenevieve Bell, Interaction and Experience Research Director at Intel Labs, sees technology and transportation as a social issue. An anthropologist by study, Bell works to bridge the potential of digital functionality with the practical aspects of real-world use. “Design for reality,” Bell says.

The challenge is to create something “so delightful” that we want to use it regularly, in place of what we already have. Bell asked the audience to consider how technology allows us to facilitate multiple lives – for work, school, sports, friends, and more. She suggests that technology provides an outlet for escape, a social safety net (like reminders of names and birthdays) and even helps us keep our secrets.

Krish Prabhu, President & CEO of AT&T Labs, may agree. Prabhu talked about how AT&T is “innovating the future,” and pointed to the company’s 1993 “You Will” ad campaign to show that AT&T may just know a little something about how we’ll use technology 20 years from now.

Prabhu envisions a future of cloud networks developed on open APIs, accessed by applications that will create a new class of ‘smart’ products out of today’s most common stuff. Smart pill boxes will remind you if you’ve taken your daily prescriptions, and smart shoes will track your daily walking habits. Anything that can be designed to tap into an API digital information network is on the table.

Digital information networks will become even more contextual and relevant to our physical surroundings, says Prabhu. Like car navigation that re-routes us around traffic, or shows us nearby restaurant specials. Specific technology hardware will become irrelevant – we won’t need to depend on a specific screen size or device. Rather, hardware technology will be embedded directly into products, and may go largely unnoticed in product design. Prabhu suggests that software applications – how we use technology and implement new types of hardware integration, will become even more critical.

At Ford, Digital Marketing Manager Scott Kelly is helping put some of these ideas into practice. Ford’s recent social media campaigns aim to “break through” and engage us in our own social space. With the Ford Fiesta US launch campaign, Ford revealed the new Fiesta model exclusively on Facebook, supported by live events and online advertising. For the Focus, Ford created a Facebook campaign around the Doug Ford Spokespuppet that’s built a substantial following and helped sell cars.

The latest personalized Ford social campaign is a Mustang Customizer that lets users build their dream Mustang and battle designs with friends on Facebook. As consumers continue to engage in social media, companies will need to adopt marketing strategies that will work well in these new mediums.

If you want to put these ideas into practice yourself, Mike Jones, former Myspace CEO, AOL SVP, and Founder of UserPlane, has a few tips. For start-up entrepreneurs, Jones says the founding team is critical to success. From day one, new companies need to be able to cover business management, product implementation, and customer service. To make it in the long-run, businesses need to know their markets well, and be prepared for ambiguity and instability.

Brian Solis, Principle of Altimeter, says that how we use technology represents our deeper self identity and desires. Solis thinks we’re at the cusp of “digital Darwinism,” where consumerism and daily life is built around shared, collective experiences facilitated by digital technology. The future is mobile, social, and real-time, says Solis. It’s how we use it that matters. Solis challenged the audience to consider the true social value of how we implement new technology. “If what we create doesn’t matter, we’re adding to the noise, not the signal,” says Solis.

Frank Warren, Creator of Post Secret has a good answer to the challenge. Since 2003, Warren has collected anonymous secrets, and shares them with a dedicated network of people online. Over time he’s used the network of support for PostSecret to positively impact mental health and personal crisis prevention.

Warren recently helped launch IMalive.org, an online crisis network that uses social technology for suicide prevention. IMalive is “the first online network with 100% of its volunteers trained in crisis intervention. [The] goal is to use the power of the internet to provide crisis intervention resources 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.”

DCWEEK Stage ProjectionWhen we stop to consider the social value of new technology, Warren’s example brings it all together. What really matters in implementing new technology is that we can all access just what we need, right when we need it. Exactly what that is may be different for each of us. But emerging social technology can help bring us closer to a shared experience that keeps us all moving forward together, one day at a time.


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