After the jump, Brian James Kirk goes to a little town called HOPE.
Technologicology: The IgnitePhilly Highlight Reel
I knew good things were in store for IgnitePhilly when I went to Johnny Brenda’s last week and had trouble finding a parking spot—for my bike. Inside, as bartenders poured drafts in a seemingly endless conveyor of what-will-be-drunkenness, organizers may have started to worry about fire codes. The upstairs venue filled fast, giving the impression that we were there to catch one of the many sell-out bands that pass under JB’s balcony. Fifteen minutes after the show had started, the doors were closed to late-comers. To put it in organizer Vanja Buvac‘s words, what had the potential to be a “huge success” ended up being just that.
Having had a birds-eye perspective on the creative community during the last year, in many ways, IgnitePhilly felt to me like the culmination of something big—a movement that had been brewing in the hearts and minds of many in the city whom hadn’t put a finger on what it was. Or what to call it. Although I had an inkling that the tech community was doing a lot of cool things, before IgnitePhilly, I didn’t realize how many other communities are tied to this and how many things are changing in every industry.
Style and food. Business and manufacturing. Music downloads and DIY radio. Art and handcraft. Sustainable living and mapping. Even the ways in which humans touch each other is inherently affected by the increasing availability of technology.
Perhaps the most interesting thing about the evening was that these important players in Philly’s advancing creative communities didn’t get on stage to show off their resume and reel. They used the forum to talk about what others are doing to make a difference. They talked philosophy. They sometimes weren’t prepared at all, explaining beautiful photographs taken in abandoned homes with a beer in hand, or read poetry while talking about the troubles art students will face as the definition of art is continually blurred. And while I’m sure this reads like a review of a poetry slam, take it as a breath of fresh air—the people who are reinventing the way you work, eat, live and play don’t spend their free time on weekend wine tours at their Napa Valley summer house. They read Yeats, rag on the FCC, wait for the same train, and worry about gas prices as much as you do.
The fundamental takeaway from IgnitePhilly is that that the ability to change the world is more real than ever. Far from the old adage that is overwhelmingly placed in the laps of children—who can only understand changing the world through the lens of being something big, huge, famous—is the idea of the niche community group.
It’s because of small, niche groups that are emerging as a result of increased connectivity that changing the world is becoming a realistic challenge. We have once again realized that to win big, you have to start small. But there’s a new approach that is ever more important. Stay small. Whether it was a man and his camera, a couple and their podcast or a cooperative workplace with dozens involved, a theme was ever-present: Keep it simple, stupid.
The speakers do a far better job of impressing and the IgnitePhilly homepage has videos of each speaker. I strongly urge you to watch a few, if not all of the short, five minute presentations.
Brian James Kirk is a writer and adventurer living in Philadelphia. By adventuring, he means occasionally to friends’ homes for games of Balderdash. If you know a Philadelphia technology scoop that would fit this space, you are graciously encouraged to get in touch.