There are lots of "weeks" in the year. Lot's of industry gatherings vying for your attention. But one of the gatherings that has always risen above, and put together conversations and presentations that are both thought provoking and memorable comes from Toby Daniels and his team at Social Media Week. (Disclosure -- I'm an unpaid advisor and long-time friend of both the event and Daniels, but I don't think that clouds my judgement.) I've been attending SMW since it's inaugural year in NYC back in 2009.
This year's theme is "The Invisible Hand." The origins of this phrase date back to the 18th century, when Adam Smith came up with "The Invisible Hand," a metaphor that describes "unintended social benefits resulting from individual actions."
Hidden Forces of Technology (and How We Can Harness it for Good). "The Invisible Hand represents the intangible, under-valued processes driving our technology, and ultimately, our decisions, forward. As we become more efficient, dynamic, and diverse human beings, we have the responsibility to understand the present and future potential of these hidden forces all around us" explains Toby Daniels, Founder and Executive Director, Social Media Week.
This phrase relates to the idea that society may benefit more from one individual's pursuit of passion or interest than if that individual set out to impact his or her entire community or culture from the start. In a networked society, we can look at "The Invisible Hand" metaphor in a slightly different way. Today, our individual actions cannot be isolated in regards to how we use technology.
There are four attributes to the theme:
- Smart devices: Including mobile phones, connected devices and networks including Bluetooth, NFC, WiFi, 4G, etc., that can operate to some extent interactively and autonomously
- Networked connectivity: The means by which these devices and networks are able to connect to each other through routers, switches and gateways
- Data: Including the capture, analysis, curation, search, sharing, storage, transfer, and visualization of information
- Machine learning: The study and the construction of algorithms that can learn from and make predictions on data
- What makes this theme so compelling is that as tech races forward, it's clear there are both good and bad outcomes to our techno-future.
A few examples from the weeks organizers:
Among the speakers that I'm looking forward to hearing from:
- Alex Blumberg CEO, Gimlet Media
- Mark Thompson CEO, New York Times Company
- Ricky Van Veen Co-founder, CollegeHumor
- jennifer Betka Chief Marketing Officer, StubHub
Check out more about the plans for Social Media Week, February 22 - 26th. The week will include events in New York, Hamberg, Jakarta, and Lagos - so it really is a global festival.