Lift boosts digital conversations in Geneva area

Getting a real Lift, 22-24 February

by Ellen Wallace

JP Rangaswami presenting at Lift 2012 (photo, Ivo Naepflin for Lift)

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND – The number of conversations in Geneva centred around our digital lives, past, present and future, is up this week thanks to the annual Lift Conference, which opened Wednesday 22 February and ends Friday.

The conference itself pulls in several hundred people from the worlds of business, academia and international organizations, with presentations that address geek concerns and broader philosophical questions

Devices and domesticity, potentially uncomfortable bedfellows

One of my favourites on the opening day schedule was Victoria Broadbent of UCL in London asking if our individual personalized digital devices are destroying our Victorian myths of domesticity, a great example of how good speakers ask the question we’ve had all along without being aware of it.

She pointed to the changing use and design of space in the home, with more integrated and less specialized rooms. Downton Abbey staff and family would  have been very puzzled by today’s lofts, not to mention the devices they would find there. “Homes have become relational spaces in which the main activities support the social cohesion of the household. The arrival of personal digital devices in this context is disturbing.”

So that’s what’s going on at home.

The mental twinning of urban space and books that behave like cities

Those of us trying to grasp or imagine the book of tomorrow that is part of the electronic world are offered a Thursday afternoon workshop that talks about “technology driven visions in the effervescent book industry”. This is an elegant description for an industry that is wildly turbulent, not always for the better, and which has authors and publishers scrambling to understand the impact of technology on content and its creation.

Frederic Kaplan and Laurent Bolli, from bookapp.com, the workshop leaders, leave chapter headings in their wake as they take us through a world where books have signage, dedicated neighbourhoods and urban services such as guides and tours.

Outside the conference: more conversations

Hugh Quennec, Geneva Servette Hockey Club

The scores of talks at the conference give speakers and people attending a chance to meet with other groups. I attended a workshop nearby on how to better use videos at work, offered by So Money, a local video production agency, and 23 Video, who have worked with Lift and who are in town from Denmark in part to kick off their new partnership with So Money.

On display was 23 Video‘s answer to what they call the “last orphan child of the web”, video – you can easily create and manage other online content through your own web sites and photos sites but affordable video sites that you can make your own are a new idea. The company offers a video management solution for a fixed monthly fee of $675 that gives unlimited uploads, downloads, user numbers, works with all platforms, distribution options through all channels and a rich set of analytics tools.

Hugh Quennec, part-owner of the Geneva Servette Hockey Club and Olivier Riethauser, communications and community relations manager at the club, talked about their success in using video to create a sense of community that goes well beyond the hockey rink.

My own notes from the workshop included these tips to move beyond boring corporate videos: Know your target audience, offer a helping hand, get them to leave a trace. Content is not about selling: it’s about entertaining. That said, great content provides solutions to real-world problems and it must be worthy of attention and immediately useful to the audience. Don’t preach, though: content is about the conversation.

In fact, just about everything digital is about conversation, and Lift is about joining the talk.