The week @ work March 16 – 22

This week@work invited us to broaden our thinking with ideas from TED and SXSW, a suggested reading list from Mark Zuckerberg and a David Remnick pick from The New Yorker archive on the creative life. Using a variety of online resources and social networks we can construct an individualized professional development curriculum based on our interests and career aspirations.

On Friday The New York Times included a continuing education ‘special section’ in their print edition. In the lead article ‘That’s Edutainment’ reporter Greg Beato described the growing phenomenon of “the academization of leisure: casual learning propelled by web culture, a new economy and boomers with money.”

In a companion article, Peder Zane asked the question, “If you can know it all, how come you don’t?” He goes on to report on Jonathan Haber, a “52 year old from Lexington, Massachusetts” who is attempting to “meet all the standard requirements for a bachelor of arts degree in a single year.” And he is doing it by selecting from a menu of online offerings from Harvard, Yale and Stanford, chronicling his experience in a book and of course, online.

This past week folks came together to discuss ideas at the annual TED conference and celebrate music, film and interactive at SXSW.

You may categorize all these formal and informal experiences as ‘edutainment’, but I would suggest that lifelong learning, often promised, is finally here. And the topics discussed are widely relevant to today’s workplace.

Visit the TED website and access presentations recorded at the conference. One of the most compelling, Monica Lewinsky on our ‘culture of humiliation’. The Washington Post political reporter Chris Cillizza summarized the key point of her talk: “For nearly two decades now, we have slowly been sowing the seeds of shame and public humiliation in our cultural soil. Gossip Web sites, paparazzi, reality programming, politics, news outlets and sometimes hackers traffic in shame. Public humiliation as a blood sport has to stop. We need to return to a long-held value of compassion and empathy.”

And on the SXSW site, you can view film maker Ava DuVernay encouraging her audience to pay attention to their intention. She takes the audience on a narrative of her early success and then cautions from experience: “The dreams were too small. If your dream only includes you, its too small. If that dream is just about the thing you want to accomplish and you don’t even know why you want it…it’s to small…When you win awards and the light is on you, that’s not gonna be enough. If we limit our visions to those things outside of us to validate us, we’re making an intentional error that might very well bring the outside thing you want, but will bring hollow in the end.”

Online, lifelong learning allows us to make connections beyond our comfort zone, sparking new ideas and important conversations.

The availability of a variety of content online in a global economy where the majority does not have access to the innovators and great thinkers is a good thing. It’s a source of career inspiration for the young, professional development for the worker and sustained intellectual engagement for the retired.

Closing the week, David Remnick in his ‘Sunday with the New Yorker’ email recommends a selection of stories from The New Yorker archive on ‘The Creative Life’ including a 2007 profile of the British graffiti artist Banksy.

SXSW – Creativity and Convergence

This week Austin, Texas is the vortex of the worlds of interactive, film and music. SXSW organizers have created an event that should encourage those who believe the arts are endangered. And for those whose dream job fits into the artistic, entrepreneurial and creative, the Texas state capital is the place to be.

This year Jimmy Kimmel is broadcasting his late night show from Austin and Rand Paul has been showing up at meet ups and receptions.

SXSW was originally staged as a music festival in 1987 and as the Austin economy grew to embrace film and technology companies, SXSW broadened its’ mission adding the interactive and film conferences in 1994. SXSWedu joined the program in 2011 and this year has grown to a four day conference for educators to connect and drive innovation in how we teach and learn.

In an interview with The New York Times, festival director Hugh Forrest described the essence of the festival:“South by Southwest is always about up-and-coming talent, be it a band or filmmaker or technology developer, and that holds true in 2015.”

‘Convergence Day’ provides an opportunity for all attendees to mix at meet ups and panels and discuss cross disciplinary topics including the topic of “Music As Personalized Medicine”.  Using research findings that 18 hours of music a week can have a significant effect on physiology and well-being, “This session will pilot a new technology and begin the largest living experiment to analyze how the music you’re listening to impacts your health.”

There are also practical conversations. Tom Sachs, the internationally-acclaimed contemporary artist and Carter Cleveland, CEO of Artsy discussed ‘Is Good Business the Best Art?’ on Sunday. Their discussion wrestled with the question many face; Can you be successful and not sell your soul?

Current hot industry topics also find a platform with panels on ‘Content, Copyright and Commerce’ and ‘Compensating College Athletes for Their Likeness’.

SXSW is a visible demonstration of barriers collapsing. We live in a multidisciplinary world where imaginative connections create new business opportunities.

While TED in Vancouver is the tightly scripted corporate event, SXSW is organized ‘happenstance’. By bringing together innovators in a variety of creative enterprises, the event captures boundless energy with a soundtrack for the future. It’s March Madness without the brackets.