It was an early start for Driad: the team met at 7 am at the train station! After a 2 hours journey, we arrived at Liverpool and made our way to Hinterlands, by the Baltic Market, where the event was held. Time for a much needed quick coffee and the event started, chaired by Herb Kim.
Ann O'Byrne, Deputy Mayor of Liverpool City Council kicked-off this first session. she highlighted how keen the council is to support the vibrant digital/entrepreneurial community in the city. It is rather great to see how a council can support it's tech community, trusting it to create employment and keep talents in the area!
Second on was Amanda Follit, with a very inspiring story focused on how people who looked at her potential (instead of asking for a list of degrees) and gave her a chance. She is now giving back to the community, encouraging women in tech. She recently launched TH_NK Live, a service focused on helping businesses upgrade their websites.
Dr Sarah Wiseman took the stage next. Lecturer at Goldsmiths University, and specialist in Human-Computer Interactions, she presented some of her research on Emojis. She focused more precisely on their re-appropriation in our current written languages, in a talk entitled Why does 🍕 mean "I love you"?
Andrew Kent, CEO of Angel Solutions, concluded the first session. He explained how he manages his company similarly to... a circus! Creating a family atmosphere and giving to each of his employees the space and resources to be creative and efficient. He concluded by giving everybody a £1 coin, asking the audience to do something creative with it and post it using the hashtag #binaryangels.
Following a coffee break, the second session took place.
Designer Dominic Wilcox presented the rather incongruous projects he led over the last years. He mixes art and tech: an art exhibition for dogs, GPS shoes, and more recently, Little Inventors, a project consisting in bringing kids' inventions to life.
Then came Emer Maguire, a scientific communicator, singer and songwriter, digging up the origins of music. She proved that any song written on a pentatonic scale can be a hit, even if it's about an #instabae - she actually wrote and performed a song for us.
Following this, a panel of the risky entrepreneurs from the food sector held a discussion. Tomas Maunier (Fazenda), Natalie Haywood (Leaf) and Peter Kinsella (Lunya) on how they switched career into hospitality and restoration, and how to survive in such a stressful work environment. Indeed, the Binary Festival is not just about apps and social media; it's about what makes a community work. Food is part of this!
UkeBox, a 5-piece ukulele band, played a couple of songs to conclude the morning sessions.
We then headed to the Baltic Market for lunch - a pretty amazing space with many different stalls, all serving different foods - before we returned for the afternoon sessions. Amongst the different gatherings options, we chose to go to the artificial intelligence session chaired by BIMA. Following an introduction by Pete Trainor, the panel, composed of Lydia Gregory (FeedForward AI), Ed Smith (Humley), Paul Dowman (The Lead Agency) and Jonathan Seal (Mando Agency) covered as many questions as possible about artificial intelligence: what they are, what to expect, etc.
Unfortunately, we had to miss the closing keynote in order to get a train back home.
Overall, it was a very interesting experience. Mixing great contents and incredible communication methods, the talks inspired us to be more creative. We met a few people in the entrepreneurial front during the breaks, although we think it could have been tooled more efficiently towards connecting people, e.g. with workshops or other icebreakers activities.
Take home message:
The digital revolution has completely disrupted our ways of being as a society - from self-learning, with the internet and the rise of purely numerical jobs; to reinventing communication with the growth of written messaging and emojis, up to falling in love with a stranger on instagram! But the digital festival is not only about apps and computer, it's about creativity and how to build a community that will encourage it: an open-minded work environment where ideas matter more than day to day productivity; giving life to the most extravagant concepts to see what comes out of them. It's also about adaptability being an essential skill to making your business survive, as demonstrated by the panel of risky entrepreneurs who opened fast growing restaurants and cafés, without any prior hospitality experience. Creativity, adaptability and risk-taking also apply when you start a 5-piece Ukulele band!
More obviously, digital also means AI, which in itself has various definitions. Where they will take us is... up to the digital community! Wait and see or... get coding?