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Wednesday, October 01, 2008

PORTLAND In early September, Inverge — an “interdisciplinary thought-leader event” as organizers call it — took place in the Gerding Theater in Portland’s Pearl District. It was, essentially, two days of very smart people standing on a stage and talking. Or rather, some of them talked and others wove fantastic pictures of the near future, tales of convergence between technology, advertising, social communities and the “real” world.

CEOs, VPs, GMs and innovation gurus from Disney, the University of Southern California, Edelman, Vidoop, DigitalKitchen and MIT passed across the stage every few hours. It was, except for a few exceptions (Disney toys that interact with online communities; iPhone application demonstrations) not a how-to conference as much as a how-to-think conference: How to think about consumers and creativity and interaction and the future of just about every type of media.

As the days wore on, a silent stream of communication flowed through the theater as attendees sent messages via Twitter, the online service that lets users broadcast — via phone or web — 140-character bulletins to people who’ve elected to receive their messages. It’s passing notes in a web 2.0 world. And it was a convergence between the real-time presentations and the audience’s thoughts.

At the end of the last day of the conference, Amber Case, a Portland consultant and entrepreneur, gave a brief history of communication from the telephone to Twitter. Her slides consisted of 140-character messages. As she spoke to the audience, video of her presentation was streaming live online and the text of her words was sent out to the 650-plus people who listened to her on Twitter.

Case talked about everything from how humans and technology shape each other to the possibility that the world may someday laugh at the Internet. She finished with an idea that encapsulated what that two-days-long discussion of intersecting platforms and technologies was really all about: the power of people needing to communicate with other people.

“Techno-social interaction,” she said/wrote/broadcast out to unknown hundreds or thousands of people, “is about transcending the silos of mental isolation.”

Walking out of Inverge into a drab world where traffic and bikes cluttered the streets of the Pearl District was almost disappointing. Until you look down and see the potential blueprint for all those dreams of convergence nestled in the smart phone in the palm of your hand.


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