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Twenty Years Later…….

October 18, 2016
Mark Lochrie

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Mindtrek turned Twenty this year. Twenty years on and several permutations later its managed to reinvent and reinvigorate itself to be one of the most interesting and possibly quirkiest – conferences on the autumn calendar. Mindtrek is synonymous with the Manchester of Finland, Tampere. It’s a city that has recently witnessed the near extinction of mobile tech and former tyre production company in neighbouring Nokia. It’s also seen the enforced merger of it’s Universities and creation of the single uber university of Tampere.

Beneath a steel grey sky and despite the icy cold wind outdoors the mood of the Mindtrek crowd is up-beat. The conference agenda spans smart cities, Internet of Things, Virtual Reality and open source. There are workshops on open innovation, digital health and big-data to name a few. The conference venue foyer is littered with tech companies and start-ups mixed with student posters and live demo’s as sales teams and reps ply their trade to interested delegates keen to tap into some of the latest digital and tech thinking from across Europe.

And it’s this that makes Mindtrek distinctive. The blending of industry and the academy. Practitioners and sales teams rub shoulders with thinkers and doers from 40 different countries. There’s a panel session on future cities alongside an academic track on games design complete with peer reviewed paper presentations and the usual Q&A.

I was delighted to be opening the academic proceedings of the conference delivering the keynote speech on this special 20th anniversary edition of Mindtrek. Given the type of work we all do here at the Media Innovation Studio it wasn’t a tough gig. There’s a natural fit with Mindtrek. Its focus on the application of technologies and processes to everyday life and our constant striving to better understand the role of technology and creative thinking as they respond to issues of global inequality, instability and sustainability. The challenges may be profound but the responses are often less so. It wasn’t difficult to raise the obvious human questions posed by each of the tech conference themes – if only to remind each other of the potential impact and significance of our actions.

When the Internet of Everything arrives ….. and if Mindtrek sessions are anything to go by we are apparently hurtling in that direction it maybe worth just pausing to ask ourselves: When everything is connected to everything will there still be poverty and hunger? When these ubiquitous devices link us to global communities will there still be inequality and instability? Will an Internet of Everything provide an antidote to feelings isolation and loneliness?

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