Life experiment: Can YOU take a break from tech 1 day out of the week EVERY WEEK, consistently?!

Tiffany Shlain Technology Shabbat
Shlain Future Starts Here series

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Tiffany Shlain lectures worldwide on filmmaking, the internet’s influence on society, and what the future may bring in our ever-changing world. Invitations have come from Harvard, NASA, Twitter, The Economist Big Ideas conferences, Fortune 500 companies, The Ideas Festival, MIT, and TED events including TEDWomen, among others.

A sought-after keynote speaker known for inspiring presentations, Tiffany received a standing ovation from 11,000 people after she delivered the keynote address for UC Berkeley’s commencement ceremony in May 2010. She has had four films premiere at Sundance, including her acclaimed feature documentary, Connected: An Autoblogography about Love, Death & Technology, which The New York Times hailed as “Incredibly engaging… Examining Everything From the Big Bang to Twitter.” The US State Department selected Connected one of the films to represent America at embassies around the world for their 2012 American Film Showcase. Connected had an 11-city theatrical run, its TV broadcast premiere on PBS KQED, and is available on iTunes, Amazon, Netflix and all digital platforms.

Other highlights:

  • Honored by Newsweek as one of the “Women Shaping the 21st Century”
  • Founder of The Webby Awards
  • Co-founder of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences
  • Singled out by The New York Times, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and the Sundance Institute for her work using documentaries and internet distribution to engage audiences
  • Her films have won over 48 awards and distinctions including a 2012 Disruptive Innovation Award from The Tribeca Film Festival, and are known for their irreverent and profound unraveling of complex subjects like identity, technology, and science.

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Q: Hi Tiffany. It’s awesome getting to interview you on your latest body of work you let us preview. Of the films in this series, which one do you feel might resonate the strongest with the widest range of people, regardless of demographic? Technology Shabbat is the one I feel would do that.

Tiffany Shlain connected future starts hereA: Yes, I think what resonates is owning the fact that we can make these decisions, and reclaiming that. A lot of people say “Well, I already unplug on vacation.” The thing is, vacations happen once or twice a year, and there is a difference between doing it every week versus once a year. The most recent technology Shabbat was just so great to hang out with my family, doing art projects and things. Plus I felt so relieved, it was fun. I’ve been doing technology Shabbats every week for the last 3 and a half years, so now I run toward it, and they get sweeter and better. I have schedules for them, almost – I know if there are really fun things I want to focus on, I plan for those on Saturday.

In my talks, I like to mention how Einstein talked about motion and how time is relative, and the speeding up of time. I meant to include that in the film too, to let people know it’s possible to take one day and make it feel like it’s 4 days long, and then to feel so relaxed afterward. When my father died… that was profound. When someone close to you dies, you just think about time, all the time, how precious that is, and you can die at any moment. I didn’t need any neuroscience to tell me it wasn’t good to be that wired,

and to be increasingly distracted. And I was listening to myself. I think when someone dies, you really go deep into what life’s about, what you want in life, and how you want to be. I wanted to – and needed to – stop the distractions, the onslaught of data coming at me, just one day a week, because I also love the connectedness, I really do, but I knew it wasn’t good all the time.

Q: If someone asks you to demystify the long lines and the camping gear in front of Apple Stores before a major launch, what do you tell them? I have to thank you because Episode 5 (Participatory Revolution) resonated with me. After I watched, now I think I know why I chose tech “mania” as a domain name. As you stated: We’re creative beings and we want to be part of the mix! It’s also wonderful to hear that the responses to A Declaration of Interdependence exceeded your expectations. I didn’t see that film, but tying it to the 4th of July was pretty brilliant.

A: Oh! You should see it. A Declaration of Interdependence is part of another film series we’re working on called Let it Ripple: Mobile Films for Global Change. Basically we do these collaborative films; we’ve made 3 and we’re just about to premiere our fourth one this December. They’re really fun. You can go to LetItRipple.org and see a lot. They’re a completely different way of making films that I’ve ever made. As for those overnight fans in front of stores, I don’t know – I think it’s cultural

I saw something on that slow-motion feature on the new iPhone the other day and I’m like, “I want it!” And then there’s also the excitement factor of new, novel, fresh… I think you can probably say that about anything new. We like new and shiny things, and yes, they’re also creative tools that allow us to try new things. So I think there’s a ‘cult factor’ (laughter) – I mean, I was into Apple products ever since I was a kid and I’ve always been excited when something new comes out. I don’t always get it right away like the ones who camp out, but I think they’re passionately obsessed – they want to have the newest thing the second it comes out.

Q: What were some of your standout memories of doing A Declaration of Interdependence?

A: I mean, just the response, to be sitting in our film studios everyday, it was like I was directing from there! People being at their own locations shooting, and the power in building too, there was something very raw about that that came through in the footage.

Q: Was it easy to decide the order of appearance for the films?

A: We thought Technology Shabbat really showed the way I feel about technology, which is this love-hate relationship. With that film as the opener, we felt it would best set the stage for this series, in that I love technology, but I also worry about what it’s doing to us, and we need to be more mindful. And then the other films go in unexpected directions.

Q: As we move closer to the midpoint of this decade, have you experienced or heard of anything your instinct tells you might become the truly next big thing?

A: Yes, my 10-year-old daughter is coding in a visual coding environment named Tynker. I think that’s going to open up a huge number of people coding. And it’s visual! That’s exciting to me.




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Bonus video on global women leaders:


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Ingrid Kopp talks about Tribeca Film Institute’s Digital Initiatives

Alex H. Yong: Hi Ingrid! Would you tell us how you became Tribeca Film Institute’s Director of Digital Initiatives?

Ingrid Kopp: Yes, my background is in television. I’m from South Africa but worked in the U.K. at Channel 4 before moving to the U.S. At that point I wasn’t doing very much around digital but I always wanted to know more about technology’s effects on documentary filmmaking. I’d have conversations with TV engineers about cameras and broadcast quality and what types of technologies affected what kinds of stories we could tell.

I was working with a global online network for independent filmmakers called Shooting People, running the New York office. I was teaching classes for filmmakers, such as how to use the internet for marketing, and ways to use online communities.

I realized a new world was emerging, a world that wasn’t confined to using the web just as a promotional tool, but the tools and media themselves were changing and influencing what could be produced in the first place. For example, some people were experimenting with films where interactive elements, such as online choices, were added. It became apparent this world would continue to grow – The rise of social media, web tools becoming cheaper, smartphones where you could record footage and play it back on the same device – All these were fueling the growth.

I was speaking and writing about what I saw as this emerging world within storytelling, and connected with the Tribeca Film Institute. They invited me to work with them on a new fund, the TFI New Media Fund, which launched in 2011 with the Ford Foundation. So I said yes and eventually became Tribeca Film Institute’s Director of Digital Initiatives.

TFII_2014

Alex H. Yong: You’ve been quoted as saying that it’s good to look outside one’s usual circles. Would you elaborate?

Ingrid Kopp: Yes, for example, Twitter is a platform I find useful because it allows you to dabble in different worlds that you’re not fully a part of. What I’ve learned regarding indie films and storytelling, is that it’s beneficial to look outside of film because we need to learn from developers, designers, the NGO community, activists and others. Twitter is where a lot of those conversations are taking place. It leads to info on what’s happening in other disciplines, and that’s key to pulling in many pieces of knowledge.

We want to collaborate with coders and others in the tech industry. We’re in our fourth year (editor’s note: They’re in their ninth year as of 2019) at the Digital Initiatives department and we’re happy to say the community has grown, plus we’ve learned a lot – It doesn’t feel like we’re at step one anymore, which is nice. We’re delighted to build strong collaborations with the broader tech industry and others who like what we’re doing.

For me, there were definite learning curves because my background was in TV, specifically documentaries. ‘Interactive’ meant I was forced to think about code, UX and UI, and the audience doing active things, not just passively watching something. Years ago, if you were in the film industry you’d mostly go to film festivals and film conferences, but now we also attend tech conferences, design conferences, interdisciplinary events. There you might find journalists trying to better understand data journalism, or museum designers thinking about interactive installations. Everyone’s trying to figure out what interaction means for their industry, especially online. Technology moving forward brings enthusiasm to us here at TFI because of the creative world we’re in – Everything’s exciting on the creative front, the technology front, the audience front, all around.


Alex H. Yong: Your Twitter bio mentioned constant thought. What do you mean by that?

Ingrid Kopp: Constant thought is required for digital storytelling because you’re thinking about it from the creative’s point of view and how artists and filmmakers can be supported. But then you’re also thinking about the audiences, about how projects reach them and how they’re invited to engage. And even when you’ve thought about both, things can change quickly. One obvious constant is change, and so you’ve got to be on your toes.

Often, when one problem gets solved, another comes up, but as a film institute and as artists, we encourage people to think about what’s “timeless.” How can stories be created that aren’t just jumping on a new tech bandwagon? We’ve learned that you’ve got to look beyond the technology – it’s about the story. Sometimes, the more the technology gets in the way, the less successful the story is. For example, I don’t have all the answers on the future of Oculus Rift, or where browser technology is headed, but we stay informed because we have to. But at the end of the day, it’s still about filmmaking, and the story is always key. Stories that can be told 10 years from now are important.

Alex H. Yong: This was my first TFI Interactive (#TFIi) Week. It was packed with activity – I was overwhelmed, in a good way. Were there others?

Ingrid Kopp: Yes, this was our third TFI Interactive Week. All departments within TFI as well as our grantees, and of course the Tribeca Film Festival, and many others take part. For us, it’s as much about the audiences too, not just the presenters. We realize some people are working on these very same issues – and throughout the week, they get to meet each other. Sometimes projects come out of that, and that’s really great. Building a community around this space is key. Attendance has been up every year – People relish the opportunity to hear stories and new thoughts and then apply the experiences to their work.


Alex H. Yong: What kind of funding can artists get via the TFI New Media Fund? And would you talk more about what excites TFI Interactive?

Ingrid Kopp: Grantees have received between $50,000 and $100,000 each. These are sizeable grants because we like to see projects realized. We’ve funded 17 projects so far, including incredibly sophisticated works such as Hollow and Use of Force. Through the fund, we’ve also been able to include projects into the Tribeca Film Festival’s Storyscapes exhibition module – We’re excited about that because Storyscapes emphasize how powerful storytelling can be when told across different interfaces.

We’re also proud of the global hackathons we host throughout the year – These hackathons build community by bringing diverse sets of people into teams to solve a challenge within a set timeframe, usually 2-5 days. Overall, TFI is excited by diverse projects, global ones too – Immigrant Nation and 18 Days in Egypt are just two examples. They’re diverse not only in subject matter, but also in the way they’re created, which includes the use of various technologies.


Alex H. Yong: Thank you, Ingrid. I’m glad I learned more about TFI and its Digital Initiatives department. I look forward to #TFIi 2015!


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Life experiment: Can YOU take a break from #tech 1 day out of the week EVERY WEEK?!!!

filmmaker on aol tiffany shlain future starts here technology

Roughly a year ago, I had the fortune of speaking with Tiffany Shlain about Season 1 of The Future Starts Here, a film series she created about the role tech plays in our lives and societies. I was delighted because she has gone on record saying she considers herself “a conversation-maker, not a filmmaker.” I’m still amazed she allows herself only 6 days of technology per week. Every Friday is reserved for family time! That means: No computers, smartphones, tablets – basically the rule is – No screens for 24 hours!! This pays homage to Shabbat, which begins at sundown on Fridays. Tiffany says taking a “technology Shabbat” is a significant part of her lifestyle. I can only imagine the discipline it took in the very beginning. Here’s what I asked her:

Q: Hi Tiffany. It’s awesome getting to interview you on your latest body of work you let us preview. Of the films in this series, which one do you feel might resonate the strongest with the widest range of people, regardless of demographic? Technology Shabbat is the one I feel would do that.

Tiffany Shlain connected future starts hereA: Yes, I think what resonates is owning the fact that we can make these decisions, and reclaiming that. A lot of people say “Well, I already unplug on vacation.” The thing is, vacations happen once or twice a year, and there is a difference between doing it every week versus once a year. The most recent technology Shabbat was just so great to hang out with my family, doing art projects and things. Plus I felt so relieved, it was fun. I’ve been doing technology Shabbats every week for the last 3 and a half years, so now I run toward it, and they get sweeter and better. I have schedules for them, almost – I know if there are really fun things I want to focus on, I plan for those on Saturday. In my talks I like to mention how Einstein talked about motion and how time is relative, and the speeding up of time. I meant to include that in the film too, to let people know it’s possible to take one day and make it feel like it’s 4 days long, and then to feel so relaxed afterward. When my father died… that was profound. When someone close to you dies, you just think about time, all the time, how precious that is, and you can die at any moment. I didn’t need any neuroscience to tell me it wasn’t good to be that wired and to be increasingly distracted. And I was listening to myself. I think when someone dies, you really go deep into what life’s about, what you want in life, and how you want to be. I wanted to – and needed to – stop the distractions, the onslaught of data coming at me, just one day a week, because I also love the connectedness, I really do, but I knew it wasn’t good all the time.

Q: You opened your series saying you love technology. If someone asks you to demystify the long lines and the camping gear in front of Apple Stores before a major launch, what do you tell them? Your Episode 5, Participatory Revolution, resonated with me. After watching Episode 5, now I think I have my own answer to overnight lines, and to why I chose TechMania411 as a domain name. As the film said: We’re creative beings and we want to be part of the mix! It’s also wonderful to hear that the responses to A Declaration of Interdependence exceeded your expectations. I didn’t see that film, but tying it to the 4th of July was pretty brilliant.

A: Oh! You should see it. A Declaration of Interdependence is part of another film series we’re working on called Let it Ripple: Mobile Films for Global Change. Basically we do these collaborative films; we’ve made 3 and we’re just about to premiere our fourth one this December. They’re really fun. You can go to LetItRipple.org and see a lot. They’re a completely different way of making films that I’ve ever made. As for those overnight fans in front of stores, I don’t know – I think it’s cultural – I saw something on that slow-motion feature on the new iPhone the other day and I’m like, “I want it!” And then there’s also the excitement factor of new, novel, fresh… I think you can probably say that about anything new. We like new and shiny things, and yes, they’re also creative tools that allow us to try new things. So I think there’s a ‘cult factor’ (laughter) – I mean, I was into Apple products ever since I was a kid and I’ve always been excited when something new comes out. I don’t always get it right away like the ones who camp out, but I think they’re passionately obsessed – they want to have the newest thing the second it comes out.

Q: What were some of your standout memories of doing A Declaration of Interdependence?

A: I mean, just the response, to be sitting in our film studios everyday, it was like I was directing from there! People being at their own locations shooting, and the power in building too, there was something very raw about that that came through in the footage.

Q: Was it easy to decide the order of appearance for the films?

A: We thought Technology Shabbat really showed the way I feel about technology, which is this love-hate relationship. With that film as the opener, we felt it would best set the stage for this series, in that I love technology, but I also worry about what it’s doing to us, and we need to be more mindful. And then the other films go in unexpected directions.

Q: As we move closer to the midpoint of this decade, have you experienced or heard of anything your instinct tells you might become the truly next big thing?

A: Yes, my 10-year-old daughter is coding in a visual coding language called Tynker. I think that’s going to open up a huge number of people coding. And it’s visual! That’s very exciting to me.

 

============

Tiffany Shlain lectures worldwide on filmmaking, the Internet’s influence on society, and what the future may bring in our ever-changing world. Invitations include Harvard, NASA, Twitter, The Economist Big Ideas conferences, Fortune 500 companies, The Ideas Festival, MIT, and TED events including TEDWomen, among others.

A sought-after keynote speaker known for inspiring presentations, Tiffany received a standing ovation from 11,000 people after she delivered the keynote address for UC Berkeley’s commencement ceremony in May 2010. She has had four films premiere at Sundance, including her acclaimed feature documentary, Connected: An Autoblogography about Love, Death & Technology, which The New York Times proclaims as “Incredibly engaging… Examining Everything From the Big Bang to Twitter.” The US State Department selected Connected one of the films to represent America at embassies around the world for their 2012 American Film Showcase. Connected had an 11-city theatrical run, its TV broadcast premiere on PBS KQED, and is available on iTunes, Amazon, Netflix and all digital platforms.

Other highlights:

  • Honored by Newsweek as one of the “Women Shaping the 21st Century”
  • Founder of The Webby Awards
  • Coo-founder of the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences
  • Singled out by The New York Times, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter and the Sundance Institute for her work using documentaries and internet distribution to engage audiences
  • Her films have won over 48 awards and distinctions including a 2012 Disruptive Innovation Award from The Tribeca Film Festival, and are known for their irreverent and profound unraveling of complex subjects like identity, technology, and science.