PopTech Blog

Slash series: Phillip Tiongson, storytelling/computation/design

With PopTech: Hybrid just a few months away, we decided to ask our speakers a few burning questions. Take a peek inside the minds of this "slash generation" and sign up to be part of the Hybrid this Oct 22-24 in Camden, Maine.

Speaker: Phillip Tiongson is the Principal and Creative Director of Potion. Drawing on his training and passions as an artist, software engineer, and storyteller, Phillip leads the studio in creating its groundbreaking interactive experiences. Potion’s signature installation projects, which merge physical and digital elements, reflect his belief that digital interactions can foster a transformative experience of the physical world.

What's one thing you want the PopTech audience to know about you that's not in your bio?
When I was younger, I was really scared of heights. So I started rock climbing…I’ve since rock climbed and bouldered all around the U.S. and in four countries, and spent the night (unexpectedly) on the Grand Teton.

What does hybrid mean to you from the perspective of your work?
I am a hybrid: storyteller/computer scientist/entrepreneur. I created Potion to be the place where we can create work reflects that hybridization. Our experiences are a combination of storytelling, design and technology in a way that one can’t be separated from the other. Our stories are literally written in code, whose medium of expression is a computational process. We believe that this computational medium is capable of the same emotional power of human expression that any art form strives to evoke, and we are just scratching the surface of how it can be used to amplify our humanity.

What are you reading?
Anne Bogart’s “What’s the Story: Essays about art, theater and storytelling”; Malcolm Gladwell’s “Outliers: The Story of Success”; Fred Kofman’s “Conscious Business: How to Build Value through Values”; and The Swift Programming Language.

What are you listening to?
Mostly podcasts these days: NPR’s “Planet Money”; WNYC’s “Radiolab”; “Debug”; and KCRW’s “Today’s Top Tune.”

What are you working on at the moment?
At Potion, we are in the middle of a process of self-examination. We are looking at how we do more of what we want to do, and how to create the conditions for a culture that renews itself creatively and iteratively. Like an organism, an organization needs every cell to be operating in harmony and with united purpose, and we are learning how to do that. 

Who are you most looking forward to hearing speak at PopTech?
Assaf Biderman and Superpedestrian’s work…so excited about the Copenhagen Wheel! I love riding my bike uphills.

Word association: Maine...
Moose.

If you could pick one historical figure to watch give a PopTech talk, who would it be?
Richard Feynman: magic, physics, Far Rockaway, and the Space Shuttle…all in one package.

The words you live by:
"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself."

What do you know now that you wish you knew 10 years ago?
How to seek out and embrace critical feedback, instead of trying to avoid or ignore it.

Karaoke? Yes, no, curious. Go-to song?
Yes, in the right conditions…”Blackbird” by the Beatles.

Slash series: Eric Liu, citizenship/identity

With PopTech: Hybrid just a few months away, we decided to ask our speakers a few burning questions. Take a peek inside the minds of this "slash generation" and sign up to be part of the Hybrid this Oct 22-24 in Camden, Maine.

Speaker: Eric Liu is founder and CEO of Citizen University and the executive director of the Aspen Institute Citizenship & American Identity Program. Liu’s books include A Chinaman’s Chance: One Family’s Journey and the Chinese American Dream, The Gardens of Democracy, and The True Patriot. Liu served as a White House speechwriter for President Bill Clinton and later as the President's deputy domestic policy adviser. A columnist for CNN.com and a correspondent for TheAtlantic.com, Liu serves on numerous civic boards, and can be found on Twitter @ericpliu.

What's one thing you want the PopTech audience to know about you that's not in your bio?
I am surrounded and shaped by strong women: my mother, my wife, my daughter, my stepdaughter.

What does hybrid mean to you from the perspective of your work?
All my work centers on citizenship and American identity. To be American is to be a relentlessly mutating hybrid of memes and genes. The art of citizenship in the United States is the art of activating hybridity and diversity toward a common purpose.

My ideal hybrid of a person would be:
The eye of Cezanne, the ear of Bach, the soul of Lincoln, the moral courage of John Lewis, the moral imagination of Eleanor Roosevelt, the wit of Mark Twain, the grace (and cut fastball) of Mariano Rivera.

What are you reading?
“The Warmth of Other Suns,” by Isabel Wilkerson; “Leaves of Grass,” by Walt Whitman; “Present at the Creation,” by Dean Acheson. 

What are you listening to?
Domenico Scarlatti’s keyboard sonatas. They all run together (in a good way).

What are you working on at the moment?
A new book on citizen power.

Who are you most looking forward to hearing speak at PopTech?
Maira Kalman.

Word association: Maine...
Granite.

If you could pick one historical figure to watch give a PopTech talk, who would it be?
Lincoln.

The words you live by:
Be useful.

What do you know now that you wish you knew 10 years ago?
That the U.S. is running out of time to deal with severe inequality and the concentration of wealth.

Karaoke? Yes, no, curious. Go-to song?
Occasionally, with a very limited repertoire of Elvis and Hank Williams.

Slash series: Irene Au, meditation/design

Speaker: Irene Au builds and leads teams that design products people love and can't live without. She is the design operating partner at Khosla Ventures, where she works with portfolio companies to make their design great. Irene has unprecedented experience leading design at large scale consumer internet companies, as she has led the entire UX organization at Google, Yahoo!, and Udacity. She also teaches yoga and meditation at Avalon Art and Yoga Center, one of Palo Alto’s oldest and most established yoga studios.

What does hybrid mean to you from the perspective of your work?
To mashup seemingly disparate, unrelated fields and/or ideas into a single whole.

My ideal hybrid of a person would be:
The compassion of the Dalai Lama, the prolific passion of Pablo Picasso, the design vision of Dieter Rams.

What are you reading?
"The Alchemist" by Paulo Coelho.

What are you listening to?
Tame Impala.

What are you working on at the moment?
Helping startups be successful, building my dream house, and creating content for my next yoga + meditation retreat.

Word association: Maine...
Lobster!

If you could pick one historical figure to watch give a PopTech talk, who would it be?
Charles and Ray Eames.

The words you live by:
Love.

What do you know now that you wish you knew 10 years ago?
To practice meditation and yoga (not just the physical kind) every day.

Karaoke? Yes, no, curious. Go-to song?
I'll be sleeping!

Slash series: Alexa Clay, informal/formal innovation

With PopTech: Hybrid just a few months away, we decided to ask our speakers a few burning questions. Take a peek inside the minds of this "slash generation" and sign up to be part of the Hybrid this Oct 22-24 in Camden, Maine.

Speaker: Alexa Clay is a leading expert on subculture and innovation from unlikely places. She is the co-author of "The Misfit Economy," a book that explores underground and informal innovation. Alexa works to create bridges and opportunities for misfit subcultures within the formal economy. She is the Founder of Wisdom Hackers, an incubator for philosophical inquiry, as well as the Co-Founder of the League of Intrapreneurs, a movement to create change from within incumbent systems and big organizations.

What's one thing you want the PopTech audience to know about you that's not in your bio?
In May, I rented country singer Barbara Mandrell's old tour bus from the 80s and took a cross-country road trip with author Peter Sims and a bunch of social innovators (the BLK SHP, "black sheep") through the deep South, rust belt, and prairie states to better understand the state of America's small towns. We met some incredible misfits working from the ground up—without government permission or professional remit—to grow the resilience of their communities. The purpose of the trip was really to explore how the entrepreneurial mindset is being applied outside of the fancy tech hubs of Silicon Valley and New York City. There is incredible grit and hustle that I witnessed. It really made me think more about community as a renewable resource, something that needs to be invested in if we want civic culture to blossom.

What does hybrid mean to you from the perspective of your work?
Hybrid speaks to the need to be multi-disciplinary and cross-sector. It's also about weaving communities that don't often get to encounter one another. With my book “The Misfit Economy,” for example, I'm trying to find a way to bridge audiences between mainstream entrepreneurs and street hustlers and black market innovators. I've sent the book to leading executives, but also to gang leaders and prisoners. And the hope is that the book becomes an invitation for unusual convening.

My ideal hybrid of a person would be:
The intuition and conviction of Joan of Arc, the existential irony of Nietzsche, the soul of Rumi, and the passion of D.H. Lawrence's protagonists.

What are you reading?
Gabriella Coleman's book on hackers and anonymous. The new biography of Coco Chanel. Ned Beauman's “Boxer, Beetle.” 

What are you listening to?
I'm currently producing a new podcast with Antonio Fernandez, the leader of the Latin Kings. It's a bit of a riff on “Serial,” but aims to explore important issues of gang culture, race and poverty in America.

What are you working on at the moment?
A few things. I'm currently researching the formalization of black market economies like marijuana and moonshine. I'm interested in how we create inclusive innovation ecosystems. There are tons of people in prison, for example, who have incredible expertise in the drugs business, but are not part of the marijuana gold rush right now as it's being legalized in many states. I also have become very interested in moonshine (you can make some incredible cocktails), but also how that informal market is becoming enabled. In Tennessee, for example, moonshine is now legal. And there are some interesting companies—like Sugarlands Distilling Company—deep in Appalachia that are finding ways of working with old timey moonshiners to modernize their product.

I'm also working on an essay exploring the revolutionary potential of LARP (live action role playing). I'm very interested in the ways in which we can use game design to prototype possible futures that we can embody and experience. The future of finance without money. The future of relationships without monogamy. The future of nation without centralized government. 

Who are you most looking forward to hearing speak at PopTech?
Sputniko! Love the exploration of technology and alternative futures.

Word association: Maine...
Lobster, camping, hermit life...I def. have a fantasy of being a little old woman with a cottage in Maine.

If you could pick one historical figure to watch give a PopTech talk, who would it be?
I was at a conference in Rotterdam (the Netherlands), where they hired actors to bring Buckminster Fuller and others to life to deliver some of their historic lectures. It was a great idea because many old ideas are ripe for exploration in this moment. Personally, I think I'd like to see Ayn Rand in conversation with Socrates, mostly because I think the libertarian free market ideology is very appealing to folks and needs a bit more dissection and poking by the Socratic method. I def. love the idea of bringing historical figures to life to have anachronistic conversations with thinkers from different time periods who have very different cultural influences.

What do you know now that you wish you knew 10 years ago?
That history rarely delivers the blueprint for the revolution you want. Things are messy. There is no petri dish. Everything is in flux and flow and there is no "blank slate" upon which to start making a dent in the world. Work with what is and the realities and constraints of the cultures and systems you are born into.

Karaoke? Yes, no, curious. Go-to song?
I'd have to drink a whole lot of moonshine. Then I'd go with Joan Jett or something rock and roll.

Slash series: Eddie Opara, design/tech/strategy

With PopTech: Hybrid just a few months away, we decided to ask our speakers a few burning questions. Take a peek inside the minds of this "slash generation" and sign up to be part of the Hybrid this Oct 22-24 in Camden, Maine.

Speaker: Eddie Opara, partner at Pentagram, is a multi-faceted designer whose work encompasses strategy, design and technology. He’s won numerous awards, including a Gold Cube from the Art Directors Club and honors from the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA), D&AD, and I.D. magazine. In 2012 and 2014, he was named one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business. Opara has work is in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art and he’s a visiting critic at the Yale School of Art.

What's one thing you want the PopTech audience to know about you that's not in your bio?
I'm British Nigerian. I'm an avid Tottenham Hotspur fan.  

What does hybrid mean to you from the perspective of your work?
The combination between the print world and digital.

My ideal hybrid of a person would be:
The intellect of Malcolm Gladwell, the humor of Chris Rock, the creativity of David Adjaye. 

What are you reading?
Malcolm Gladwell’s "What the Dog Saw: And Other Adventures."

What are you listening to?
Spotify, Mos Def, Shalamar, Metronomy, Kele. 

What are you working on at the moment?
A lot of things. But if I had to name one thing a book on high yield.

Who are you most looking forward to hearing speak at PopTech?
Maira Kalman, Phillip Tiongson and Ben Fry.

Word association: Maine...
Green, blue and pink.

If you could pick one historical figure to watch give a PopTech talk, who would it be?
Martin Luther King, Jr. talking about the future.

The words you live by:
"To Dare is to Do" - Tottenham Hotspur's motto. 

What do you know now that you wish you knew 10 years ago?
Don't do web design!

Karaoke? Yes, no, curious. Go-to song?
Yes, Michael Jackson's anything from the Off The Wall album. 

Slash series: Giorgia Lupi, design/data

With PopTech: Hybrid just a few months away, we decided to ask our speakers a few burning questions. Take a peek inside the minds of this "slash generation" and sign up to be part of the Hybrid this Oct 22-24 in Camden, Maine.

Speaker: Giorgia Lupi is an information designer. Her work in information visualization frequently crosses the divide between digital and print, exploring visual models and metaphors to represent dense and rich data-driven stories. She is co-founder and design director at Accurat, an information design company based in Milan and New York.

What's one thing you want the PopTech audience to know about you that's not in your bio?
I don’t code. I work with data and data visualization but I don’t code. I am obsessed with drawing.

What does hybrid mean to you from the perspective of your work?
Matching art and science, exploring how data-driven experiences can connect people, how they can be human and warm if well designed. Data is more than numbers. It always stands for something else, representing real life. It can be a snapshot of the world in the same way that a picture catches small moments in time.

My ideal hybrid of a person would be:
Open-minded and passionate like a kid, experienced and wise like a grandfather.

What are you reading?
“An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth,” by Chris Hadfield.

What are you listening to?
Kormac – “Wash My Hands.”

What are you working on at the moment?
/ Dear Data, a personal project dealing with data, drawings, and a series of weekly postcards exchanged across the ocean with data illustrator Stefanie Posavec.

/ Visu, a web-based tool to allow non-designers to create high-end custom data visualizations.

Who are you most looking forward to hearing speak at PopTech?
Maira Kalman and Sputniko!

Word association: Maine...
Lighthouse.

If you could pick one historical figure to watch give a PopTech talk, who would it be?
John Cage.

The words you live by:
Make things, a lot of things. Make time for side projects and silly ideas. Dare and have fun.

What do you know now that you wish you knew 10 years ago?
You don’t need to have everything figured out to be happy.

Karaoke? Yes, no, curious. Go-to song?
Yes! Go-to song: Nothing particular, will wing anything if I can read the lyrics. :) (More fun.)

Slash series: Ti Chang, design/engineering

With PopTech: Hybrid just a few months away, we decided to ask our speakers a few burning questions. Take a peek inside the minds of this "slash generation" and sign up to be part of the Hybrid this Oct 22-24 in Camden, Maine.

Speaker: Ti Chang is the Co-Founder and VP of Design of CRAVE, a San Francisco-based company specializing in discreet and beautifully designed luxury sex toys. The DUET, Ti’s first design at CRAVE, debuted through a crowd-funding project, which ultimately secured over $100K from over 900 donors and become the world's first crowdfunded sex toy.

What's one thing you want the PopTech audience to know about you that's not in your bio?
I am an introvert and I tend to shy away from large gatherings. 

My ideal hybrid of a person would be:
Tina Fey's humor, Judge Judy's sense of justice and Angelina Jolie's philanthropy & beauty.

What are you working on at the moment?
Removing cultural stigma from self-pleasure.

Who are you most looking forward to hearing speak at PopTech?
Sputniko!

If you could pick one historical figure to watch to give a PopTech talk, who would it be?
Gabrielle Bonheur Chanel aka Coco Chanel

The words you live by:
"I'm a hustler baby..." - Jay Z 

What do you know now that you wish you knew 10 years ago?
Korean skin care regimen.

Karaoke? Yes, no, curious. Go-to song?
I am pretty much tone deaf. So, no.

Slash series: Amy Bruckman, tech/social science

With PopTech: Hybrid just a few months away, we decided to ask our speakers a few burning questions. Take a peek inside the minds of this "slash generation" and sign up to be part of the Hybrid this Oct 22-24 in Camden, Maine.

Speaker: Amy Bruckman is Professor and Associate Chair in the School of Interactive Computing at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Her research focuses on peer production of content online. She studies how to create a motivating and supportive context for creation and sharing, and learning through this process.

What's one thing you want the PopTech audience to know about you that's not in your bio?
I gave a talk at PopTech in 2002 called "After the Hype: Users as Creators of Content on the Internet.”

What does hybrid mean to you from the perspective of your work?
To me, “hybrid” means bringing together computer science and the social sciences. As computers increasingly reshape our world, people with this kind of hybrid expertise are critical to designing our shared future.

What are you reading?
“Seveneves” by Neal Stephenson.

What are you working on at the moment?
A new information retrieval system for the people of Cuba.

Who are you most looking forward to hearing speak at PopTech?
My kids are a bit older now, but we still have our copy of “What Pete Ate from A to Z,” and I’m looking forward to meeting Maira Kalman.

Word association: Maine…
Lobster. My grandfather (who grew up in Maine). Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.

Karaoke? Yes, no, curious. Go-to song?
Always wanted to try it. Can’t actually sing…would consider it if I had some practice time and a good collaborator. :)

Slash series: Jennifer McCrea, philanthropy/social change

With PopTech: Hybrid just a few months away, we decided to ask our speakers a few burning questions. Take a peek inside the minds of this "slash generation" and sign up to be part of the Hybrid this Oct 22-24 in Camden, Maine.

Speaker: Jennifer McCrea is a leading expert on fundraising, among many other talents. For over 27 years, she has partnered with philanthropists, board members and nonprofit leaders to think more creatively and collaboratively about ways in which to align strategic direction and resources. She’s a Senior Research Fellow at the Hauser Institute for Civil Society at Harvard University and the co-founder and CEO of Born Free Africa, an initiative of the Millennium Development Goals Health Alliance that brings private sector resources and expertise to the goal of eradicating mother-to-child transmission of HIV by 2015.

What's one thing you want the PopTech audience to know about you that's not in your bio? 
For nearly 10 years, I've hosted a monthly salon where a small group of friends gather to talk about life's big questions: What is freedom? What does it mean to live an authentic life? What is your relationship to time? What is love?

What does hybrid mean to you from the perspective of your work?
Criticality: a recognition of the world's suffering and challenges; and hope: a recognition of the world's capacity for change.

My ideal hybrid of a person would be:
Someone operating from a place of wisdom, compassion and action. Any one of these characteristics on their own is inherently limited. Collectively, they are unstoppable.

What are you reading?
"Necessary Wisdom," by Jacob Needleman. Tom Reiss' "The Black Count" and the collected works of Frank O'Hara.

What are you listening to?
Krista Tippett's podcasts, Django Reinhardt, John Luther Adams and J Mascis.

What are you working on at the moment?
A new book focused on money and meaning, deepening my teaching and listening skills, and being a part of the global strategy to end mother-to-child transmission of HIV. 

Who are you most looking forward to hearing speak at PopTech?
I'm really looking forward to hearing from Alexa Clay.

Word association: Maine...
Chowder.

If you could pick one historical figure to watch give a PopTech talk, who would it be?
Plato.

The words you live by:
When something seems to go wrong, it's invariably part of a larger right.

What do you know now that you wish you knew 10 years ago?
How to be both in and out of the game.

Karaoke? Yes, no, curious. Go-to song?
Absolutely. I own a karaoke machine! Go to song: Donna Summer's "I'm Coming Out."

Slash series: George Arriola, tech/design

With PopTech: Hybrid just a few months away, we decided to ask our speakers a few burning questions. Take a peek inside the minds of this "slash generation" and sign up to be part of the Hybrid this Oct 22-24 in Camden, Maine.

Speaker: George Arriola has a wide-ranging background with previous roles at Sony and Apple, to name a few. He’s currently Founder and CEO at a skunk_works product design boutique known as Minimalisms, and is a Founder, President, and Chief Product Officer at Monohm Inc. Monohm makes “heirloom electronics and technology that plays well with others.”

What's one thing you want the PopTech audience to know about you that's not in your bio?
Life long passion for study in designing women's fashion, dresses, shoes.

What does hybrid mean to you from the perspective of your work?
Hybrid to me is the ongoing learning and reflective practice and desire for acquiring new skills and disciplines for life. It's the ability to move between roles and expectations extremely quickly allowing one's hybrid agility to push one's craft and projects forward.

My ideal hybrid of a person would be:
The swagger and whimsy of Kristen Kish, the humor and tenacity of Margaret Cho, the creativity and grit of Thom Mayne, Christian Louboutin, and Ray Eames, the intellect of Kevin Flynn, and the prowess of James Bond.

What are you reading?
“The Martian” by Andy Weir. 

What are you listening to?
Jamie XX – In Colour and Clark - Body Riddle.

What are you working on at the moment?
I'm between Kyoto / Tokyo / San Francisco finalizing commercial manufacturing and OOBE (out of box experience) for Runcible.

Who are you most looking forward to hearing speak at PopTech?
Ti Chang.

Word association: Maine...
Maple syrup.

If you could pick one historical figure to watch give a PopTech talk, who would it be?
Akio Morita (founder, Sony).

The words you live by:
Human. Simple. Authentic.

What do you know now that you wish you knew 10 years ago?
Invest in life, work, balance.

Karaoke? Yes, no, curious. Go-to song?
Sure - why the heck not...Jamie XX – “Loud Places” (featuring Romy).