Confessions of a Creative Economy Conference Groupie: Connecting the Dots at the Global Creative Economy Convergence Summit 2009 in Philadelphia


I enjoy big picture creativity conferences that promote art, design, and broad themes of personal and social transformation…it is so much better than the gritty and grubby grind of real life. Clever, accomplished, and basically well-meaning people have center stage rather than the peripheral roles of wise/fool, crazy/genius, or expendable expert.

There were five things that distinguished this conference from the other more glamorous gatherings like TED and PopTech:

  1. No over-hyped celebrity presenters repeating their pet cosmic theories ad nauseum. (Even the keynote talk delivery by best-selling author Elizabeth Gilbert was punctuated by gentle self-deprecating humor, and stories of her life as a diner waitress in Philly and under-achieving and least favorite child in a family of Connecticut uber-achievers)
  2. Limited to two days at a highly accessible location.
  3. No-frills registration for $75 that is nearly identical in experience to the full $225 registration — minus two mediocre lunches.
  4. Focused on practice rather than just blue-sky possibilities.
  5. Was in a city that was genuinely on the ropes for decades but has transformed itself into America’s #1 creative economy metro area. (I say this because Philly has very affordable housing, a considerable number of well-paying creative jobs, stellar academic, cultural, and nonprofit sectors, and a $10 Bolt bus ride to NYC.)

The following items are my personal highlights from the summit. They include intriguing web links and some of the more memorable ideas that went in one ear and did not go out the other.

  • Jane McGonigal (director of game R&D at the Institute for the Future)
    The institute has been key creative player in Silicon Valley for over 35 years. The presentation was made via Skype from California. Although Jane was sick, she made a marvelous impression.

Institute slide shows:
Epic Win (Why Gaming is the Future of Learning)

Favorite thinkers and designers and communities for learning more about happiness hacking, alternate realities, and game design:

Nicole Lazzaro

Clay Shirky – “Cognitive Surplus”

Edward Castranova – Synthetic Worlds & Exodus from Reality

Tara Hunt

BJ Fogg


Alternate Reality Gaming Network

DIGMA (Design Industry Group of Mass)
Promoting the Massachusetts design economy
The Design Industry Group of Massachusetts (DIGMA) is an initiative of the statewide design industries to organize and promote the Massachusetts design cluster as integral to the state’s economy. DIGMA enables diverse design industries – including advertising, architecture, graphic design, industrial design, interior design, landscape design, and specialized design services such as fashion, textiles and lighting design – to speak with one powerful and influential voice.

Piedmont Triad Partnership
Marketing our region to the world
These tar heels have a lot to teach us about integrating and scaling up creative economy programs.


Miscellaneous musings and factoids:

No one believes advertisements anymore — that is the power of social media — but we tend to believe our friends and relatives.

There is creativity without drama and reward — in fact, it is the norm, not the exception.

Celebrate the creative spirit, not the creators.

Entrepreneurship equals prosperity for a region.

You don’t need to outdo your every achievement.

To break a writer’s block, take an acting or drawing class.

Follow your curiosity — not your passions or bliss.

Beware your pitch/robot mode of talking to another human being. Everyone wants to be a person, not a client.

Money for any start-up venture is as much a burden as it is a blessing.

Never give away free food or booze to attract potential members to a group.

Yes, there can be double bottom lines — one for profit/loss and the other for social good.

Ancient Greek dice games were created by the ruling class to distract the starving masses from their hunger in times of famine.

All games have well defined rules and boundaries; a cooperative community; a shared space for competition; time to play and experiment.

It is okay to screw up, but don’t lie about it online — you’ll get caught.

Grammar, spelling, and syntax still matter.

Make something that is genuinely hard to copy.

Attention span is 2.7 seconds for a young person, which translates into a 140 character text message.

People who take digital photographs for fun are more likely to visit a museum than the average citizen.

Senior corporate management extols the virtues of creativity but does not like to hire people with fine art backgrounds for staff positions.

If you only listen to your own voice, you’ll drown.

Privacy died 30 or 40 years ago.

Be a niche marketer/producer/provider to get rich — the generalist is seldom missed.

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