This is just flat-out smart and cool.
The Institute for the Future teamed up with Sun Microsytems and Boing Boing to host The Digital Open, a tech expo for teens under the age of 17. Last week they announced a series of winning projects, one of which caught my eye -- not because it made use of amazing, forward-looking technology, but because it ostensibly uses no technology at all...
Actually, that's not quite true. Let me explain.
The project, developed by a 17-year-old girl named Alexis McAdams, is called "DiorActive" and essentially takes the big world issues -- political, social, cultural, economic, environmental, etc -- that we all hear about (in the abstract) through the constant barrage of information available at our fingertips every day and brings them to life in a tactical, experiential way at a human scale. How? By portraying them live in the real, physical world, reenactment style or interactive diorama style.
You can learn more about the project and its inspiration in Alexis's own words (video):
So of course technology plays a role -- the real world experiences are informed by all of the online and media information available to DiorActive "builders" as they research the issues they'll bring to life. But the idea of using technology simply as a conduit to bridge a world-scale issue that we hear about to a human-scale physical experience that hammers the issue home in a meaningful, personal way is brilliant. And I think that it also speaks to an interesting blur between the digital, virtual and physical and provides a firm reminder that even for a generation that was "born digital," real world connections matter most of all.
As marketers, we intuitively (if not through hard and fast data) understand that online activities ranging from traditional digital advertising to web-based research and social media word-of-mouth translate into real world behaviors. As social computing evolves and becomes increasingly mobile -- and increasingly blurs the distinction between online connections and real world friendships -- the distinction between the digital and physical worlds will become less, well, distinct. And as we geek out over shiny objects that tap technology to enhance the physical world, it's good to remember that it flows the other way too -- that real world experiences can, do and will absolutely serve to enhance the digital (think about even the humble tweetup...)
I love the way Alexis's DiorActive project reminds old people like me, "hey, while you guys talk about where this might all be going, some of us are already there..."
I'd love to hear your thoughts. What do you think?