Northside’s Innovation Festival Showcases the Latest in Technology and Beyond

Northside’s Innovation Festival Showcases the Latest in Technology
and Beyond, by Natalie Hamingson

While the Innovation portion of Northside Festival was aimed
at the latest and greatest in technology, its appeal certainly wasn’t limited
to just the tech-minded. With a focus on three verticals–entrepreneurship, content,
and design–the Innovation Expo and Conference featured companies and speakers catering
to a wide range of fields. Although not someone who would typically attend a
tech fest, I was certainly able to find many items of interest as I sampled
what Northside’s Innovation had to offer.

EXPO

Though the Innovation badge itself
was relatively expensive compared to the other festival features (just over
$300), attendees could sample what’s trending for free, with both start-ups
and already established brands, at the Expo/Northside Trade Show in McCarren
Park
. Unfortunately, the sweltering blacktop heat didn’t encourage extended
browsing, but the featured companies certainly made the Expo worth a quick stop.

There were products purely for fun, like Know Your Crew,
a mobile app game to test how well you know your friends. For musical gear-heads,
there was Sensory Percussion by Sunhouse, a new kind of electronic drum that offers a far more
nuanced sound than a traditional drum machine.

The booths that I found most intriguing, though, were from
companies using technology to make positive social impacts. Talkspace, a texting
therapy app, aims to remove the social stigma and economic burden from mental
health treatment by making therapy accessible to anyone who needs it. For just
$25 per week, users can anonymously chat with one of Talkspace’s 200 licensed therapists at any time. When one in four
Americans suffer with some kind of mental health issue, but few actually get
help, Talkspace is offering a vital
service.

The last booth I stopped by was for Pledgerunner an app that connects to your
wearable fitness device and allows you to create your own personal charity
marathon. As someone completely obsessed with counting my steps, my interest
was immediately piqued, so I stuck around for a few minutes to chat with
founder John Arterberry.

Arterberry’s inspiration for Pledgerunner stems from his own personal experience with
homelessness. Now that Arterberry has lifted himself out of poverty, and is
working as a software engineer, he wanted to find a way to give back to those
still struggling. He also mentioned to me that he hoped Pledgerunner would be particularly helpful to smaller nonprofits
that don’t have the resources to fund a large-scale charity marathon. Pledgerunner is still very much in its
beginning stages, partnering with just nine nonprofits, such as the Sustainable
Sports Foundation
,
and working on connecting with fitness tracker smartphone apps (for people like
me who haven’t made the move yet to a wearable device). Of all that I saw at
Northside’s Innovation Expo, though,
Pledgerunner
is definitely the one I plan to keep a close eye on in the
near future.

HAPPY HOURS AND
PANELS

 While the main draw of an Innovation badge were the myriad
of panel discussions on June 11th and 12th, the badge
came with some extra perks like access to parties and happy hours. One of the Innovation
soirées I was able to attend was a launch party for Kite  on
June 11th, a media reading and sharing app, described as “Instagram for
Articles.” Kite allows you to save
news sites that you frequent, so rather than having to open each individual
news outlet in a browser, or scour your other social media feeds, your news is
provided in a seemingly easy one-stop shop.

Unfortunately, I didn’t walk away from the presentation for Kite as excited about this app as I had
been about the ones at the Expo. I’m not sure if it was more about the
presentation and less about the app itself, but each time a feature was
mentioned, like being able to use “emojis like the Facebook like function,” I
was left with this sense of, “I kind of get it, but I kind of don’t.” (I have
zero regrets about attending the party, though, thanks to the organic delights
provided by the party’s host and caterer Our
Name is Farm
.)

The panels went far beyond featuring new apps, providing in
depth discussions around topics ranging from mindfulness in today’s fast paced
world (“Getting Ahead by Slowing Down”) to artificial intelligence (“Artificial
Intelligence and its Discontents”). In hindsight, I wish I had caught more than
one discussion, especially since I heard the aforementioned were pretty
fascinating. But given the short amount of time I had to visit so many events,
the one that I did make it to,  “Media
Disruption, Consumption & Survival,” seemed to be the right choice. 

Featuring members of The
Guardian
,
The New York Times, IMinds, Vocativ, and moderated by Pam Workman of the Workman Group, this discussion centered around how technological
innovation is effecting the ways media outlets connect readers to content, both
positively and negatively. For a subject so nuanced, the panel did a pretty
good job of providing a multifaceted conversation in just under 40 minutes. The
discussion ranged from subjects like the importance of creating a community for
outlets in the digital age, and possible methods for financially sustainable
news as the old models are changing.

image

One point I found especially interesting during the latter
topic was the issue of labeling and transparency when presenting corporate
sponsored content. Gregory Gittrich of Vocativ
seemed to put the ethical issue best when he said, as long as they are
presenting quality content, outlets shouldn’t have to worry about being able to
label an article as being brought to you by a corporation. After all, if the
content is good, there should be no need for deception.

The panel didn’t end with a clear picture of where the
industry is going, but really in this Wild West like era of digital upheaval,
speculation is all you can expect anyone to offer. My one wish, though, would
have been for more discussion on how digital disruption effects individual
journalists and bloggers, as well as the large entities. (But that may have
been my own fault for not being quick enough when they gave the audience the
chance to ask questions.)

Overall, the Innovation aspect of Northside was a worthwhile
experience. I had expected it to just be a good way to kill time between seeing
bands, but I walked away from it feeling like I had learned a lot. Considering
it’s a relatively new part of the festival, it will be interesting to see how
the Innovation side of Northside grows in years to come.

___________

Nataile Hamingson’s bio: I am a freelance writer with over nine years of experience writing for online media, primarily journalistic. My expertise is in music journalism, especially feature artist interviews. (Outlets published on include: Music for America, LA2DAY, Covers, Chicks with Guns, my own blog, http://nataliejill.wordpress.com, and BlvdCentral.com.)

I am, however, very flexible in my ability to write about multiple subjects. My second most covered topics are political and social issues. Those issues frequently appear in my music related articles, as I often cover artists with social justice focused messages.

In addition, my background includes freelance marketing work, such as social media/viral marketing, blog and website content, and press releases for artists and non-profits. I also have extensive editing and proofreading experience.

For samples visit my portfolio: http://www.clippings.me/nataliehamingson, and blog: https://nataliejill.wordpress.com

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