Pär Sikö interviews opening keynote speaker Anna Beatrice Scott

Our program chair Pär Sikö and our opening keynote speaker Anna Beatrice Scott virtually got together and had a conversation on IT, arts, crowdfunding and making things happen.

Let's get started.

[Pär] Can you tell us a bit about yourself, what you've done in the past and what you do now?

[Anna] Bits about myself, also requires bytes. I love getting people to do great things. I'm a recovering girl jock, so team spirit and ethics are a big part of how I organize myself. I've been a project manager since middle school, when I organized my class to take a weeklong field trip from Holly Springs, MS to St. Louis, MO. We did fundraisers, campaigns; it was somewhat ridiculous yet inspired. I've never stopped doing things that seem impossible. My last day gig was as a professor in a dance department where I trained PhD students in the theory of corporeality...and I had them dance. These days I set work on my performance instigation team, VISCERA, when I am not running an event or project. I am also a mother of two mad scientists, so things are always interesting in my home. 

[Pär] What do you think of the theme this year ("The Arts") and what relationship do you see between IT and arts?

[Anna] Well if I answer this one, what will I say in my talk?!? Seriously, I thought immediately of The Baroque Cycle and Anathema by Neal Stevenson when I saw the title of the conference. In his novels, the treatment of code as codex, as in ancient pearling notation, causes us to understand that all leaps in informatics are artistic endeavors, requiring the same craft and zeal that an artisan brings to their work, but also the exuberant fear that an artist brings to her own. An artisan understands that their object must be a useful tool; an artist has no clear idea why their work or object must be done, other than it is necessary, thus, they fight fear--their own and that if others--in order to bring the work into the world.  I think technology has revolved around "arting" since there was "tool." Now, we are recognizing this story in the overdeveloped world and trying to better fashion our artful tools with generative story.

[Pär] You seem to be a busy woman, with plenty of ongoing projects. Can you tell us more about them?

[Anna] Oh, the portfolio life! So the two largest ongoing projects I have are Idea Project and TEDxSkidROW. Neither are my babies, but I love them very much. Idea Project is a gathering of folks in LA and San Francisco who generally enjoy TED and TEDTalks but are looking to pivot an idea into a practical use. It is lead by Cooper Bates of Hint Mint fame. We are considering starting again since our work with TEDxSkidrow subsumed the team these last two years.
TEDxSkidRow is the brainchild of R. Vijay Gupta, Senior TED Fellow and violinist with the LA Philharmonic. He was also a med student at some point, so his interest in music is also about healing. In particular, he investigates the impact music has on the neurology of people in crisis. I am HONORED to assist in putting together the conference and also in telling the story of his organization, Street Symphony. The quartets perform in jails, homeless shelters, parks, hospitals, and juvenile detention facilities. Working with them gives me a very different perspective on the role of technology in the world.

[Anna] My own project, VISCERA, is gearing up to remount and extend a dance work that we premiered earlier this year, "For Kara, Gigi and N'em." This team also keeps me on my toes with my performance instigation thought work.

[Pär] The description of one of your projects, OCTENATE, is "OCTENATE surfaces deep conversations and insights that lift you above the fray before the noise even begins". Can you elaborate on what that actually means? 

[Anna] The octopus hears at the infrasonic level. It gets into motion before other creatures in its environment know that there us imminent danger. As a metaphor, this works well for a process I use called quantum storytelling. We learn to "place bets" in particular points in a particular narrative that a business is telling about itself or that its clients/users are telling. It's a deep dive research tool that allows a business to co-create value with their customer base without ignoring the culture that has sprung up around it.

[Pär] Crowdfunding has become quit popular. You're the editor of "The Crowdfunding Atlas", a digital newspaper, how did you end up there?

[Anna] I am the founding editor of Crowdfundingguide.com, but it now runs without an editor in place. I fell into that gig after completing the market research for a new crowdfunding platform. While the paperwork has been filed, they have yet to launch. I am just about done with my book, The Crowdfunding Atlas. Hopefully, this will ignite the team to get the platform live already.

[Pär] What do you think is the next step in crowdfunding? Will it continue to thrive?

[Anna] It's funny, but I think crowdfunding is going to need to return, in part, to civic structures. To me the beauty and terror of crowdfunding is that its success is due to people wanting to help each other in unsystematic or ad hoc ways. This is not sustainable and why all cities, states and nations have taxes. Crowdfunding is about failed state apparatus. Our governments are tuned to a past that never was. With the pressure that the realtime web is exerting on global trade, travel, health and memory, waiting for systemic change and response seems foolhardy, but actively refusing to support civic initiatives for political reasons is also ridiculous. Crowdfunding is carrying a lot of weight and could collapse if governments continue to withdraw support from their citizens. When you have nothing left to share other than goodwill, will you?

[Pär] On your web page, there's a statement "300. People that I help make things happen. They tell me what they could never do, then we go and do it." How do you manage that? What is your approach? 

[Anna] I used to be a professor, so my reach was quite big, lol! These days, I dance as civic duty, stay on social media to bridge people offline, host dinner parties and convene conferences and colloquia.  You change the world one person at a time, but it can be asynchronous.

[Pär] A tweet, that you retweeted a while back, asked  "If you could nominate one company for the 'Coolest Social Business In The World Award', which one would you submit?” Which one would you nominate? And why?

[Anna] Well, there some pretty cool businesses that have recently launched, headphones made of leftover wood from cabinetry, shoes that get a pair sent elsewhere, but I really love a project here in LA called The Do Good Bus. Most of the time it is the band, Foster the People's tour bus, but is also a volunteer ride service. You pay to go do something awesome for a day. You have no idea really where you are going! They also do corporate team building events in the same style. Angelenos get to meet each other, be of service, and support a local business. I love it!

[Pär] Have you ever been so Sweden before? 

[Anna] I have only been to Sweden telematically. I performed for a workshop on environmental sustainability run by Stuart Pledger of Sustainable Leadership in Stockholm a few years ago. I'm looking forward to seeing Sweden up close!

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