Earlier this year I met Mark Nagurski, Digital Champion of an organization called Digital Derry in Derry, Ireland. Mark came to meet with me in Dumbo and I had the opportunity to tell him about how we had gone about growing Digital DUMBO over the past few years. He discussed how Derry and Ireland in general had been on a tear as of late in the digital space and told me about a conference they had in the works called CultureTech. After having just completed our first ever dd:IMPACT conference, an event that explored how digital has disrupted, evolved, and progressed culture, it was a fitting conversation to be having.
Prior to meeting Mark I didn't know much about Derry or Northern Ireland. However, when he asked me to come to Derry to participate as a speaker in CultureTech, he gave me a good reason to come and visit and find out more.
So, last week I hopped on a plane from Newark and flew six and a half hours to Belfast and drove an hour and a half north to Derry. The city is perhaps best known for what's referred to as The Troubles, the etho-political conflict in Northern Ireland between Protestant Unionists and Catholic Nationalists. Bloody Sunday also happened just outside the city walls that still surround Derry's city center.
Upon entering the city walls it's hard not to feel the sense of community in Derry. The urban center has a population of about 85,000, but the walls make it seem like a much smaller place. There might be more bars than people. The size of the city make Derry an ideal cultural center and a perfect place for a festival like CultureTech, allowing people to interact and cross paths on street level.
On the third day of the festival I had the privilege of participating in the Big Ideas session. I discussed how Digital DUMBO grew from a small social gathering into a much bigger idea. I believe that Digital DUMBO has found its way into the broader movement towards a creative society based on the creative class. As Richard Florida states, "We are in that strange interregnum when the old order has collapsed and the new order is not yet born." He refers to the old order as companies that grew out of the industrial revolution who's bureaucratic infrastructures stifle innovation and creativity, and the new order being that of the knowledge-based worker and more dynamic and nimble organizations. We believe that Digital DUMBO can help bridge the gap between the old and new and we're establishing an initiative set to do so.
Outside of the Big Ideas session I very much enjoyed the Image Rights panel, a half day examination of music and the moving image, featuring Daniel Cross, the Global Music Manager for Adidas, among others. I was pleasantly surprised at the abundance of music and music start-ups in Ireland. However, at second glance, it makes perfect sense. Music is a big part of Irish culture and nightlife. Stay on the look out for Irish music start-ups like Rotor, 45 Sound, Choorpy, and Inflyt.
CultureTech was a grand success, especially in a city that has been through so much in the past. There was a real sense of pride amongst the volunteers, sponsoring companies, supporters, and even us speakers. I wish Derry, Digital Derry, and the CultureTech team nothing but the best, especially in the coming year where Derry will be the UK's City of Culture. I hope to make my return to Ireland sooner rather than later. It was an honor to be involved in what was a big stop forward for Derry and it's digital community.