‘The lost art of conversing’
Wurman plans to invite high-profile individuals from around the world to the September 2012 conference. Once there, they will engage in one-on-one conversations in an “energetic exploration of the lost art of conversing.” Asked when, specifically, we lost that art, Wurman pointed to a modern development that everyone loves to hate: elevator music.
“They put music in elevators, and then they put it very loud in restaurants,” he said. “We figured out the market was a certain age group, and we decided that that age group doesn’t talk to each other. So we’d play music, and it makes them feel comfortable at bars. I mean, have you been to a bar and had to scream at somebody next to you? … Isn’t that really dumb?”
What if retired four-star General Stanley McChrystal and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak met in a bar without the loud background music? The WWW Conference may show us, since both men have agreed to participate. Other participants include Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington, magician David Blaine (who personally taught Wurman how to hold his breath for extended periods of time), DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, Khan Academy’s Salman Khan, and MIT Media Lab Founder Nicholas Negroponte.
Assisting Wurman in this effort will be the conference’s music directors, Yo-Yo-Ma and Herbie Hancock; portraitist Philip Burke, who will serve as the conference portraitist and participant; and SEED Media Group founder and CEO Adam Bly, the conference’s science curator and also a participant.
Altogether, Wurman plans to have 75 participants talk one-on-one for 10 to 50 minutes with a single question launching the discussion.
“There is much more communication right now,” said Wurman when asked about the role social media has played in the ‘lost art,’ “and I’m not talking Facebook or Twitter necessarily, although Facebook, which isn’t something somebody like myself should be doing — that lets me find some people I can send a message to at once.”
“We don’t live in a world where there’s the best way of doing things,” said Wurman. “We live in a world of ‘also.’ You can make a phone call, you can also send an e-mail, you can also tweet somebody, I guess, Facebook somebody — you can do a lot of things.”
So, he added, “whatever we’re doing now isn’t going to be here tomorrow. You shouldn’t spend so much time analyzing Facebook or Twitter or any of these things because they will be old news. They’re not going to be around in a few years. They will be something else. And it won’t be an improved version, necessarily, it will be something really different. It will be the opposite maybe of what we’re doing. But that’s okay. The rapidity of radical change is increasing — it’s interesting. And it will be seamless, effortless and transparent.”