The event’s preview party showcased some of the out-of-the-box thinking that’s in store
By Helaina Hovitz
Last Thursday, April 4, an Internet Week New York preview party was held at Design Within Reach’s newly renovated Soho Studio at 110 Greene Street.
Eventually, 400 guests mingled easily as they sipped on ginger-flavored cocktails and Saporo beer, but those who arrived painfully on time at 7 p.m. were faced with an awkward, half hour free-for-all in the enormous space, not sure where to go or what to do, likely appearing, to those looking in, to be shopping for furniture.
“I didn’t know what to expect or what to do when I got here. It feels really insider-y,” said Lisa Niedermeyer, whose nonprofit, Fractured Atlas, hopes to host a panel called Revenge of the Art Geek. “I think they kind of assume you were here last year.”
Though it was never explained to the crowd trickling in, the main aim of the party was to get people to vote for the festival’s panel entrants, 228 in all (voting will remain open through April 10th at InternetWeekNY.com). Promising contenders include “Will The Internet Save the Publishing Industry?” “I’m Tired of Being So White” and “Combating Device Schizophrenia: Get Your Message Heard Across Screens.”
A DJ spinning trippy futuristic songs eventually abandoned his post and joined the crowd shortly before 8:30 p.m., when a preview panel called Sex, Drugs, Drones, and Codes was set to begin. The panel was kicked off by Daniel Pinchback, editorial director of website Reality Sandwich and author of Breaking Open the Head. Pinchback briefly talked about the resurgence of the Internet in psychedelics, highlighting the ways in which the Internet is “fostering a psychedelic renaissance.”
Next up was Matt Stinchcomb, former employee of Soho’s Rockstar Games and currently Etsy’s VP of Brand & Social Responsibility, who preferred to keep his Internet Week panel a secret but did his best to garner interest, saying, “I’m not gonna tell you what it’s about, but you guys are really gonna like it.”
Brian Anderson, an editor for Motherboard, proceeded to give a speech on drones that honed in on the lack of attention given to the topic. “More people are losing sleep and commenting on articles about chocolate milk than non-consensual surveillance,” he said.
“It’s compelling to see him so passionate about it, but at the end you’re like, what exactly is a drone?” said one baffled audience member to her date.
A drone is, by simplest definition, an unmanned aircraft or other floating device used for surveillance and bomb/missile launching, but can also be something like “that stupid little vacuum robot,” Anderson explained.
Ears perked up during columnist Kelly Bourdet’s panel run-down, which will be, essentially, on pornography. “Everyone — well, many people – watch porn, and yet it’s not part of our every day conversation. The panel will discuss how the Internet proliferates porn and how it affects us,” she said, adding that the first picture to ever be uploaded to the Internet was a Playboy centerfold. “Iceland wants to make porn illegal. What do we want to do about this medium, as children, teens, and adults?” she posed rhetorically to the audience.
Her panel will also discuss how technology affects our modern day relationships.
Co-presented by Made in New York, the Mayor’s Office of Media and Entertainment and Crain Communications, Internet Week is a weeklong event headquartered at the Metropolitan Pavilion (125 West 18th Street). There will also be Meetups, exhibits, screenings, parties, and more taking place at venues across the city. Vice Media will curate an expanded panel and classroom series exploring hot-button topics like sex, drugs, drones, pirating, and social media reporting from conflict zones. Flagship events like the 17th Annual Webby Awards, The Webutante Ball, and Time Inc.’s 10 NYC Startups to Watch will be joined by a roster of new partners participating in the festival for the first time.
Big name speakers will include WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg, Executive Vice President of NBC Universal Lauren Zalaznick, and, for some reason, Joan Rivers.
The event is expected to draw 45,000 people to 400 panels and will, hopefully, impress one of the panelists’ more critical members.
“I think it’s silly to have a week where we talk about the Internet,” said Anderson after closing out the panel preview. “It’s what we do every day.”
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