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Rob Gould

Rob works as a digital marketing & public relations consultant to agencies, brands, and individuals. He has 20 years of marketing experience. He also currently serves in a volunteer capacity as director of pr/communications for TEDxDirigo. From 2005-2011, Rob served as director of social media & agency communications at The VIA Agency (Portland). Prior to VIA, Rob worked with several PR & advertising agencies in London & Boston. He is a graduate of The University of Vermont (UVM) and a Maine transplant (2002). Follow Rob on Twitter at @bobbbyg His real-life interests include art, travel, writing, design, psychology, the beach, & exercise (grudgingly at times).

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Posted: November 7, 2014

Adam Burk founder, CEO, Treehouse Institute and curator, TEDxDirigo

Written by: Rob Gould
Adam Burk Photo Credit: Nathan Eldridge

Adam Burk
Photo Credit: Nathan Eldridge

This Sunday, November 9, TEDxDirigo will host its fifth annual fall conference, TEDxDirigo: Mavericks & Misfits. The conference is sold out but there will be a free live webcast of the event for anyone who cannot attend. I serve in a volunteer position as the communications director of TEDxDirigo. In February 2013 I conducted my first Social Social interview with Adam Burk. In honor of the upcoming conference I thought I would reprint Adam’s interview and include a few new questions. You’ll find the new questions at the end of the original interview which appears in its entirety below.

The original interview begins here: 

This marks the first of my weekly interviews. The interviews will be with a wide range of individuals each sharing their experience with and/or opinions about social media. There are no rules or set questions and each interview may be a bit different.

Adam is a MySpace guy …

I work with Adam for TEDxDirigo where I volunteer as the communications director. He’s too nice to tell you, but I know I make him crazy on a regular basis. I can’t figure out why, as I’m a very reserved and passive person with few strong opinions. Anyway, it must be about him.

I’m very grateful that Adam agreed to be my first Social Social interviewee. We met at Local 188, talked for quite a while and had a great time. What you’ll read here is a greatly condensed version of our conversation.

Tell me about your first experiences with social media.

MySpace was the first social network that I used. It opened the door to that horrible online voyeurism. But, there was enjoyment in being able to reconnect with high school friends and other people from my past in a way that wasn’t too time-consuming.

Blogger was next and let me shout into the wind. However, Blogger was where I first saw the power of social media. I got pissed off that Whole Foods Market was carrying Kleenex products and blogged about my experience trying to get them to stop. Whole Foods eventually did and told me that they really appreciated what I had to say via Blogger. Of course, that made me happy.

What do you dislike about social media?

The first thing that comes to mind is I don’t like the distractive nature of social media. I mean, sometimes I’m really having quality interactions with people or looking at good information but other times I’m just looking because it’s habit. I don’t like that part.

I also don’t like the disconnect between what we’re doing with social media and social media’s actual ecological footprint. The server farm energy issues are huge. I’m guilty of the disconnect too, and I probably don’t think about it enough.

I also really dislike how often people accept as fact information they hear on social media without even looking into where it came from. Even worse, they often repost the same inaccurate information. Social media makes that so easy. I’ve done it. I hate it.

What do you like about social media?

The facilitation of real-life relationships.

What I’ve been involved in is affecting change and connecting people, places, and ideas and I’m definitely not interested in using email as a primary communication tool. Social media is an open-curated communication channel, which has been a much better option.

Just as people were really disengaging from mainstream media in a big way, social media came along. It provided a new transparent, consumer-driven channel for people to get their information.

Is there a person or brand who you think uses social media effectively?

Maria Popova @brainpicker does a brilliant job and provides top-quality content/information.

Erik Hersman @whiteafrican harnessed its power for rapid crisis response through @Ushahidi

Jerry Stone @jerryjamesstone has facilitated at least two career shifts via social media and is funny.

David Roberts @drgrist is incredibly adept at social and political critique in 140 characters.

John Maeda, @johnmaeda

A huge thank you to Adam for acting as my Social Social “guinea pig.”

You can find Adam at @adamburk@treehouseinst, and @tedxdirigo

And, the new questions begin here:

Bring us up-to-date on what’s been happening with TEDxDirigo since we talked last.

First of all, I can’t believe it was a year and a half ago that we did the last interview. A lot has happened, thanks for asking!

In May 2013, we produced Design Thinking is For Everyone in partnership with Vital Innovation and SPACE Gallery. During the two hour event 40 people used human centered design thinking to iterate possible solutions the question “How might we make parking in Portland as awesome as the rest of the city experience?” Ideas included downtown parking concierge, a party/shuttle van from a parking lot just off peninsula, an integrated mobile app with location tracking, and a EZPass-like technology.

Last Fall, we sold out our fourth annual TEDxDirigo event. The theme was GENERATE and we explored our relationships with the things we make. We held a “Fix-it Cafe” the day before the event in collaboration with Treehouse Innovation Fellow, Eli Mellen, and our friends from the Parachute Factory in New Mexico, where people got to take things apart and play with new tools like a Makey-Makey. Presenters at the event discussed personal agencyWTF projectsoptimismjoy, and much more.

At the event we launched the Treehouse Innovation Fellows, a group of recent college grads with an emerging body of work that will make a difference for Maine. It’s our way to boost the talented young people who are choosing to live and work in Maine.

We also started a pilot TEDxDirigoYouth program. We worked with high school students to engage other young people in TEDxDirigo including attending and speaking at the event. We are hoping to grow this effort in 2015 with grant funding and individual giving in order to create a full and free TEDxDirigoYouth event with all youth presenters and 300 people in the audience.

This Spring we produced #CreateYourCity, an experiment that explored the question “How might we turn a dead space into a vibrant public space?” We built a temporary art structure with Colin Sullivan-Stevens in Canal Plaza that served as a yoga studio, lecture hall, sanctuary, and performance venue. We also worked with partners at Portland Gear Hub, MPBN, Might & Main, and Sarah Schindler to activate the plaza with a popup bike shop, story booth, critique of street signs in Portland, and discussion of creating change in land use law.

A few weeks ago, working with Tim Clorius and Andrew Coffin of S.U.B.O.N.E (Supplying Urban Beautification Offering New Experiences), we hosted a multi-generational graffiti workshop. Participants used various media to paint giant puzzle pieces, which came together as a large art installation. Building on the creativity of workshop attendees, the event built relationships between local youth and their retired neighbors.

Finally, this weekend is TEDxDirigo: Mavericks and Misfits! It’s our fifth annual event and is sold out again. We are really excited for the event, and grateful to all our speakers, partners, volunteers, and guests for making it a great five years. While the event is sold out you can see the event through a free live webcast.

What would it be like for you to disconnect from social media for six months?

I think it would be freeing and disorientating. I took one month off of Facebook (read more here) and that was quite revealing! I uncovered my unconscious patterns of checking social media and enjoyed my new found freed attention. I also really missed knowing what was happening in my friends’ lives and finding news that I cared about quickly and easily. In that experiment I ended up using Twitter more, so I really don’t know what life would be like with no social media! I bet I would be in the woods looking for mushrooms even more.

What three words would you use to describe social media? 

How about a haiku?

Wonderful, used well.

Fast news. Make relationships

that enrich your life.

I would like to thank Adam, once again, for taking the time to share his experience and opinions with me about social media and TEDxDirigo.

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