Wired Next Fest @ Palazzo Vecchio in Florence, Italy

The Wired Next Fest digital media, technology and innovation event was hold 28th-30th of September in Florence and Mika was scheduled to speak in the evening of the last day of the event. I had booked the whole weekend for other commitments months in advance but eventually changed my plans to travel to Florence. I hadn’t seen Mika the whole summer and thought it would be good to see his face again but also wanted to travel for other reasons. I’ve spent a lot of time comfortably at home lately and thought traveling would do me good and give me some energy and sharpness and I also wanted to visit Florence just to feel the atmosphere again. Mika has spent there time this summer recording his album and it’s many ways an inspiring and sophisticated small city. I was right with my decision and spent there an enjoyable and interesting weekend and have a lot of thoughts to share. A small report about the WNF event below and more about Florence in my next blog post.

Earlier this year the city of Florence awarded Mika with the keys to the city making him an honorary citizen of Florence which was a well deserved honor after his collaborations with Opera di Firenze. The ceremony was hold in Palazzo Vecchio and the award was given by Dario Nardella, the mayor of Florence. I couldn’t be there to see the award ceremony but the Wired event was hold in the same impressive building and Dario Nardella was one of the speakers and even that was a random coincidence my mind made a small connection between these two events.

Wired Next Fest was free and open to everyone but an online registration was required and to make sure things would go smoothly on Sunday I did my registration in advance, picked up my wristband on Saturday to have it ready and went to Palazzo Vecchio in good time before the doors were opened on Sunday morning. I saw maybe 20 people waiting, joined them and soon after that saw more familiar faces. The doors were opened, we could go in and the event started exactly as scheduled. The timetable for the day was extremely tight without any breaks but worked well as planned which impressed me (we were in Italy after all). Below a pic we took before going in with some of the Italian girls I know.

I went to the Wired Next Fest just to see Mika but as a pleasant surprise the whole day was much more interesting than I had thought in advance. On Sunday two guests spoke in English: Vint Cerf, one of the fathers of the internet, and interface designer John Underkoffler, known for inventing the data interface for the science fiction film Minority Report. Both were obviously experienced public speakers (see their Ted profiles here and here).

Vint Cerf was a charismatic gentleman in his grey beard and a stylish hat and his speech well structured and easy to understand. He went through the history of the internet and pointed out issues important in the future, most of them something everyone knows yet no one can (yet) solve. The final impression he left was optimistic. There are still issues related to safety, reliability and preserving the data that need to be considered and kept in mind. For example, an insane amount of mobile photos is taken every year and none of us knows what will happen to them in 15 years. This is a topic I’ve given a lot of thought and the reason why I want to do manual archives in our digital age, I simply can’t be sure what will happen to my digital archives in the future.

John Underkoffler’s presentation was entertaining and a bit Hollywood style. He showed a Tom Cruise scene with holograms and either that particular scene or similar scenes from other movies are familiar to everyone. We think the holograms we see are futuristic special effects but for designers all that is future reality and according to John Underkoffler the future user interface needs to adjust space and motion and collaborative use, just to give a few examples.

Some of the italian speakers we saw would have been interesting but unfortunately the topics were too difficult for me to understand in italian. However, generally the schedule before Mika wasn’t still boring at all. We saw some music performances and I especially liked the first guest, a singer-songwriter called Dente, and found his acoustic performance very relaxed. We saw film, youtube and television persons and I add a couple of photos of Alexandro Cattelan below because his face is familiar to everyone who has followed Mika’s career in Italy. Cattelan was on stage with Andrea Delogu talking about social media and the images from their Instagram accounts showed on the background made their talk easy to follow and to put in context even it was in Italian.

Finally it was Mika’s turn, watch his interview here (I hope there will be a translation on his fan club page and will add it later). He talked about his new album, about his stay in Italy and the country in general, about using social media and also simplicity which was the main topic for the whole event. I was happy to see his face again. I could follow his answers about music and the album quite well because my mind could put things in context and his words made me curious and impatient and to wish I could hear the album immediately. I couldn’t understand his talk about the house because I couldn’t see where he was going to (I think nowhere, it was just chatting) but the talk about social media felt obvious as he has many times clearly said he doesn’t like it.

I can understand him very well. Real life events are important to me because I want to feel the atmosphere in my body. When the atmosphere is relaxed, my body is relaxed, when it’s tense my body feels tense and I need to be there to experience these things. Sometimes the aggressiveness in social media is so strong my body can feel it even online. The upper part of my stomach starts to hurt and I can’t breath. There’s a huge difference between occasional, sharp sarcasm and constant bickering and judgmental comments. If people want Mika to use social media as a person and not only as a brand they should remember he reacts as a person. Negative pressure and repeating the same complaints can be too much for everyone.

After the interview he was finally asked to sing. Obviously the piano was left there for this reason and I had hoped it would happen. He didn’t look that enthusiastic but walked to the piano. I hoped he would do Boum Boum Boum, I thought it would be suitable even it’s in French and that he could play the intro and easily sing it. I think only a part of my telepathic message went through and he got only BB instead of BBB as he did Billy Brown instead and I was happy with that as well. I put down my camera and just enjoyed the song and it was beautiful.  A short but lovely moment. After that he waved to the audience and disappeared backstage.

I knew in advance the event would be crowded meaning I probably wound’t see him from close enough to say hello. I also knew that even if I saw him I couldn’t actually talk with him, there would be too many people around him, so I had just in case made a small thank you card with a note to give him. He left quickly though and I waited for the girls and started to ask questions and translations and we went out all together. The whole area outside Palazzo Vecchio was full of people leaving and we walked around the corner to see even more crowds.

A man was opening a car door so I stopped for a moment to give him space and suddenly realized he was opening the door for Mika. In two seconds he was in front of me, saw my face, smiled and said “hi how are you” and I stood there astonished by this incredible timing. The man who opened the door took the card I was holding in my hand and then the car was gone.  Everything happened so quickly I barely had time to think “this is what they call the flow and perfect timing”. I don’t know what happened to the card but it doesn’t matter, I did my best delivering it to Italy. I went to have drinks and snacks with the girls and then back to my hotel to get some rest before traveling to Finland.

I was a bit too far away to get good pics, sorry, but added still some to give the impression how it was and how smiling he looked. Thanks everyone, it was good to see you all again xxx