Couchiching Conference 2008

I recently spent three and a half days working out my brain to the tune of “Knowledge.” I flexed those muscles with the notion that we are in the midst of an “information revolution,” paced over the idea of a “knowledge economy” and quite frankly, broke into a sweat over digitalizing knowledge.

Clearly, I’m not ready for an avatar takeover just yet.

All this exercise was thanks to the 77th Annual Couchiching Conference, one of the oldest, most prestigious meetings of minds, put on by the Couchiching Institute on Public Affairs. This year, the topic was “The Power of Knowledge: The New Global Currency.”

I was one of the grateful scholarship attendees of this conference, financed through Couchiching’s “Fresh Minds Fund,” part of youth outreach to ensure opportunities to, and future involvement from bright young minds.

Expecting a handful of youth scholarship recipients, I was instead met by 200 “Fresh Minds.” No matter the demography, everyone at Couch seemed to be following the same unspoken rule: “Open your mind and be engaged.”

For three and a half days, we ventured into the profound yet amorphous territory of “Knowledge.” It felt like playing a game of soccer on a soaking wet field – slippery and fast, tentative yet skillful.

I have to admit, in general I’ve taken to conference-going like a sport, one for which I’ve needed to train. Conferencing is a sport of concentration and stamina. It is about determination and improvement, and sometimes, you have to be prepared to roll with the punches. At Couch, we covered everything from globalization and competitiveness to intellectual property to citizen journalism, hurdling over these topics with the fervor of the Olympic athletes we watched during the short breaks.

Sessions came with such all-encompassing titles as:

  • What Knowledge Explosion,
  • Creating Knowledge: Creating Value,
  • The Uncertain Path from Noise to Wisdom (which was the opening keynote by Bill Buxton, an address worthy of its own blog…to come)

Each panel was capped off with a robust Q&A period, during which 8-10 people on average would line up behind the microphone to challenge the dialogue.

By the end of the conference, disagreements notwithstanding, it felt like we were all on the same team. Essentially, we were a relay team, passing a baton, pushing forward and setting the pace for one another.

The big question that I will explore in the next few blogs is one that had us constantly sidelined in our quest to reach some kind of finish line: Is there such thing as a knowledge economy?

What do you think? (Seriously, comments welcome!) Get on your trainers and be prepared to engage in some brainteasers. Stay tuned…

Lisa Torjman

Lisa managed social innovation projects for the Social Innovation Generation (SiG@MaRS) program at MaRS. See more…