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The Communication Crises and the Evolution of Personal and Cultural Protocols

Greg Elliott, MIT Media Lab Researcher & Hugo Van Vuuren, Berkman Fellow / GSD

Tuesday, April 19, 12:30 pm
Berkman Center, 23 Everett Street, second floor

Respected newspapers (NYT) and bloggers (Swissmiss) agree: we have a full-scale "communication crisis" on our hands - “Too many channels. Too many messages. Too much noise. Too much guilt." Otherwise meaningful conversations and valuable data points are spread incoherently across various platforms, making it difficult to manage this data. Barriers exist between generations, industries and culture.  Large corporations are developing technologies to help bridge these differences but behind every technology problem is a human problem.

In response to this, we built Protocol to help users - particularly multi-channel high-frequency communicators - communicate their personal communication preferences. Protocol also doubles as an interesting data gathering device to study the evolving behavior and new technology use.Interested parties can sign up for access at

Many people already explain in great detail how they want to be contacted and what they will respond to, e.g. Tim Berners-Lee, Swiss Miss, LowerCase LLC, and danah boyd.

As our communication channels increase in number and function, how will formerly society-wide notions of culture and protocol evolve to a personal and group level?  Methods and tools are emerging from academia and industry.  How do you solve this problem? 

About Hugo

Hugo is a Berkman Fellow and student at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Previously he helped launch The Laboratory at Harvard whilst completing a fellowship at The Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.

Born and raised in South Africa, Hugo graduated from Harvard College with a degree in Economics and studied in Germany and Africa. Previously he worked for Apple, co-founded MenSpeakUp, started Y Combinator startups in Cambridge and Silicon Valley, and later directed Artscience Labs initiatives in Paris and Boston.

He was selected as a 2009 PopTech Social Innovation Fellow, a TED2010 Fellow, and, with his Lebone co-founders, won the 2009 Popular Mechanics Breakthrough Award for an off-grid dirt-powered battery design.

About Greg

Greg is currently pursuing a master's degree here at the MIT Media Lab in Information Ecology, focusing on interface and device design for healthcare and environmental impact.

In industry, he has worked with all sorts of companies, from the big guys like Dell, The BBC, and Steelcase to the counter culture innovators like Thunderdog Studios, Behance and Obsessable.

He previously completed an M.S. from ACE (Arts Computation Engineering interdisciplinary program) in the Informatics & Computer Science department at UCI. I worked with Simon Penny, Paul Dourish, Bill Tomlinson, and David Kirsh.

Several lifetimes ago, I received a B.S. in Cognitive Science and Computation (a combination of Computer Science, Neuroscience and Psychology) working with David Kirsh, Jeff Elman, Rik Belew at UCSD.


Download media from this event here.


Past Event
Apr 19, 2011
12:30 PM - 1:30 PM