Networked Food Systems Dinner

by Adam on March 15, 2013

Each year at SXSW, Danielle Gould of Food + Tech Connect makes a point of organizing thought-leaders within the food innovation ecosystem for an evening of thought-provoking discussion on pressing issues within the food space. This year was no different, and I had the pleasure of sitting down with some incredible folks, over a great meal, to talk about the idea of the “networked food system.” In a nutshell, the networked food system is centered around the notion that by bringing technology to bear on the systems of agriculture, production, supply and distribution that govern our current food environment, we can produce both better results and a more informed consumer. In so doing, we can monitor and ensure regulatory compliance with less overhead, develop early-warning response systems for food safety issues, and help to empower consumers to make good choices when it comes to food decisions.

In truth, I didn’t get too deeply into the above with the small group of folks that I shared the evening with, but we did have some fascinating conversations on a variety of other fronts. Throughout the evening, I had a chance to talk with some great people, including a blogger who writes about food issues for Mother Jones and a writer who covers food policy for O’Reilly Media.

The brunt of the evening’s conversation focused on the “future” of social media, which is a fascinating topic to think about, when you think about it. If you envision the current environment in which social interactions take place digitally, all of it is through devices, and actually quite intrusive on a day-to-day basis. In truth, we’ve come a long way with the advent of smart phones and other devices to help aid these interactions, but we’re a long way from what can be considered frictionless. Consider the number of blog posts and other articles that have come out deriding the use of smart phones at the dinner table to share photos, check-ins and other forms of “social media.” Or the fact that social media in the digital sense requires time and effort to think about and undertake. Prior to this, social meant engaging friends over a meal, or at a cocktail party, or any other form of interaction that was of the moment and relatively seamless. But no more.

So then, you can see where the conversation around the future of social media veered into territory around how check-ins, likes, tweets and other interactions would become more frictionless over time. How that happens, I don’t quite know, but I imagine it involves a number of technological advancements, including interactive, multi-use surfaces (see the link to the Youtube video below for an example of what I mean), or self-aware social systems that can “log in” to your digital accounts at the table and empower interactions without the use of a device:

Of course, all of this has huge implications for privacy, because once you are talking about opening up a digital social network across platforms, it’s no longer limited to the devices you own. And, it also becomes an issue if you don’t know what information is being tracked or recorded about your experience, where you are, and who you are with. But, it does have some interesting potential as we think about the way that we interact with the digital world as we increasingly cross-over our physical experiences with the networks we keep online.

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