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Cotton Factory conference melds technology, the arts

Inaugural PIVOT Symposium will highlight Hamilton innovations and Hamiltonians who are leading the way on creative problem-solving.

Solving complex problems in housing, mobility and cultural access by melding technology and the arts will be the theme of the inaugural PIVOT Symposium on Nov. 17, hosted by the Cotton Factory.

The day-long event takes place at the historic former textile mill, which is now a bustling hub for creative industries.

Attendees will hear from researchers, artists, tech leaders and community organizations using technology for good in 90-minute panels interspersed with short PIVOT stories.

The thrust of the event is to promote interdisciplinary collaboration and explore creative ways to design, build and sustain better communities by using the tools and processes of technology and the arts.

“The goal is to drive progress by weaving together the threads of technology, arts and creativity in new and exciting ways,” says Rob Zeidler, managing partner of the Cotton Factory.

“Hamilton has all the right ingredients to continue its development as a leader in the high tech, innovation economy.”

The city was identified as one of North America’s Top rising Tech Cities of Opportunity by commercial real estate giant CBRE in 2019.

Program highlights include an exercise in the use of Design Thinking in the creative process, a talk on the role of technology in developing bonds of human belonging, stories from changemakers at the forefront of community-building, and a luncheon address on the topic of strategic management applied to success across societies.

The genesis of the idea for PIVOT came from Zeidler, says Annette Paiement, creative alchemist at the Cotton Factory.

“He’s a big believer in Hamilton and a cheerleader for Hamilton.” 

Zeidler attended a technology conference in Estonia called Latitude 44 and was inspired to build something similar in Hamilton.

“We hope it grows over the years to be too big to be at the Cotton Factory,” says Paiement.

The conference will shine a light on Hamilton’s tech and arts sectors but also bring people together to have real conversations about using technology to effect real change, says Paiement.

It will also highlight leading Hamiltonians in technology and the arts.

They include Hamilton native Gail Lord, president of Lord Cultural Resources Inc., who is “known all over the world for her work in museums and galleries. She is a rock star in her field,” says Paiement.

In November 2021, the Cotton Factory hosted a virtual roundtable to get input about PIVOT.

“We took the opinions and advice we heard and sifted through it all for the common denominators,” says Paiement. “We started building around that. We think this will be a really engaging day and that people will walk away with lots to think about.”

Robert Fleisig, lead for the Master of Engineering Design program at McMaster University’s W Booth School of Engineering Practice and Technology, will facilitate an interactive segment to kick off the conference that is focused on models to help changemakers tackle complex challenges.

His work centres around bringing a multidisciplinary lens based on empathy, creativity and reflection to a design-thinking approach. Fleisig and his students primarily work with health and wellness partners, with a focus on deepening human connections.

“We start by talking to people, not to get answers, but to deeply understand them and the challenges they face,” he says. “It’s a very different way of thinking that complements the deeply technical ways of thinking that students are taught in engineering.”

There has been a clear change in what motivates young people over the last 10 to 15 years, says Fleisig.

“They are interested in those things with a lasting impact. They want to create change and that’s why I find this exciting.”

And all the ingredients of a tech sector focused on improving lives and communities are found in Hamilton, he says. This conference has the potential to solidify and accelerate what is happening.

“The future is about innovation and I’m happy to be part of that here.”

Other presenters include:

  • David Adames, CEO, Niagara Parks Commission, who will talk about the development of an immersive experience at a former power station;
  • “Parkside” Mike Renaud, creative director at Hidden Pony Records who will talk about using NFTs and artificial intelligence to create a virtual music project during pandemic lockdowns that raised money for a musicians relief fund;
  • David Bobier, founder and director of VibraFusionLab, will talk about a project that uses vibrational technology to allow those with hearing impairments to experience music;
  • McMaster University’s Dr. Deborah Sloboda, who, in collaboration with the AGH, is leading the Art of Creation study, an arts-based science translation program and public exhibition project that uses art to explain the importance of being healthy before and during pregnancy, and the effects of health and disease on future generations.

PIVOT is designed and delivered in partnership with McMaster University, Mohawk College, City of Hamilton, Invest in Hamilton, and McMaster Innovation Park.

Learn more at Tickets are $75 plus HST.

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