Aspen Ideas Festival 2014

Five Things You Missed, July 1

The Aspen train rolls on.


Tuesday marked the fifth day of the Aspen Ideas Festival--and below, five things of note (TLDR: women are up, YouTube was out, video games are in, and The Atlantic and humanities are going nowhere).

1. A system that allows women to network. That’s what Beth Brooke-Marciniak and Sallie Krawcheck are working towards, anyway. Brooke-Marciniak, global vice chair of public policy at Ernst & Young (EY), is developing a cross-company network that supports women in the private sector, including groups for female entrepreneurs and for female athletes. Krawcheck, meanwhile, is using her experience as former head of Merrill Lynch and Smith Barney to head an impact fund that promotes women. The fund, Elevate, backs executive boards that are at least 33 percent female. “The more quantifiable we can be, the more we can solve this [gender gap] problem,” said Krawcheck. And Brooke-Marciniak agreed, citing an EY study that concluded that gender-balanced teams outperform their counterparts by a 2-3 percent profit margin a huge amount in the working world.

2. Big Brother meets Facebook and Google. In March, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan mandated a ban on YouTube in his country a blockade that lasted until pressure from the Turkish public forced him to lift it two months later. Nicole Alston, vice president of legal affairs at Google, feels hopeful that it won’t happen again. “It’s not easy to get blocked in a country as important as Turkey,” she told legal commentator Jeffrey Rosen. “Prime Minister Erdoğan’s policies are challenging… but the citizenry in Turkey is moving towards this progressive direction. I think it’ll be more difficult for Erdoğan to take these positions in the future.” Her fellow panelist Monika Bickert, Facebook’s head of global policy management, is also cautiously optimistic, saying, “Even in the countries with the most oppressive regimes, we see people take heroic actions and stand up for what they think is right. The internet is empowering these people. So I have hope.”

3. The half-life of the humanities. In response to a session titled “Will the Humanities be Extinct by 2024?,” a panel composed of Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks, Brown President Christina Paxson, and Davidson President Carol Quillen, answered a resounding “no.” Led in conversation by the New York Times’ David Brooks, the academics invoked the past to prove the humanities’ long-term relevance and resilience. “We’re worried about it now because we’ve had… one of the largest recessions in history and then jobless recovery,” said Paxson. “During the Great Depression, it was very similar.” The panelists admitted that the income gap between graduates in the humanities and graduates in the sciences poses a challenge to the former’s popularity. Dirks elaborated: “On the one hand the humanities continue to draw lots of majors… but there was nevertheless this regularly expressed question: ‘What am I going to do with my major… will I get a job?’” As a result, Berkeley and other institutions are considering adding data science and analytics courses to standard curriculum.

4. Video games in the ivory tower. At a press conference on Tuesday, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) announced the launch of the Higher Education Video Game Alliance (HEVGA), a partnership between the association and several colleges across the country to help students enter careers in entertainment software. “The video game industry is bigger than the motion picture and music industries combined,” said ESA President and CEO Michael Gallagher. “There’s an economic argument to this.” Over twenty institutions have already joined the alliance, including Dartmouth College, Duke University, Stanford University, and Yale University. “Games are now a mature medium,” HEVGA Executive Director Constance Steinkuehler said. “The responses we’ve seen this morning show that we are the new films studies.”

5. A certain 157-year-old magazine. Not to toot our own horn, but The Atlantic was the topic of much discussion on Tuesday, credited during several different panel discussions. During the HEVGA announcement, Carnegie Mellon’s Drew Davidson expounded on the appeal of detailed journalism, saying, “I go to The Atlantic all the time for long-form articles.” During her discussion on promoting women in the workforce, Beth Brooke-Marciniak cited The Atlantic’s May cover story “The Confidence Gap,” and mentioned that she was working with story authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman in their efforts to help women excel in the workplace. And in a one-on-one conversation with Katie Couric, David Brooks admitted that he “starts and ends his day with The Atlantic.” Cheers!