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What Tech Execs Can Learn At Comic-Con

Comic-Con International, July 21-24, 2022: What Tech Execs Can Learn At Comic-Con

Comic-Cons return in 2022 with a vengeance. In 2021 some cons wandered into the tepid social waters of a Covid world with their few celebrity guests sequestered behind negative test paywalls for photos and autographs. The large stages were dark, and the cheering crowds murmured behind masks as they wandered the greatly diminished show floors.

But the biggest of cons returns full steam on July 21-24, 2022,  after its abbreviated Thanksgiving 2021 outing. Comic-Con International in San Diego is back, and with it, the opportunity for tech professionals to learn from the event in ways they might not consider.

Comic-Con Reflections: Technology Advances and Business Model Changes

Serious Insights plans to cover Comic-Con for TechTalk Summits on several fronts, from technology to business models. 

First is technology. Over the years, Comic-Con has increased the presence of complementary programming for gaming, AI, virtual reality and other technologies, including VeVe’s FutureTechLive! at the Omni Hotel in Downtown San Diego in 2018. I was privileged to coach and cover some of the hackathon projects that skirted the outer rim of the exhibit space. It isn’t clear yet what technology experiences Comic-Con International will feature in 2022, but whatever they are, we will sniff them out and share our insights.

Technology at Comic-Con does not end with cross-over events that combine popular culture audiences and technology enthusiasts. The Con also features access to the talented individuals who produce the special visual effects, or VFX, that enhance genre films and television and, increasingly, most movies and television. For example, Spider-Man: No Way Home Visual Effects Supervisor Kelly Port recently shared with Vanity Fair that only about 80 shots in the film did not include VFX. Even some rather prosaic scenes included significant VFX.

IT leaders need to include visual effects in their sense-making for emerging technologies. VFX drives the evolution of computing technology, especially visualization and AI. For example, Port says in the video that “in a sense, it’s easier to create the world than shoot it in New York.” That one sentence has implications for the metaverse, as well as less ambitious business simulations and customer interactions that may benefit from the wisdom and the technology coming out of Hollywood.

You can watch Vanity Fair’s Kelly Port video here.

Serious Insights will be on the lookout for panels, presentations, and press opportunities to meet with the people shaping entertainment’s technology landscape so we can share their insights with TechTalk Summits readers.

Second, we will be paying particular attention to changes in business models around us, including vendors on the floor, technology companies setting up experiences around San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, and Comic-Con International’s operations.

The pandemic likely changed things for a very long time, if not forever. The pandemic challenged assumptions, questioning what is safe, what is readily available, and the civilness of civil discord. In grocery stores, consumers continue to face empty shelves as the fallout from the pandemic disrupts labor, transportation, raw materials, and other factors. 

If the war between Ukraine and Russia continues into the summer, it will shape perceptions about the future, even if it does so subtly for those visiting San Diego, 6,515 miles from the streets of Kharkiv.

We will be scouting for business model innovations, survival tactics, and agile pivots that demonstrate the resilience of businesses facing disruption.

Finally, we will be covering major announcements and other exciting ideas from Hall H and the press rooms. We might even share some thoughts about pop-up restaurants and other culinary adventures with our colleague Richard Healy and his From the Road audience.

Why Comic-Con International Matters to Technologists

On the one hand, it’s easy to dismiss Comic-Con International. Sure, the Con counts among its attendees thousands of tech workers, from VPs to coders and testers, inspired by visions of the future that first appeared in science fiction books, on the screen, in games, and of course, on the pages of comic books.

But that is a surface-level analysis of Comic-Con International’s impact on technology. Perhaps more so than CES, Comic-Con demonstrates technology’s advances in ways that connect emotionally. Rather than rows of new Bluetooth™ speakers differentiated by which version of the standard they embrace, or the size of their beryllium drivers, Comic-Con International inspires people to see how technology empowers and threatens the future.

Science fiction and related genres offer speculative glimpses into the future. Much like scenario planning’s speculative narratives, Comic-Con’s stories force attendees into uncomfortable places that may help restrain some of the more dangerous technologies. It also paints stories aimed at inspiring people to save lives and positively reshape environments through technology. But most importantly, Comic-Con brings together people of diverse backgrounds and uplifts them.

For most technology companies pre-Covid, a morale event consisted of craft beer and snacks on a Friday afternoon, or some overly contrived experience involving breaking boards, hugging it out, escaping from a puzzle-studded room, or learning how to prepare branzino. 

Those few days in San Diego for Comic-Con attendees create more lasting memories than a month full of morale events. Comic-Con International and local comic cons offer the ability for people to co-create an experience and participate at intimate levels, such as talking to their favorite author or re-creating the tunic worn by their Star Fleet officer of choice.

Businesses need emotional engagement as they face the ramification of great resignation. Perhaps they can learn a thing or two about connecting with their employees in a way that really matters to them. So rather than subjecting employees to another stilted HR cookie-cutter afternoon that may do more to increase distance than encourage camaraderie, let them bring their comic con selves to work so you can learn how to harness their superpowers. Who knows, the next great innovation may not come from a brainstorming session filled with blank walls and sticky notes but from a cosplay gathering as a Python developer hot glues another rivet on her Iron Man armor.

– Daniel W. Rasmus, Serious Insights