Notebook

January 23, 2013 6:41 pm

Not in Davos? Then come to mine

After missing out on a WEF invitation, John McDermott suggests holding his own forum

It is easy to be cynical about the World Economic Forum in Davos. “Resilient Dynamism”, the theme for this year’s summit, sounds like it was chosen by two voles rummaging through a word tombola. The forum’s access policy – limited, expensive, segregated – insolently belies its stated agenda. Fondue is no way to feed a human.

However, the only thing worse than being at Davos is not being at Davos. I know Davos hasn’t changed a thing in the real world. That is not the point. Indeed, the idea that it might have is rather droll. Davos is a party and a status symbol. And I would like an invitation.

Alas, it is not to be. Martin Wolf’s hat received the last ticket in the FT’s allocation. Yet in the spirit of Resilient Dynamism, I have launched an alternative forum in my backyard of Dalston, an erstwhile hipster’s paradise in east London. There is snow and everything. For sullen panjandrums looking for an alternative venue, Dalston Davos will be just the ticket.

After a thoughtmash session with the Dalston Davos co-chairs – my housemate Phill and Graham, the manager of Costcutter, a deceptively expensive grocery shop – we have decided on a theme: “Transcending the imperative of shared norms in a post-collaborative reality”. We were tempted by an ambitious title but this is our first meeting. Even the Second International had to start somewhere.

The world is more hyperconnected than ever before, as Graham pointed out. I have therefore decided to stage Dalston Davos in my house. The rooms are nodal symbols of our complex and interlinking global society. The corridors will be renamed “happenstance alphazones”. Guests will receive different coloured badges that grant various levels of access. Only white badge holders, for example, can use the upstairs loo with the nice handwash.

Although we are still awaiting confirmation, our plenary session looks to be taking an impressive thought-leadery shape. Pirate Pete from the pub down the road, Angela from the lido, and Taufiq from the boutique wine merchants will be asking: “What strategic shifts and transformational issues are shaping the global security context?” In the Aspen Room, formerly known as the kitchen, there will be an interactive session led by our group of Local Leaders on “de-risking poverty”.

Guests who have downloaded the Dalston Davos app will already have access to the forum’s virtual art pod. Others will be able to listen live in the Schoenberg suite, a small room that used to be full of spare plastic bags. Art is one of many unique ways that a local forum can help transcend global imaginaries. We have therefore asked Alt-J, an indie rock band, to play a neo-soundscape about the southern eurozone.

Networking will of course be a big part of Dalston Davos. Guests with the ability to converse with other people will be able to introduce themselves and explain what they do. I will make myself available to some people throughout the day. A guy I used to know at school who has done well for himself has promised to pop round for a bit.

At 8pm a crowd-tweeting session will commence in the front garden near the recycling bins. Aureline, a performance artist who lives in a warehouse at the end of the cul-de-sac, will use a kaleidoscopic laser gun to project abstract nouns on to the side of the house. Guests will then be asked to tweet their responses in real time. The results will be aggregated and made into an ebook. Proceeds from the book will be split between investing in social enterprises and cake.

Dalston Davos aspires to a supra-translucent level of transparency. All of our thoughtmash sessions will be streamed live before they have happened. Bloggers are welcome and will be ranked in descending order of hipness according to the time since they last used an AOL email account. Traditional media organisations should also make themselves at home, though we will ask that they maintain the 10:1 commentator to reporter ratio commonly found at the other Davos.

As John Cassidy of The New Yorker magazine has pointed out, the WEF is a positional good, one whose value mostly depends on its desirability to others. Those who wish it would go away have the power to make it do precisely that – by ignoring it. So come east to Dalston Davos. By the end of the forum we confidently forecast that you will be imbued with enough Resilient Dynamism to cope with years of rejection from the other Davos ticket committee.

john.mcdermott@ft.com

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