Antony Mayfield: An explosion of ideas and technologies

Antony Mayfield, chief executive officer of Brilliant Noise
Antony Mayfield, chief executive officer of Brilliant Noise

Brighton is the perfect place for digital culture and innovation to flourish.

Brighton is the perfect place for digital culture and innovation to flourish - in spite of and because of its flaws. The Brighton Digital Festival celebrates and exemplifies the diversity of thought and skills that make the digital sector here so exciting.

What we mean by digital, the digital age, isn't limited to the media, the technology. It is disruptive change, and explosion of ideas and technologies - affecting culture, commerce and politics alike - an age where, faster than ever, anyone anywhere can access knowledge, resources and - most powerfully of all - other minds.

Geography is destiny, as Napoleon said. Well our long, thin city - a string of villages and subcultures stretched out along a seafront, shielded from the cultural and economic gravity of London by the South Downs, but close enough for our citizens to go scouting for work, money and ideas - has a destiny to be the birthplace of powerful ideas. Ideas that will make art, businesses and knowledge.

All around us are the technologies, ideas and business models that will create huge value for society in the twenty- first century. Combining and recombining these ideas is what makes innovation so powerful a force in Brighton and in the world.

Brighton's strength in this age of ideas is its diversity. Not the buzzword diversity of diluted contemporary political discussion - true, rich, risky, abrasive diversity.Dots

Diversity of thought, of ideas, perspectives and skills. Our diversity is not about consensus, dancing together into a harmonious future - it's a place where ideas and values clash and sometimes connect. From the tension and the friction, come new things - dots get connected, innovation happens.

Someone said that Brighton is a culture of extremes. Our local government cycled through Conservative, Labour and Green in the last decade or so. Locals live side-by-side with global citizens; churches and mosques thrive near halls where science and rationalism is celebrated. All compressed into a small, close city.

I see this even in the Brighton Digital Festival’s own organisation. Its cornerstones are Wired Sussex and Lighthouse. Very different organisations – the former with a business-promoting, digital sector focus, the latter fixed on digital arts and edge ideas in online culture.

The tension and the mix of ideas has created something really innovative – a cacophony of interestingly contrasting, connectable ideas. Festivals of digital I have visited elsewhere can be too easily dominated by marketing, media or commerce – or at the other extreme, drift into excluding, exclusive arts events for insiders.

Brighton Digital Festival has inspired me every year – and as it grows so does the number of people who see new ideas, connect dots in new patterns. As the festival grows, so does the ambition and sense of possibility for this city.

Antony Mayfield is CEO of Brilliant Noise. Brilliant Noise's conference - Dots - Connecting Ideas - is being held as part of the Brighton Digital Festival on Wednesday, September 3.