Kids need to produce, not just consume technology: Mario Armstrong - Technical.ly Baltimore

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Sep. 9, 2013 8:30 am

Kids need to produce, not just consume technology: Mario Armstrong

Television and radio commentator Mario Armstrong, Ars Technica IT editor Sean Gallagher, Quartz science and technology correspondent Christopher Mims and PandoDaily reporter Hamish McKenzie discussed national trends in tech on Wednesday.

From left: Mario Armstrong, Sean Gallagher, Christopher Mims and Hamish McKenzie. Photo credit: Andrew Coy.

Full disclosure: Technical.ly Baltimore organizes the eponymous Meetup at which these four reporters spoke. The event, which was moderated by Technical.ly editor Christopher Wink, was held at the studio center auditorium of the Maryland Institute College of Art, a sponsor of this year's Baltimore Innovation Week, which Technical.ly Baltimore also organizes.

Four tech reporters writing for national print publications or appearing on national television and radio programs live in the Baltimore area.

Pinch yourself. Still here?

On Wednesday, Technical.ly Baltimore gathered together television and radio commentator Mario Armstrong, Ars Technica IT editor Sean Gallagher, Quartz science and technology correspondent Christopher Mims and PandoDaily reporter Hamish McKenzie. Their task, broadly: to discuss national trends in technology, as well as offer how Baltimore’s own growing technology community might fit into those trends. It also doubled as something of a modest preview to Baltimore Innovation Week, coming at month’s end.

Here’s one big takeaway from each of them.

  • Hamish McKenzie, a native New Zealander now living in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood, brought his international reporting credentials to bear. He talked some about Xiamoni, the “Apple of China,” and its prowess producing inexpensive mobile phones. But when it came time to reflect on Baltimore’s startup scene, he echoed a sentiment shared by some venture capitalists in the area — offering incentives and opportunities to draw more government contractors out of their 9-to-5 jobs would do wonders for bolstering the appetite for risk in the city.
  • Christopher Mims, who lives in Baltimore’s Bolton Hill neighborhood, said that 2014 would be a big “unlocking” year for 3D printing, as key patents on the technology are set to expire. The application to Charm City? Look to places like the Digital Harbor Foundation, which are introducing 3D printing concepts to middle school students, which Mims said seemed to be the right time to start developing students’ interest in a forthcoming digital economy.
  • Sean Gallagher, a resident of Hampden, has lived in Baltimore since 1990. Being both a longtime resident and a technology reporter has given him a unique window through which to assess what he might call certain failings of city government. Gallagher said Baltimore’s tech community and Baltimore’s city government routinely “talk past one another” — he cited the contract awarded recently by the city to a broadband consultant as a good example of such behavior — and, as a result, often fail to collaborate on projects that should be no-brainers. Like, for instance, expanding options for broadband Internet in Baltimore.
  • Mario Armstrong, long before he was appearing on CNN, HLN and “The Today Show,” was Baltimore city’s first chief technology officer when Martin O’Malley was still mayor of Charm City. On Wednesday he mentioned the next big tech trend he had his eye on was the blending of wearable technology and sports — paging Under Armour. But his more important observation had to do with community-based efforts to bridge the digital divide in Baltimore. He cautioned that anyone thinking poorer students in the city’s east and west sides don’t have the same appetite to learn about technology — to become producers as well as consumers of technology — that students in the city’s more affluent areas possess are doing more to widen the divide than narrow it.

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