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GEL 2008: Day 1 “Experiences”

[Also check out other GEL 2008 posts: Day 2 Session 1 "Connect", Session 2 "Twist", Session 3 "Make", Session 4 "Success"]

It’s been a long day and I’m really tired, but I wanted to capture the great experience I had before I head off to bed. Naturally it was at Good Experience Live, a.k.a. GEL, the conference created by Mark Hurst of Creative Good.

GEL, which is held each year in New York City, is meant to be an inspirational two days exploring good experience across industries and perspectives. Day 1, today, is the “experiential” day in which we participate in morning and afternoon activities throughout the city. A few weeks in advance all attendees are asked to rank their top choices from a dozen options and then assignments are made.

This morning I was among 72 people assigned to play Werewolf, hosted by Improv Everywhere’s Charlie Todd. Werewolf is a party game (often called Mafia) in which 8+ people sit in the round and are assigned roles — two people are werewolves, one person is a doctor, one person is an investigator, everyone else are townspeople. The objective of the game is for the townspeople to kill the werewolves before the werewolves kill them. It’s a game of strategy, debate and persuasion, and always ends up showing people’s true colors. I’ve played the Mafia version a whole bunch of times ever since college, and it’s far and away my favorite game. If you haven’t played it before, read up on it online and try it out, or get in touch and I’ll give you a thorough explanation of the rules.

We were split into groups of 12 or so and played the game for close to 2-1/2 hours. I think we got through a least six rounds. I was the Werewolf once, the investigator twice, and in two later rounds was “bitten” by the Werewolves essentially to become one of them. Everyone had a great time and got really into it by the end. It teaches you a lot about how to be convincing — whether or not you’re innocent.

In the afternoon I participated in the Central Park Sound Walk with Douglas Quin. Here’s the description:

Douglas Quin will lead you on a listening experience in Central Park to explore the park’s sonic spaces and acoustically distinct places, and discover the balance of natural and urban rhythms, sound textures and voices that are part of this unique environment and soundscape. Participants will be given a map of the park and invited to create sound maps, journals, or “scores” of their walk–translating the sound world into their own words and images.

There were 10 of us and we spent almost three hours walking through the park in silence, with a few breaks here and there to discuss what we had learned. For the first 15-20 minutes we were all blindfolded, holding on to a rope as we were led from Grand Army Plaza to Wollman Rink. It’s a legitimate walk and when we finally took the blindfolds off I was shocked at how far we’d gone. The purpose of the exercise was to enhance our ability to hear the array of ambient sounds that we’re rarely aware of. I heard birds chirping, the sound of my heels on the pavement, about five different languages, snippets of conversations, a Saxophonist playing the distance, a baby crying, the swings in the playground, a plane overhead. It was an incredible experience, and with my eyes closed, being led through the park, I felt absolutely at peace.

It couldn’t have been a more perfect day in New York City, and I was thrilled to have enjoyed it in the sun, under the shade of the massive oak trees, toes in the grass, ears perked up, just taking in my surroundings.

Tomorrow, day 2 of the conference, is the “theater day” when 14+ speakers present on a single stage. Each presentation is about 15 minutes long; speakers are from a variety of disciplines, but all of them are incredibly successful and insightful people. Check out this year’s list of speakers.

The theater is supposed to have Wi-Fi so I’ll probably be Twittering. Either way, I’ll be posting my notes on the event in the next couple days. Now it’s time for bed so I’m lucid enough to absorb and retain the total experience.

NOTE: You can see all my photos of the conference or check out the photos by professional photographer Gene Driskell.

[Also check out other GEL 2008 posts: Day 2 Session 1 "Connect", Session 2 "Twist", Session 3 "Make", Session 4 "Success"]

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