The Digital Campus

The Digital Campus

Spring Study Tour: Day 2

For Day 2 of the Spring Study Tour, guest bloggers Annika Glauner, from Euresearch – International Research Programmes at the University of Zurich and ETH Zurich, David Spring, from the University of Lausanne, and Lara Canonica, from the Zurich University of Applied Sciences reflected on the day’s rich program.

We cannot display this gallery

And here is the team’s reflection on the day:

Trying to explain what Silicon Valley is to someone who has never been to the region is a bit like trying to explain what a particular color looks like to someone who is blind. Prof. Chuck Darrah from the San Jose State University tried to provide us with the peripheral definitions of what Silicon Valley is as a whole, in order for us “Swiss cookies” to better interact in this area and connect with its “tribes” over the upcoming five days.

Chuck Darrah is an insider because he lives in the heart of Silicon Valley, in Mountain View (aka Mountain Google), and he is an outsider because he has no cellphone. As an anthropologist his job is to study the “tech tribe” in Silicon Valley. He interviews and observes them.

San Francisco is not in the Silicon Valley of which San Jose is the capital. Officially, Silicon Valley doesn’t even exist.

Over the past forty years the Valley has changed a lot. The industry shifted from hardware to software to Internet. Now, there are 22,000 high-tech companies in the region.  People come here from all over the world because of the highly paid jobs. The mentality is to take risks and celebrate failure. Mobility is important, and people tend to switch jobs every two years otherwise they are considered as losers. Here everything is transformed into technical problems that need to be solved. So in order to blend in, we became mobile too and drove to Cupertino for an appointment at Apple headquarters.

We met Steve Wilson, iTunes U Producer and Deirdre Espinoza, Sr. Marketing Manager Education Content. They presented iBooks and iTunes U. Apple is as brilliant as you would expect it to be: it’s vivid, creative, buzzing. And in this spirit we left for the University of California, Berkeley.

The meeting we had with Christina Sponselli (Social Media Director), Kathryn Bader and Ram Kapoor (Office of Public Affairs) was comforting, down-to-earth and inspiring. At Berkeley they are not implementing a strategy, but rather validating it through a process of experimentation and co-creation. They provided us with tips and tricks and good advice. UC Berkeley has also a Social Media User Group (SMUG), who gathers once a month to share experience and to discuss how to reach more students and alumni. With a small and flexible team and very little resources, they are active on different platforms like Facebook, Google+, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn, Foursquare to name a few.

So what have we learned today? That we too are able to facilitate innovation by applying The Infinite Loop using a human-centered approach, as the people we want to reach are the experts, they know what they need.

Hearing, creating, delivering, evaluating, improving, learning.

Observations lead to stories, lead to networking, lead to opportunities, lead to ideas, lead to solutions, lead to implementation.

This has been a very promising start to an exciting week. To be continued…

For a video recap of the day, see below:


Author: Megan Williams

Megan Williams is swissnex San Francisco’s Head of Communications. She likes to write about science and culture. A marine biology nerd and a dedicated science communicator, she also loves to hunt for design treasure at thrift stores.