Conversation in the Digital Age: Panel of Experts Will Discuss How We’re Changing

The topic of the evening is an exploration of conversation in the digital age, as two Hartford institutions come together to bring some perspective to how we communicate in the age of technology, and how we don’t. On Wednesday, May 4, The Connecticut Forum in partnership with the Mark Twain House & Museum will present DISCONNECT: Conversation in the Digital Age. The event is described as an (old-fashioned) conversation with three nationally-recognized digital experts to discuss “how social media and our ubiquitous devices have impacted the art of authentic conversation.”  They pose the question: if conversation is how we truly connect to others, what happens when face-to-face communication decreases?Forum, Twain

The panel will feature Dr. David Greenfield from the Center for Internet & Technology Addiction, Slow Tech Movement founder Janell Burley Hofmann, and tech ethicist David Ryan Polgar. Jamie Daniel, director of programming at The Connecticut Forum, will moderate the conversation.

Polgar says that opportunities for fluid conversations have diminished, to our detriment. “We have adapted technology faster than we can adjust our norms or our etiquette.  Do we ever have a prolonged conversation anymore?  There’s a difference between communication and conversation,” he suggests.

“We’re constantly packaging ourselves – exercising brand management in our conversations,” he observes.  “We’re so plugged in, we don’t do eye-to-eye communicating much anymore – there’s a need to increase facetime in our communication.”

Polgar is a frequent speaker and respected tech commentator/writer, and has been featured in The Boston Globe, Financial Times, BBC, SiriusXM, Sydney Morning Herald, VentureBeat, US News & World Report, TEDx, and Forbes, among other publications. He is also co-founder of the Digital Citizenship Summit, a global network of summits focused on safe, savvy, and ethical use of social media and technology. With a background as an attorney and educator, he examines tech use from an ethical, legal, and emotional perspective, providing a unique look into emerging trends and business speakers

“We’re thrilled to collaborate with the Twain House on this timely event,” said Connecticut Forum Executive Director Doris Sugarman. “We welcome opportunities like this to facilitate and encourage dialogue about compelling topics that impact our communities and our lives.”

Individuals planning on attending can send in a question in advance of May 4, via a link  that provides a form for questions to be directed at a specific panelist, or the entire panel.

Janell Burley Hofman is the author of the book, iRules: What Every Tech-Healthy Family Needs to Know About Selfies, Sexting, Gaming and Growing Up. She is also a speaker and consultant on topics like technology, media, health, relationships and personal growth. She will be signing copies of her book after the program.

Dr. David Greenfield is the founder of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction and an Assistant Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine. He is recognized as one of the world’s leading voices on Internet, computer, and digital media behavior, and a pioneer concerning compulsive and addictive use. He is the author of the Virtual Addiction, which rang an early warning bell with tech overuse when it came out in 1999.  He lectures to public and medical/psychiatric groups throughout the world, and has appeared numerous times on national media and publications.

“I am looking forward to hearing from this panel of experts on questions that we consider every day,” said Jamie Daniel, Director of Programming at The Connecticut Forum, who will be moderating the discussion.  “How is technology changing the way we make friends, fall in love, and parent our kids? How is our online discourse impacting the way we engage in politics? Connect with one another? Shape our communities? And how is social media changing our relationships - and our brains? This amazing panel will help us consider all of this, and more.”


The Connecticut Forum is a (c)(3) nonprofit organization serving Connecticut and beyond with live, unscripted conversations among renowned experts and celebrities, and community outreach programs including the Connecticut YOUTH Forum.  The Mark Twain House & Museum has restored the author's home, where the author and his family lived from 1874 to 1891. In addition to providing tours of the National Historic Landmark, the institution offers activities and educational programs that illuminate Twain's literary legacy and provide information about his life and times.

Tickets for DISCONNECT are $10. ($5 for Mark Twain House & Museum members and Connecticut Forum subscribers) The program on Wednesday, May 4 begins at 7 PM.  Photo: (l to r) David Greenfield, Jannell Hofmann, David Ryan Polgar.

Students Among Avid Followers of Serial as Creators Arrive in Hartford

It was nothing short of a phenomenon.  The first podcast to win a Peabody Award, it was the talk of the nation, in a way that happens less often than years ago, given the fragmented media landscape and dizzying array of choices. But the inaugural season of Serial on NPR this past fall hooked listeners intently.  The story was compelling, and presented in riveting fashion, hosted by journalist Sarah Koenig exploring the 1999 murder of Baltimore teenager Hae Min Lee and her ex-boyfriend Adnan Syed’s subsequent life sentence. Syed continues to claim that he’s innocent. Following the conclusion of Serial‘s first season in December, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals granted Syed license to move forward with the appeal of his case, according to the Washington Post.logo

Hartford will get a behind-the-scenes perspective of the making of Serial as creators Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder take to the Bushnell stage Wedmesday (June 10), in a special edition of the popular Connecticut Forum, with “Binge-Worthy Journalism: Backstage with the Creators of Serial Sarah Koenig and Julie Snyder.”   The podcast, produced by Chicago Public Media/This American Life, has been downloaded nearly 60 million times. 280x157-1aR

In the audience will be nearly 100 local students who have used the 12 episode podcast series as the platform for education.  Local teachers have been using Serial podcast to teach students about the law,  advocacy and the judicial system – a new and apparently successful way to engage students.  Students at the Law & Government Academy at Hartford Public Schools especially related to the Serial podcast – involving inner city magnet school students much like themselves. Other schools in attendance at this event include: Global Communications Academy in Hartford; Simsbury High School; Granby Memorial High School; CREC Public Safety Academy; and East Granby High School.  The students attendance is made possible by underwriting from Audible.

This strong community – school connection is at the heart of the work of The Connecticut Forum, and their mission to inform, challenge, entertain, inspire and build bridges among all people and organizations in the community.

Questioning the ≠accuracy of every bit of information she is given Ö Sarah KoenigAt the Law and Government Academy of Hartford Public High School, one class used Serial as the basis for a semester’s curriculum.  Over the course of five months, students examined the issues in each episode of the 12-episode podcast and were asked to choose a side – such as defense counsel, prosecutor, or witness – and then advocate for their position.  For their final exam, students wrote appellate court briefs and argued their cases.

Students from the other schools planning to attend had similar experiences, quickly becoming regular listeners, intrigued by the issues it was highlighting and the storyline.  Other classes in Connecticut and across the country also used the podcast as part of the curriculum, to rave reviews.

julie snyder“It’s use of new media and compelling storytelling has opened up many new opportunities for students, educators, and the intellectually curious to reexamine aspects of our legal system,” said CT Forum Executive Director Doris Sugarman. “We’re thrilled to see what is sparked when our community connects to the expression of big ideas that The Forum brings to Connecticut audiences.”

Serial, with a new story line, is set to return for a second season in the fall and a third next spring, according to published reports.  (Photos:  Sarah Koenig, above, and Julie Snyder, below)