Robin Raskin has been translating technology into consumer friendly terms for more than 30 years. Today she spends most of her time working with Living in Digital Times, a company that she founded in 2008. Living in Digital Times produces a number of lifestyle events, but its most important partnership is with the CEA to produce a series of lifestyle conferences and exhibits at the annual International Consumer Electronics show (CES) each January in Las Vegas. Events include: Digital Health Summit, Silvers Summit (a forum for boomer technology), Sports and Fitness Technology, HigherEd Tech, Kids at Play Summit, MommyTech Summit, FashionWare, The Last Gadget Standing and the Mobile Apps Showdown. All of these events combine fun, education and a look at a slice of a particular demographic through the lens of technology. She also writes for Mashable, Forbes.com, Huffington Post and on her own company's blogs.
Raskin was featured as a daily columnist on Yahoo! Tech, she was the founder and editor-in-chief of FamilyPC, editor of PC Magazine, and columnist for USA Today Online and the Gannett News Service. Robin has won numerous prizes for her coverage of technology. She has authored six books about parenting in the digital age, for publishers including Random House, Simon and Schuster, and Hyperion. As a freelance writer, her work has appeared in such magazines as RedBook, Real Simple, FamilyCircle, PC World, PC Week, InfoWorld, Working Mother, Working Woman, Child, and Newsday, and on websites such as Mashable and the Huffington Post. Her most recent book, A Parents' Guide to College Life (Random House, 2006) provides parents with practical answers to 180 "must ask" questions. She's written six other books on raising kids in a digital world.
Raskin is an outspoken advocate for parental involvement in raising digital kids. She frequently addresses parents and educators, policy makers, and the high tech industry on topics like Internet safety and raising digital kids. Raskin has testified before the Federal Trade Commission on Internet safety, presented research to then-Vice President Gore on parental technology, and was part of then-First Lady Hillary Clinton's series of meetings for women editors. She also served on the National Research Council's Committee, which published "Tools and Strategies for Protecting Kids From Pornography and Their Applicability to Other Inappropriate Internet Content." She is on the Board of Directors of the CEA Foundation.
Raskin lives in New York City and the Hudson Valley and is the mother of three grown children and lots of outdated consumer electronics.
To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link
Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic
Can you explain why your top 4 roles (past/present) have impacted the world?
"....It looks a little eclectic, but it all leads to the same path. Believe it or not it all started when I married an engineer and didn't understand anything he was saying, but I knew that working on computers was going to be huge and transform the world...."
I've been in the ICT industry since the 1960s and I fondly remember some of those publications like PC Magazine, but little did I know that I'd be talking to the editor. Has it been an amazing journey?
"....It was fabulous, people were building their own computers, people were walking in off the street saying I just built this motherboard could you test it; we've come a long way very quickly..."
I can imagine your rolodex must be amazing because you followed the evolution of the entire industry, so you would know all the principles and the pioneers (like yourself, also a pioneer in the industry).
"....My job is to be the storyteller for them. The industry has gotten better at it, but for a while there was a big difference being a technologist and being the rest of the world...."
The mobile and gadget events you organized at CES were outstanding. Can you describe these in more detail and some of the outstanding products?
"....My philosophy in sharing the fruits of technology is to make it entertaining and informative at the same time. I wanted to create an atmosphere that shows the diversity and breadth of technology and give people a good time....."
Vint Cerf was a keynote at one of your other events. What were the top takeaways from this entire session?
"....Vint Cerf was one of the people responsible for the PCP protocol, and has been not just a visionary about the internet, but a visionary about human nature and government and also represented, to me, the boomer audience. As the numbers of older people in this country grow the issues technology will have to solve change....I think that is what he really wanted to talk about, keeping the internet free, keeping the competition going and making sure that the Internet of Things will come to fruition...."
You are the heart of CES and the foundation for CES in so many ways. Can we drill into the CES numbers? What were the most notable areas?
"....Technology flourishes because different parties come together. There's usually a theme every year and I would say the breakthrough technology that we saw was the 4 K TVs...You saw a lot of tablets, tablet PCs and various types of what I call hybrid designs....You saw the beginnings of the smart watches and wearable technology....1.85 million square feet of cool technology from 150 different countries and 20,000 products launched...."
There were amazing keynotes from outstanding people. Can you talk more about those keynotes?
"....Nolan Bushnell talked about the future of kids and the capacity to learn and change how we learn....Walt Mossberg and Joel Klein at one of our conferences talking about what's happening in the higher education sector....Interesting to me is that some keynotes were from some of the automakers and you are seeing them talk about driverless cars....In sports, one of the keynotes talked about detecting sports injuries like concussions...."
What will amaze us in CES 2014?
"....I love to play prediction because I'm usually wrong but it's so fun....By this time in 2014 you'll see smartphones with gestures...The other thing you are going to see is Big Data....Another area that is really going to grow is genomics research....The next thing that's also going to be huge is robotics as they get smarter and have more sensors — they are capable of all sorts of things....One other thing that I'm particularly excited about and I'm going to give the credit to somebody named Dale Dougherty who coined the term, the Maker Movement...."
Can you share some insights of what you consider to be areas of controversy?
"....There are so many areas of controversy. One debate is gamification, the idea that you learn when you are playing a game and you get rewards.....Another area is internet freedom....Then there's the whole idea of accreditation...."
Do you feel computing should be a recognized profession on par with accounting, medicine and law with demonstrated professional development, adherence to a code of ethics, personal responsibility, public accountability, quality assurance and recognized credentials? [See www.ipthree.org and the Global Industry Council, http://www.ipthree.org/about-ip3/global-advisory-council]
"....The question is, are people going to become lifelong learners because they've got to stay on the job for it or because they need accreditation to get a job somewhere? I don't know the answer, but I think there's going to be a lot of societal crowd pressure for you to stay ahead of your game....I can't say I have all the answers, but it's going to be interesting and any accreditation system really has to stay on top of their game now and make sure they are asking that the return of that accreditation is equal to the effort people need to put in so you are really getting something valuable...."
From her extensive speaking, travels and work, Robin shares some stories (amusing, surprising, unexpected, amazing).
"....The funniest thing that ever happened to me was showing up at the White House without my pants....A lot of stuff happens when you live on the edge, but it always works out...."
If you were conducting this interview, what questions would you ask, and then what would be your answers?
"....How do we make technology more equal for everybody?....Demographics are changing in this country, everybody is getting older, how is technology going to help us get through this?...."
Robin, with your demanding schedule, we are indeed fortunate to have you come in to do this interview. Thank you for sharing your deep experiences with our audience.
Music by Sunny Smith Productions and Shaun O'Leary