By Joe Zefran, RTE.ie News Editor, in Amsterdam, Netherlands

Amsterdam is having a Picnic. Anyone is invited to 'Uncork Your Brain' and witness presentations by the likes of actor-vist Woody Harrelson or David Silverman, the director of 'The Simpsons' movie.

If you want full access inside the event, it will cost you nearly €1000. Otherwise, you can watch (most of) it from anywhere in the world online or sample a handful of free events.

Simply put, the festival/conference in its second year celebrates the connections made between technology and humanity so far - and seeks to find better and, in some cases, more profitable ways to improve those connections in the future.

Picnic is a grown-up version of Burning Man - with more dealmaking and posher accomodations. Not everyone here is looking for profits. Many are here to change the world. Others just to play.

They are of a certain class - and, for the most part, a certain racial identity. There are no hippies, rednecks, or frat boys like Burning Man and, despite its Amsterdam location, less nudity or drugs.

But everyone at Picnic seems to be searching for the value of ideas and practices - whether that value is financial, cultural, social or personal.

After a smaller event in 2006, this year's event include partners like the New York-outfit 'Come Out and Play', airliner KLM and a global non-profit project called Cinegrid.

'Come Out and Play' will host a series of 'street games' around Amsterdam, from high-tech competitions involving GPS-ready mobile phones to a low-tech game in which Picnic VIPs are attacked with water guns.

However the biggest event of Picnic is undoubtedly the €500,000 Green Challenge. Virgin head Richard Branson will present the lucrative award to the winning idea for a carbon-reducing product or service. 439 in-depth ideas from all corners of the world, including Tanzania and Guatemala will compete. 

There are probably more Branson wannabes here than Gandhi wannabes. Very few impromptu discussions about the current troubles in Burma, for example. And while tomorrow features a special programme on 'Creative China', one wonders if that event will be more about good business than multicultural understanding.

Still, the creative projects are cool. They are smaller, more high-tech, but in no way less creative than those found at Burning Man.

In 'The Girlfriend Experience', you can sit at a computer and control one of four actors dressed in their undergarments while everyone else watches (try it at http://girlfriend.mediamatic.net/).

Anyone curious about the social potential of RFID (the radio chips retailers use to track their goods) get their very own tag and a handful of playful kiosks.

RFID experiment at Picnic '07 in AmsterdamThis experiment uses your RFID tag to find information on the web and spool it out for all to read

 

 


Then of course, there was group yoga with Woody Harrelson.

Actor-vist Woody Harrelson leads group yoga at Picnic '07 in Amsterdam

Both Burning Man and Picnic hope to change the world. After 17 years, Burning Man has arguably not done so in any large scale way, perhaps because 'Burners' are too hot or too 'buzzin' to turn their ideas into constructive action.

At the two-year-old Picnic, ideas will be bought and turned into active projects. Whether or not this more comfortable, capitalist setting can lead to projects that change the world remains to be seen.

Joe Zefran is reporting from Amsterdam's Picnic Festival all week long. Participate in the festival at www.picnicnetwork.org, check out photos via Flickr and check out RTE.ie/news this Saturday to watch a live webcast of the Green Challenge Awards Ceremony.