A Historic Conversation Between Ai Weiwei, Jack Dorsey, and Richard MacManus

Monday, March 15, 2010
6:30 to 8:00 pm ET
New York


About the Participants

Ai Weiwei is a conceptual artist, curator, architect, social commentator, and activist. He was born in 1957 into the domestic political exile of his father, the noted modernist poet Ai Qing. Ai Weiwei’s birthright was simultaneously one of a cultural insider and a political outsider, and he quickly perceived the contradictions of his condition.

Ai Weiwei’s art has been shown in museums and galleries internationally. As a curator, he is known for cutting-edge exhibitions. In the early 2000s, he collaborated with the acclaimed Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron on the winning design for the National Stadium project for the Beijing Olympics, popularly known as the “Birds Nest,” which he later renounced as a “pretend smile.”

Ai Weiwei has never sought foreign citizenship and maintains his credibility among a devoted Chinese following as a highly active blogger, with his finger on the pulse of modern China. Unafraid to spotlight injustices, he has documented the arbitrary conviction and swift execution of alleged cop-killer Yang Jia in Shanghai, investigated shoddy school construction in Sichuan, and led a movement to oppose the nationwide installation of Internet filtering software in new computers. He is critical of one-party rule and government corruption, as well as the nationalist tendencies of China’s citizenry, which allow state power to go unchecked. As a result his blogs are shut down, his home studio is under surveillance, and he’s had to have cranial surgery for injuries sustained during a recent altercation with local police in Sichuan.


Jack Dorsey is the creator, cofounder, and chairman of Twitter, Inc. Originally from St. Louis, Jack's early fascination for mass-transit and how cities function led him to Manhattan and programming real-time messaging systems for couriers, taxis, and emergency vehicles. Throughout this work Jack witnessed thousands of workers in the field constantly updating where they were and what they were doing; Twitter is a constrained simplification designed for general usage and extended by the millions of people who make it their own every day. Jack is dedicated to creating public goods which foster approachability, immediacy, and transparency, and is starting a second company named Square focused on bringing these concepts to commerce.


Richard MacManus is the founder and editor in chief of ReadWriteWeb, one of the most popular and influential technology blogs in the world. New Zealander MacManus founded ReadWriteWeb in 2003 and grew his blog about the evolving Internet into an international team of journalists. ReadWriteWeb is read by millions of thought leaders and consumers, and is syndicated daily by the New York Times.

From the early days of blogging, social networks, and YouTube to the future of machine learning, aggregate data analysis, and other meta-trends, MacManus is widely recognized as a leader in articulating what's next in technology and what it means for society at large. 


Orville Schell is the director of the Center on U.S.-China Relations at the Asia Society in New York. He has written fourteen books, including nine on China, and is at work on an interpretation of the last one-hundred years of Chinese history. He was a Fellow at Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism and the recipient of many prizes and fellowships, including a Guggenheim Fellowship, the Overseas Press Club Award, and the Harvard-Stanford Shorenstein Prize in Asian Journalism. Prior to assuming his position at Asia Society, he served as Dean of the Graduate School of Journalism at the University of California, Berkeley.


Ai Weiwei
Map of China, 2003
78 x 98 x 110cm
Courtesy of Private Collection