Announcing Social Media Week’s Global Theme for 2016: “The Invisible Hand: Hidden Forces of Technology”


Here at Social Media Week, we have an obligation to help you understand technology’s role in our future, what it means for your business, and for our globally connected society.

Through engaging, entertaining, educational and diverse content and conversations, we will once again explore how technology, social media and mobile devices helps us work smarter and live more productive lives.

Breaking Down The 2016 Theme

The Invisible Hand: Hidden Forces of Technology (and How We Can Harness it for Good) will serve as our unifying theme throughout 2016 and will be unpacked and explored across our 18 SMW cities.

Our examination will look at four attributes of “The Invisible Hand”:

  1. Mobile technology: Devices such as mobile phones, and networks including Bluetooth, NFC, WiFi, 4G, etc., that can operate to some extent interactively and autonomously
  2. Networked connectivity: The means by which these devices and networks are able to connect to each other through routers, switches and gateways
  3. Data: Including the capture, analysis, curation, search, sharing, storage, transfer, and visualization of information
  4. Machine learning: The study and the construction of algorithms that can learn from and make predictions on data

When combined these attributes change everything. Whether it’s the way we consume media, engage with brands, access healthcare, vote, travel, choose restaurants, commute to work, collaborate on projects, or how we go about choosing a date, technology’s invisible hand plays a crucial role in decision-making, or the way n which we experience the world around us.

“The Invisible Hand” represents the intangible, under-valued processes driving our technology, and ultimately, our decisions, forward. As we become more efficient, dynamic, and diverse human-beings, we have the responsibility to understand the present and future potential of these hidden forces all around us.

SMW Global Theme 2016
SMW Global Theme 2016

The Origins of “The Invisible Hand”

In the 18th century, Adam Smith came up with “The Invisible Hand,” a metaphor that describes “unintended social benefits resulting from individual actions.

This phrase relates to the idea that society may benefit more from one individual’s pursuit of passion or interest than if that individual set out to impact his or her entire community or culture from the start. In a networked society we can look at “The Invisible Hand” metaphor in a slightly different way. Today, our individual actions cannot be isolated in regards to how we use technology.

When you request an Uber ride, recommend a book on Amazon, share a BuzzFeed article, watch a movie on Netflix, or ask Siri for directions, your actions are part of a collective set of actions that contribute to new outcomes. These new outcomes do not just impact you. They also help improve the products, services, and technologies around us, as well as overall life of everyone connected online to each other.

Two Sides of “The Invisible Hand” Conversation

However these outcomes are not always positive, and so if we are to remain vigilant as technology progresses, then we need to facilitate a dialogue that explores the various sides and perspectives of this ever-changing movement.

There are two sides to the Invisible Hand however, positive outcomes and negative drawbacks, both of which must be explored. As technology takes over more of our decision making there are moral and ethical implications to consider and we feel strongly that as a global community we are well positioned to host an open and constructive dialogue that looks at both sides.

Some real-life examples you might know, include:

Individual Action Collective Benefit Collective Drawbacks
Ordering an Uber Faster response times Lack of job stability when everyone’s a contractor
Rating a restaurant on Yelp Better recommendations Easily manipulated reviews
Pinning a picture on Pinterest Better product recommendations Working for free for retailers that get all the benefit
Watching a film on Netflix Better discovery of new things to watch based on popularity Fewer people have these shared experiences talking around the water-cooler
Endorsing a skill on LinkedIn Adding more objectivity and context to professionals resumes everywhere Gaming experience to get ahead
Sharing a Buzzfeed article on Facebook Allows for surfacing of more relevant and timely content Publishers seeking lowest common denominator of shareability rather than great reporting
Swiping left on Tinder Narrows the number of potential dates you’re presented with. Swiping right leads to greater casual sex, unwanted pregnancies, objectification of women, and more
Sharing location of traffic police on Waze Prevents others from being caught for speeding and other traffic offences. Encourages speeding and other forms of dangerous driving.
SMW Global Theme 2016
SMW Global Theme 2016

What’s Next and How Can You Contribute to the Conversation?

We’re excited to begin our year-long journey with you. Whether you attend Social Media Week in one of our 18 cities, or are just hearing about us for the first time, we hope you will participate in-person and online throughout the year.

Here are some of the best ways you can join Social Media Week in 2016:

Next year’s Social Media Week conferences will take place February 22-26, June 6-10, September 12-16, and November 14-18. If you’d like to get in touch with us regarding Social Media Week in 2016, you can follow us on Twitter and “Like” us on Facebook, and reach out to us there with your questions, ideas, feedback, and interests.

Social Media Week


Announcing Social Media Week’s 2016 Dates


With September’s edition of Social Media Week wrapped up, and November’s global conference quickly approaching, we’re excited to continue our exploration of how human connectivity is being reimagined through technology and innovation.

In 2015, thus far, Social Media Week brought together thousands of leaders in 15+ cities around the globe for more than 1,300 events and conversations to discuss the changing landscape of business, society and culture around the world. Check out the recap of our most recent event in London, Rotterdam, Miami and Sāo Paulo here.

Our next event is November 16-20 where we will visit Chicago, Santiago and Mumbai and while we work with our local teams to put the finishing touches to the program we are also working hard on our plans for 2016.  In the coming weeks we will announce the full lineup of cities where we will be hosting and our 2016 global theme.  For now, here are the dates of next year’s Social Media Week events around the globe:

  • February 22-26, 2016
  • June 6-10, 2016
  • September 12-16, 2016
  • November 14-18, 2016
Social Media Week September 2015
Social Media Week September 2015

Whether you’ve participated in Social Media Week before, and have been with us from the very beginning, or if you’ve just discovered Social Media Week, we invite you to join us in 2016 in a variety of ways. Businesses, brands, agencies, startups, and organizations of all shapes and sizes contribute to our quarterly conferences, and we hope you can do the same next year. Here are some of the best ways you can participate:

  • Get our weekly email with SMW Articles and Annoucenments: Receiving our weekly emails is one of the best ways to access our top news articles, and find out about new opportunities and updates for Social Media Week around the globe!
  • Apply to speak: If you are interested in speaking, or know someone who is, apply here! We try to find an event that will work best for you, and we also encourage you to propose new event ideas too.
  • Become an official sponsor: Join one of the world’s leading conferences for brands and agencies to reach a targeted audience of thousands of hyper-connected professionals. Sponsoring Social Media Week, locally or across the globe, will increase your organization’s brand awareness, position it as a thought leader, amplify new product launches, and much more.
  • Become a SMW Contributor: Are you interested in contributing to Social Media Week? We are expanding with our industry and conference coverage with original articles and news. Let us know how you would like to contribute, and join our team!
  • Tell your friends and followers about #SMW16: Share your excitement with friends, colleagues, followers, partners, and everyone you know! We’re more and more excited as 2016 approaches, and for daily updates on SMW news and information, follow us on Twitter, and “Like” us on Facebook.

Stay tuned for more announcements on Social Media Week in 2016, including our city lineup and global theme, where we ask ourselves an important question regarding the future of humanity, technology, and connectivity, and how #SMW16 will help us answer that question through events, articles, reports, and conversations around the globe!


Social Media Week