Saturday, March 2, 2024
MIT’s Stata Center

The Dissolve Unconference takes place Thursday near MIT’s Stata Center. (Photo: Chris Devers)

The three-day Davos-like Solve conference at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology gets some built-in competition from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Thursday with the free Dissolve Unconference, which comes with its own ice cream flavor.

While Solve convenes technologists, philanthropists, business leaders, policy-makers and “change agents” to look at combining technology, business innovation and policy to change the world, Dissolve asks how to eradicate the very structures of power that produce inequality – the same structures celebrated at the larger conference. An MIT news item describes it:

The goal of the event is to … suggest possibilities for driving systemic change. We will focus on bottom-up approaches that can circumvent or transform today’s political dysfunction and economic inequalities to move us toward a more inclusive social and economic future.

Dissolve will tackle climate change, civic media, gender inequality, anthropological and humanist perspectives on society and economy, community activism and co-design, affordable DIY health solutions and more, the news item said.

Gus Rancatore


Weighty stuff, but during the last hour, set aside for free discussion, Central Square’s Toscanini’s will provide a new ice cream called “This is what democracy tastes like.” The art collective Illuminus will provide a light show and music from DJ Wayne&Wax, also known as Berklee College of Music ethnomusicologist Wayne Marshall, and the institute’s DJ IanC.

So what does democracy tastes like? Like the riches of Saffron Grand Marnier, says Gus Rancatore, owner of the Toscanini’s.

But this luxe ice cream will be delivered differently and arbitrarily to the people who seek it. There will be hundreds of cups full of it, and some people will get larger cups with more ice cream; someone will get a whole pint, he says.

Cups will also be handed out empty – no Saffron Grand Marnier for you.

After making the point, though, Rancatore says there’s no need to miss out.

“No one’s really going to get nothing,” he says.

Dissolve, organized by MIT anthropologist Ian Condry and the Creative Communities Initiative, a lab he co-directs with Professor T.L. Taylor, runs from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. Thursday on Solve Pavilion, on the lawn at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Building 32-155, also known as the Ray and Maria Stata Center, at 32 Vassar St. Speakers include social scientists, media theorists, writers, artists, activists and more, including Condry, Jose Gomez-Marquez, Christine Walley, Stefan Helmreich, Ed Bertschinger, Sasha Costanza-Chock and Chelsea Barabas from MIT; and Tomiko Yoda and Alex Zahlten from Harvard University.