Aspen Ideas Festival

June 30, 2015


The Aspen Institute used Microsoft Pulse (formerly named “Bing Pulse”) as the official audience response system of the 2015 Aspen Ideas Festival, a week-long thought leadership festival featuring seminars and discussions led by leading figures in business, journalism, social activism, politics, and more. Pulse was used for live audience feedback and participation during two sessions, allowing attendees to add their voice to the discussion. Thousands of votes were cast during the thought-provoking conversations.


Pulse was a key engagement tool in two sessions during the 2015 festival. The first was a conversation on violence in American culture, which included New Orleans mayor, Mitch Landrieu, and acclaimed writer Ta-Nehisi Coates. Both panelists posed questions to the audience through Pulse and commented on the results as they can in real-time.

The second session that engaged attendees with Pulse was a debate around whether smart technology is a future employer or job destroyer. Attendees joined and could react to debate between author and entrepreneur Andrew Keen, Fusion bureau chief Alexis Madrigal, and Harvard professor Jonathan Zittrain from their seats in the audience.

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Pulse participants anonymously responded every 5 seconds to the live conversations, revealing the following insights during the conversation on violence in American culture:

  • Most votes were cast in agreement with what the speakers were saying but women agreed more strongly than men. Throughout the session, Democrats agreed more than Republicans and Independents. Voters aged 45+ agreed more with the speakers than voters under 45.
  • There was very strong agreement among voters when Mitch Landrieu said that “We, in America, all have a responsibility to stand up and do something [about racial violence].”
  • Seventy-four percent of voters thought structural racism plays a role in violence against African-Americans in the US.
  • Forty-four percent of people did not think the phrase “black-on-black crime” is fair, while 28% thought it’s a fair term. Most voters under 24-years-old thought the term is unfair while most voters over 55 thought that the term is fair.
  • Eighty percent of voters thought segregation of cities plays a major role in this violence. Democrats unanimously thought this was true, while Republicans were split on the issue.
  • Sixty-one percent of voters thought that the country does not care about young black men in inner cities.
  • Three in four voters thought that culture plays a role in racial violence. Men unanimously thought culture plays a role in violence, while women mostly agreed with this point.

During the discussion on smart technology, Pulse uncovered the following insights about how the audience felt:

  • Most votes were cast in agreement with what the speakers were saying, but women agreed more strongly than men did.
  • When asked if the next round of technological innovations would be different from the last, voters under 34 were unsure how this technology would compare, but voters over 45 did not think this technology would differ from previous rounds of innovation.
  • When asked what would cause the greatest change in the world, younger voters believed artificial intelligence would, while older voters thought electricity will have generated the greatest change.
  • When asked in the context of technology if there are too many lawyers, men mostly said “no,” while women mostly said “yes.”
  • When the discussion turned to Uber, Lyft, and other ridesharing, the majority of voters believed there is still room for more competition in the market.
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