Putting together a TEDx conference is not an easy task. TEDxWarwick 2013 took ten long months to produce, amid a bewildering web of successes and failures, good days and bad days, newspapers, cameras, reams of red tape, ‘technical difficulties’, sponsorship agreements, hundreds of meetings and the corresponding coffees (in Tim’s case at least), bridge designs, customised M&Ms, websites, Facebook posts, all-nighters and so on almost ad infinitum.
As experience and evidence remind us, however, if the people are right, the details take care of themselves. It has been our pleasure to work with a team of talented, dedicated individuals over the course of the past year, without whom the project would have remained but wishful thinking. Their drive and passion is both humbling and inspiring, and they have worked their socks off to turn TEDxWarwick 2013 into a reality. Meet everyone here, and read on for a inside look at the machinations, inside jokes and team spirit that made it all possible.
Speakers and performers, of course, are at the core of any TEDx conference. This year’s Content team, led by Vishal, put together a phenomenal lineup of 18 individuals. Vish, you successfully fulfilled and surpassed the ‘bridge-building’ brief with a fantastic array of insightful, brilliant minds and talents. Kudos. Raghav, you’re somehow always a step ahead of the game. It’s been a pleasure. Sam, you’ve got enough team spirit for all of us – and tremendous library flyering skills to boot! Greg – I think we’ll need to sit down over coffee so you can explain the virtues of veganism to me properly. Amanda, great job with sorting Molly’s marimba out. Worth the effort I think! And Pascale, considering the communication issues you’ve had to negotiate, you’ve got plenty to be proud of.
Where would we be without fancy designs, logos, posters, flyers and beautiful stage designs put together by our Creative team? Melody and Sharon, your vision, panache and unreal Adobe skills have worked wonders. Liam, where do I start? The website has looked fantastic from Day 1, your knowledge of everything remotely techy has been invaluable and, best of all, you’ve signed a four-year contract with us (you just don’t know it yet).
Operations team (accommodation, dinners, stewards, food, guest lists and all things logistical): you have been nothing short of stellar. Sharika, I’d love to know how you retain such calm and serenity – what’s the secret? Ted, TED jokes aside, I think we should have cloned you and given a copy of you to Liam for full-time use – you’ve done a great job. Veronica, nothing seems to faze you! I think you and Sharika must be reading the same books or something. Charu, suffice to say that our red carpet is cooler than TED’s – they only stopped using one because we would have showed them up. Costanza, I think we can safely describe ChangeKitchen as a huge success; well done! Bukola, after many months courageously negotiating the perils of bureaucracy, your seamless transition into managing stewards on the day was very impressive.
Despite TEDx being all about ideas, the fact remains that nothing really happens without funding, Rish, your External Relations team have excelled this year, not only retaining sponsors but finding new ones, giving us an unprecedented level of financial flexibility and attracting some excellent media interest. Superb job. Simon, your professionalism and charisma are all very well, but I’d still like to see Carey’s face in a few weeks if you roll up to Canary Wharf still bald. Mario and John, we all know that all the work you’ve done pales in comparison with the meticulous restoration of our beloved Big X. Nat, persuading the Gateway’s Editor to come along is one hell of a feather in your cap – great job.
Last – but not least in the slightest – comes the multifaceted Community team, spreading the word on Campus, beyond The Bubble and across millions of Internets. David, I remain in admiration at your perseverance against all odds, your excellent hospitality and above all your innate ability to turn innocent remarks into widespread hilarity. Qi Peng and Doris, you’ve started a big thing bringing TEDxWarwick to Weibo – long may it continue! Jakub – excellent job with bringing the documentary to fruition. I think we’re all eagerly anticipating the final product!
Tim, my fellow Coordinator. It’s been an immense privilege to work with someone so dedicated, with knowledge and capabilities far beyond my own and unparalleled passion and belief in the power of ideas. Now, jokes aside, it’s time for you to tackle that caffeine addiction. All of you can be genuinely proud of what you have achieved. It’s been quite a journey! As Oscar Wilde inimitably put it: “Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.”
“Science fiction? Trials for vertical farms are already underway in several major cities around the globe so it might not be too far off to find yourself picking your own courgettes on the eighth floor of an inner-city skyscraper. And if the recent designs being looked at in China are anything to go by, vertical farms could be iconic additions to the skyline. Monitoring allows the vertical famer to manage the farm in an efficient manner – reducing waste and, in the ideal form, minimising the cost (and impact) of food production.”
I’ve finally found some time to stop and think after the actual event! Looking through the folders and editing the photos really made me ponder about the 6-month journey.
For starters, I never actually got over the fact that I’m actually part of the TEDxWarwick team. Having followed TED videos and having seen TEDxWarwick in the background of some of them, I was really excited to know that I’d be so close to a TED event as a undergraduate at Warwick. Six months down the road, even after countless Ted-and-TED jokes and a succcessful 2013 event, this fact is still rather surreal to me.
These sentiments are not simply brought about by hearing TED talks, but also by working with like-minded people on the team. When I say like-minded, I don’t mean that every person on the team is the same. We come from different walks of life, we speak different languages, we all enjoy being involved in TED at varying degrees. We are very different. And some more different than others. Yet, we enjoy each other’s company and ideas, knowing that our collective effort will bring us somewhere – indeed, it has.
To the TEDxWarwick 2013 team: thank you for being there for me. I really enjoyed working with each of you. Tim and Alex, you guys are so good at handling so many things at once I suspect either of you have found the secret to human cloning. Give a TED talk about it next year? Sharika and Operations, my Tuesday 10am-s are not the same again. Liam, I still remember our first skype session that got me into filming and media. Enjoyed every bit of it! Melody and Sharon, both of you have artistic minds with deadly adobe skillz to match. Vishal and Content, you guys did amazing work with the speakers! What would a TED event be without speakers? Rish and ER, you guys are way too cool with all those partnerships going on. Bukola, what could we do without you arranging all the information for us. Community, you guys are awesome as well. And David: the team joker, the executor, and the executioner all in one person. Let’s just say that the lawyers’ league will never be the same once you graduate. =) The simple things that people do for one another on the team really warm my heart. Am really glad to have been part of the success of TEDxWarwick 2013. To quote a friend, TEDxWarwick 2013 was “the best I’ve been to this whole year!” High five team!
What next? The road ahead is uncertain, especially after such a successful event. Building Bridges was an awesome idea that aptly encapsulated the ethos of TED and all the efforts of the team propelled it forward. Bridges – intellectual, social, friendships – were definitely built this year. It was truly enriching doing so many different things and meeting so many awesome people through the event. Unfortunately, we can’t have a similar theme next year and remain credible as an exceptional TEDx society. It seems daunting for any of us who intend to stay on the team. Nevertheless, what we need is something very simple: one idea. An idea to spark a whole event, bring fantastic people together and make TEDxWarwick 2014 another success.
So why is TEDx such a big thing to me? Indeed, in the grander scheme of things, it is not. TED is but one organisation; a great idea, but possibly a trend that will fade in decades to come. What really strikes me is not all the hype about revolutionary ideas or the excitement about wonderful people. It is not even the similarity of the brand to my name! Rather, what fuels my passion is the power of the simple things: a small shift in perspective; a bit of effort to make a difference; a slight nudge that causes a landslide of change. A tipping point. We are so close to change.
Now and again, someone challenges the status quo with a groundbreaking idea. Occasionally, someone else notices its importance and plucks up the courage to lend their support. Yet another sees the potential and jumps on the bandwagon – and if the conditions are right, the idea starts to gain momentum and begins to enjoy increasing influence. Numbers are important – movements depend upon participation. But it is important to avoid imposing a new status quo, to keep changing, evolving, adapting and questioning. So, even more important than great ideas are the people that extend and dispute them, challenging accepted wisdom.
At only 19, Molly Lopresti is a hugely accomplished, highly unconventional musician. Ben Yeger, soldier turned peacemaker, is one of the few brave enough to openly seek non-violent and collaborative solutions to the ongoing Israeli-Palestine conflict. Making the choice of sacrificing the personal comforts of Singaporean middle-class life, Dr Tan Lai Yong upped sticks and moved to Southern China to deliver desperately needed medical support and training to rural villagers.
Defying classification, Nikky Smedley refuses to accept the established conventions on education, continuing to push the boundaries of teaching techniques and contest the traditional paradigms of learning. Finally, Sir Philip Craven, without the use of his legs since suffering a climbing accident at 16, is currently President of the International Paralympic Committee and has transformed the entire arena of disabled sports over his illustrious career.
Common knowledge is called ‘common’ for a reason. No one told these people to do what they did, and their ideas are far from conventional – but that isn’t stopping any of them. All too often, the people truly deserving of our attention are those outside what is accepted as normal. That is the essence of TED – and that’s what you can expect to see at TEDxWarwick 2013.
Space is an increasingly precious commodity, and one that we will have to adapt to if we are to live sustainably as a species. Increasing urbanisation, combined with ever-increasing populations in developing areas, will require a radical shift in the way we think about spaces both rural and urban. This session aims to address these issues head-on while considering the immutable role of human communities, both real and virtual. One size does not fit all: context is just as important as it ever was. Consequently, communities must be able to support themselves in terms of both resources and human relationships. The future is more bottom-up than top-down.
We will hear from three connoisseurs of the city, experts on the future of urban spaces. Rick Robinson aims to harness vast urban datastreams to build smarter, more efficient cities. In considering the relationship between the inhabitants of a city and the science operating within it, Kate Cooper highlights the vital problem of food futures. Dickson Despommier offers a solution: vertical agriculture, taking place in the heart of the urban metropolis.
Lifelong champion of the vulnerable, Rob Williams of War Child explores the challenges facing the forgotten children of conflict – those that need cohesive, responsible society more than anyone. The inspirational Bob Nameng has dedicated himself entirely to forming just such an environment in the heart of Kliptown, one of Johannesburg’s poorest neighbourhoods.
Technology and science are undoubtedly crucial in shaping spaces – but this session also reminds us that it is equally crucial not to lose sight of that which makes us human.
Every two days we create the same amount of information as we did from the dawn of mankind up until 2003. We are constantly bombarded with facts, figures, dates, times and headlines; so much so that it is becoming increasingly difficult for us to make sense of all that is happening around us. Visualising the Intangible celebrates the individuals who, amidst a hodgepodge of information overload, uncover similarities and build connections between disciplines and ideas.
The beauty of visualisation is that it enables us to better perceive the phenomena of science and the implications of everyday events. Fabian Oefner brings colour and life to the principles of physics and chemistry, using reactions and magnetic forces to capture stunning photographs. Attempting to conceptualise the vastness of our Earth and its interlinked ecosystems – especially under a changing climate — can be daunting. Bob Bishop’s vital work provides us with models and images to let us see how our world is responding to these changes.
Equally difficult to perceive are the billions of transactions that occur everyday between people. Understanding how we interact in real time can pave the way for better forecasts and predictions of the future, and forms the focal point of Lucrezia Reichlin’s work. She has developed a model which allows us to visualise economic performance in the moment.
Ultimately, it is the breathtaking gift of Derek Paravicini which truly embodies this session. Despite his blindness, Derek ‘sees’ music like no other. Able to recall any piece of music he has ever heard, Derek reveals the emotion and passion that lies behind music and sound.
On December 24, 1968, NASA’s Apollo 8 spacecraft captured the first-ever photo of Earth as seen from deep space. This image defined a generation of space exploration and inspired a new league of engineers, physicists and astronauts to dream about our solar system. Visualisation can profoundly impact how we view ourselves, each other and the world around us.
In 2003 it took 10 years to decode a human genome. Today, the same task of analysing 3 billion base pairs can be done in a week. In such a short span of time, the boundary what is possible has expanded remarkably. Science can no longer be divided into isolated, disconnected subcategories; instead, the traditional frontiers between science, technology and even art need to be redefined. We must reimagine science to truly grasp how it influences our everyday lives. More importantly, we must do so to explore new areas for scientific innovation and breakthrough.
Thankfully, many of today’s leading scientists are doing just that: reimagining the role of science in developing society and our collective future. Inspired by human bone structures, Luke Bawazer has pioneered research in genetically evolved technology. It is not far-fetched to envision semiconductors and other electronic components physically being grown in the near future. Some of the most pertinent questions are being answered by Gilean McVean’s work with the Thousand Genome Project, which provides a new perspective on the age-old questions of who we are and where we come from.
Even the microscopic has the potential to redefine our world. Stefan Bon’s work offers brilliant — and occasionally tasty — insights into how nanomaterials can be used to alter the properties of everything from adhesives to chocolate.
The traditional image of a scientist in a lab coat mixing chemicals is no longer valid. Andy Miah points out that future scientists cannot continue to neglect their creative and artistic sides. Science is as much about understanding how things around us behave and interact as it is about visualisation and art. New approaches and new solutions all stem from the ability to think creatively about challenges.
The power of science is boundless. Let’s continue to reimagine — to dream – about where it can take us next.
Today starts the 7 day countdown to our annual TEDxWarwick event! If you haven’t bought your tickets yet, this is the time! What should you expect? Here’s a short preview:
- “Genetically Evolved Technology”
- “When Science Meets Art”
- “In the Key of Genius”
- “Feeding the City, Feeding the Mind”
- “The Art of Hitting Things”
These are just some of the 18 fascinating talks we have lined-up for Saturday, 9th March. It is a full day experience (lunch, snacks and coffee provided), with every minute of every session carefully curated by our team.
Looking forward to seeing you there!
The curator of TED, Chris Anderson, is a remarkable visionary. In 2002, he took over from TED’s founder, Richard Wurman, planning to continue spreading awe-inspiring ideas as never before. It was a period of uncertainty for TED; many were unsure how the transition to a new leader would impact TED’s integrity. In the eleven years since then, however, we have witnessed free online access to thousands of TED talks, starting in 2006, the introduction of the annual TED Prize for the best ideas each year (which includes funding to help them materialise) and of course, the licensing of TEDx events worldwide, making TED a truly global phenomenon. Even with the benefit of hindsight, it is remarkable to see how way back in 2002, Chris was already prepared to take TED further than it had ever been before.
‘“Enough of the theory, Chris. Tell us what you’re actually going to do, all right?” So, I will. Here’s the vision for TED.’
At TEDxWarwick, we take feedback seriously and from all the responses in previous years we’ve made changes. For the first time, we are providing lunch, snacks and hot beverages free of charge during lunch and coffee breaks to ensure a high-quality TEDx experience. All this, plus 16 talks and 2 performances, is included in the ticket price of 15 pounds. We will provide you with an utterly unique full-day experience at the cutting edge, right here at Warwick.
Remember, we have 18 amazing speakers this year: some musicians, some scientists and some whose paths are downright extraordinary, defying classification.