Wednesday, October 21, 2009

TEDx Columbus Recap

TEDxColumbus was an amazing event. The venue (OSU's Wexner Center) , the MCs, the speakers, and the participants made for an unforgettable evening. It was great to catch up with old colleagues and meet new acquaintances.

Matt Slaybaugh
Slaybaugh's "This One is for You" delivered the powerful, yet not overly sappy message of finding purpose in work & life (i.e. "pick something you love & do it like a bad habit for 10 years"). Slaybaugh's delivery was quite masterful. His gestures, his voice, and his ability to appear as if he was personally talking to each member of the audience was commanding.

Ann Pendleton-Julian
Pendleton-Julian drove home the idea of ecosystems and their interconnections. She likened ecosystems to games in her talk, "Design Through Gaming," by demonstrating their structural qualities while also indicating almost infinite possibilities within those structures. In her teaching, she uses game design as a means to teach how to think differently, to "rewire" her students' thought process. Students would then tackle architecture and urban planning problems with a new cognitive skill set and create more holistic solutions.

John Mueller
Mueller argued that the U.S. has over-emphasized the threat of nuclear weapons. He indicated that terrorist attack scenarios are highly unlikely and that nuclear powers like China are not compelled to stockpile. While I agree with Mueller to some extent (and would certainly need further research to disprove his claims), I still believe that the nuclear card is a powerful positioning tactic. The ROI currently comes from an enemy's belief that nuclear weapons could be used. If the enemy devalues the other's claims, I fear some enemies will up the ante.

Norah Zuniga Shaw
Shaw's presentation demonstrated how seemingly random & diverse activities have deep underlying structures. Shaw used the term "counterpoint," the interplay of independent elements, to describe these deep structures. Specifically, Shaw uses dance and "choreographic visualizations" to manifest counterpoint. The process of capturing data from dancers' movements and then creating abstracted visualizations from that data are intriguing. For more check out Synchronous Objects, a project by William Forsythe, Maria Palazzi, and Shaw.

John Glenn
Glenn participated in a memorable Q&A discussion with Mike Curtin. Glenn focused partly on education and repeated the need for an "educated citizenry." At 88, Glenn was amazingly sharp and could remember stats from 10-year-old (but still relevant) reports on education that he was involved with. Additionally, Glenn said macro- and micro-level curiosity across our society is vital for the continued development of research. He then quoted Ralph Waldo Emerson
If there is any period one would desire to be born in, is it not the age of Revolution; when the old and the new stand side by side and admit of being compared; when the energies of all men are searched by fear and by hope; when the historic glories of the old can be compensated by the rich possibilities of the new era? This time, like all times, is a very good one, if we but know what to do with it.
Emerson, R. (1837). The American Scholar. Essays. Retrieved from
Glenn ended by saying he'd been married for 66 years, stepped down from the platform, and high-fived his wife. Unforgettable.

Reade Harpham
Harpham positioned Design as a process or tool to answer, "What if?" His presentation focused on the OneLab's project to create a more efficient millet thresher for Mali citizens. I especially liked how he spoke about prototyping (the physical manifestation of an idea, experiencing an idea). He ended by challenging the audience this question, "Every single person has the power to change the world. What would you do?"

Chrystie Hill
Again, it was so great to have a librarian as part of the inaugural TEDxColumbus. Hill specifically touched on libraries as community builders. Hill stressed it is imperative to go beyond knowing your users. Hill expressed the necessity to know the non-users in a library's community. By doing so, libraries can develop services that truly matter to the entire community, not just one population of it. She also touched on libraries-as-dynamic-learning-spaces vs book warehouses and provided the Seattle system as a case study for all of the above.

Art Epstein
Epstein and his colleagues are doing some amazing work in the field of plastics. Epstein spoke about plastics that conduct electricity, others that are magnetic, and yet others that could be used as light-emitting inks. Epstein ended his talk by discussing possible glucose notification applications for diabetics.

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