Ideas in Motion at TEDxConcordia
Yesterday’s TEDx Concordia event went off without a hitch. Independently organized, the event’s team brought in more than 400 people and boasted an all-day roster of 18 talks by invigorating people. The day started bright and early at 9am at the Eric Maclean Center for the Performing Arts right off of West Broadway. As we strolled in, the guests were welcomed into a long line that led to tables offering coffee and an array of breakfast foods. Even though the event hadn’t even started yet, the high energy could be felt across the venue, turning the long line of hungry thinkers into a standing metaphor for the long string of ideas that awaited us.
Fully equipped with caffeine and satiated appetites, the audience was launched into the event as marketing guru Mitchell Joel (www.twistimage.com/blog/) took the stage. Both charismatic and witty, Joel managed to make light of the increasing paranoia we are developing in a cyber world of virtually no privacy or restraints. He touched on tactics, strategies and the tools that are available to all of us to avoid becoming disconnected in an overly connected world.
Also dipping into the web realm was Lenny Ratchitsky, who left us second-guessing our excessive use of social-media tools with his talk on the forgotten importance of serendipity. What opportunities are we missing as we avoid the unknown by living in our confined circle of predetermined likes and dislikes? Ratchitsky thinks we’re missing a lot, and urges us to leave some things up to chance.
But leaving things up to chance doesn’t mean leaving yourself unprepared. All of us can affirm to the fact that our photo libraries hold hundreds, if not thousands, of photos. But how safe are our hard-drives, and what would we be left with if our software suddenly becomes obsolete? Adele McAlear took us through the importance of being smart with our photographed keepsakes.
A life-long science-geek, David Secko revitalized our notion of the exchange that takes place between science and the public. Adamant about the importance of science reaching out to regular people, Secko feels there is a lot of insight to be gained through the public’s deliberation of science-like issues. If we lived in a Seckonian world, a lot more of scientific research and analysis would depend on us, the people.
Secko’s participation in the event didn’t stop there. In her pursuit to alleviate the developmental difficulties faced by the visually-impaired, Ilana Ben-Ari designed and created a toy that enhances orientation and mobility skills. Using David Secko and Nomadic Massive’s Alejandro Sepu to help showcase her invention, Ben-Ari made it clear that her toy is not only fun and inspiring, but incredibly crucial in bridging the gap between communication and the visually-impaired.
Also fueled by the ability to create things, Gavin Kenneally, a 3rd year engineering student, turned us all into quasi-engineers as he dove into his talk on 3D printing. By mapping out the current use and future possibilities of this somewhat old but still unheard of technology, Kenneally showed us how 3D printing can redefine the traditional multi-tiered production process and turn each of us into the creators of the products we consume.
And consume we shall, especially when you’re looking to find a hot date. Well, at least that’s what Gad Saad suggested in his talk about the interconnection between consumerism as a mating enhancer. The reason why guys go nuts over expensive cars and why women tend to like the guys in those expensive cars may not be as obvious as one would think.
Although one is from a marketing world and the other thrives in the mayhem of Wall Street, both Michelle Holliday and Yan Ohayo left us thinking about the current corporate structures that businesses follow. Although both agree that profit is ideal in any business venture, it still isn’t smart to minimize everything to dollars and cents.
Tara Hunt closed off the third session with her on-stage confession of being a certifiably audacious entrepreneur. Is it smart to overthrow pragmatics and a comfortable lifestyle in the name seeking out your dreams? Is it okay if everyone around you thinks you’re nuts and that you’re making a mistake? Is it okay to travel the untrodden path? Hunt thinks so, and is willing to give everything up in exchange for a life of uncertainty that is driven by passion.
Much like the passion that pushes a project like Montreal Ouvert (www.montrealouvert.net) forward. Both excited and convincing, Josh brought awareness to the local organization’s mandate to make civic information available online for anyone. Open data, he says, is necessary to enable our democratic participation.
Along with democracy, an open philosophy usually brings about good things. If you hadn’t already heard of open courses, Paul Gillet made sure to peak our interest in the new wave of free online courses offered by universities around the world, including MIT, Yale and York University.
To make the day even more praise-worthy, TEDx Concordia welcomed a fantastic performance by the Montreal-based hip-hop group Nomadic Massive (www.nomadicmassive.com). As an artistic collective from around the world, Nomadic Massive has taken on a musical mission that is directed on universalizing what they call a “humanistic dialogue”. Through music, they devote themselves to youth communities within Montreal and beyond, with the hopes that our younger generations will seize and conquer the possibilities of opportunity. During their 2-song set the group dropped their hearts right onto that stage and led us straight into their hip-hop souls, asking nothing else from us but our ears. Not even 30 seconds-in, the entire 400+ crowd got up to dance, and kept dancing the entire way through. The audience’s beat-clap was so synchronized and so on point that it served as evidence that music does bind us together. Hip-hop, we learned, is full of ideas, we just need to listen.
As though Nomadic Massive didn’t get us riled up enough, Owen Chapman (www.opositive.ca) skipped up on stage later in the day and threw us all into the wonders of mash-ups. Although frowned upon in the musical world, mash-ups are a growing phenomena, and Chapman thinks we all have a right to play around with the music we listen to. Equipped with his trusty laptop and music-making software, Chapman got us to give him concrete sounds, like foot stomping and clapping, to show us how we can take new sounds and mash them up with pretty much any song or beat we want. Music is ours for the taking and the making, mashing included.
It’s obvious that TEDx Concordia didn’t set a specific theme for the event, leaving the talks to span across a range of topics. But, like any true open forum, it’s not about sharing certain ideas, but sharing ideas in general. While some talks were eye-opening, others were re-affirming. Either way, the talks generated discussion, and between each of the four sessions the audience gathered around tall tables topped with lollipops and engaged in open dialogue. We were all strangers to each other, but that didn’t stop us from discussing our ideas about the ideas, which only generated the discovery of new ideas. A perpetual motion has been set, which can only mean the event was a pure success.
By Rima Hammoudi