[Shelby Loasby | News Sub Editor]
The University of Hertfordshire’s first ever TEDx conference was held at The Forum Hertfordshire on Saturday 7th February, and saw a successful day of insightful and thought-provoking speeches.
For those of you that don’t know, TEDx is an independently organised event that follows the framework of TED; a non-profit organisation devoted to spreading ideas worldwide, in the form of short, powerful talks.
The talks usually last between 10-20 minutes and have to relate to the chosen TEDx theme. In Trident Media’s last article, we revealed the university’s theme to be; ‘Pink Polar Bears.’
UH students, Sean Ryan and Mattey Avgustinov, lead organisers of TEDx UH, have worked closely with their committee, volunteers from the university, and the speakers, for almost ten months in preparation for the conference.
They recruited students from Art and Design to help build a stunning set on stage that represented the Pink Polar Bear theme. Volunteers from TV and Film also helped out with the live filming of the event so that students who were unable to get a ticket could stream the event online.
The day of the conference kicked off with registration at 10.30am with a photo opportunity and tea, coffee and biscuits. The audience were then welcomed to find a seat in The Forum ready for the opening remarks from Ryan and Avgustinov.
The morning session began with the first speaker, Professor Karen Pine, who unfortunately started with some technical difficulties – but what is a conference without something going wrong with technology? Her speech “Is thinking overrated?” was a suitable starting point, introducing the psychology behind the ‘Pink Polar Bear’ and showing how thinking and acting are not always connected.
The morning session continued with one of the student speakers, Ifrah George, with “Are you happy?” which made audience members question their happiness and provided guidelines for life; “You’re happiness lays in nobody’s pocket but your own.”
Poker expert Dave Woods was next with “The skillsets of poker” which looked at the poker industry, how to read people and how the skillsets for poker can apply to the skillsets in life.
Following this, was Ray Wilkinson’s “Brits in Space” that encouraged the STEM programme (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths for young people) and inspired people to engage with the future of space tourism.
Due to the rules of TEDx conferences, the committee were then obliged to show a TED Talks video, “Happy Maps” by Daniel Quercia. The talk proposed an app that allows people to travel by the most beautiful and meaningful route to work, instead of the most efficient; “A chance to escape the fabricated world.”
To finish the morning session, Ingrid Ozols, who flew in especially from Australia, gave an emotional speech about ‘Mental Illness and Social Inclusion” and brought to light the fact that almost every 45 seconds, one person takes their own life.
For lunch, the committee had kindly provided a £5 food voucher for every member of the audience for The Forum canteen, not to mention the endless flow of coffee, tea, donuts and biscuits.
The afternoon session commenced with another TED Talks video, “Silk, the ancient material of the future,” by Fiorenzo Omenetto. He discussed the hundreds of useful qualities of Silk and how future technology will rely on it.
Up next was Kristina Yee with “Film and Feminism.” The Harvard graduate discussed how films are the mirrors of reality, but women are unfairly reflected behind the screen, with shocking numbers showing the lack of equality in films and behind the cameras.
Peter Buckley followed with his talk on “Healthcare – Leadership in turbulent times?” He made insightful observations on the efficiency of the NHS and how the correct structure of leadership can produce effective results.
Second student speaker, Isobelle Clarke, then presented her talk on “Native speakerism,” that questioned what makes a native language. Essex proud Clarke, engaged the audience with funny stories and photos and made people aware that your native speakerism is down to how comfortable you are in speaking and understanding it.
The university’s own lecturer, Nasser Abouzakher, was next with “Cyberspace: Pros and Cons.” The informative speech gave insight into the dangers of the internet, anonymous websites and the deep dark web of TOR.
Historian, Andrea Mammone, then interesting addressed the ‘pink polar bear’ theme in the form of European economics, the state of Greece in parallel to England,and the current economic structure of the EU.
It was then time for a short coffee break and an opportunity to mingle with other members of the audience and conference speakers.
The final sessions of the day started with another TED Talks video, “Reggie Watts disorients you in the most entertaining way.” The video showed comedian, Reggie Watts, talking absolute nonsense and using a sound looping machine to make songs, with just his voice. It was a surreal, but definitely loosened up the audience from some of the more serious and intense talks.
Journalist and travel writer, Justin Marozzi, followed with an eye opening approach towards terrorism with his speech “Why terrorism is a laughing matter.” What could have been regarded as an offensive talk, Marozzi cleverly tackled the issues of the media war from a comedic angle and entertained the audience.
The penultimate speech “How to make digital democracy work” from Royal Holloway’s lecturer, Paolo Gerbaudo, interestingly looked at the uses of social media in political conflicts and protests, and how digital democracy could be the way forward.
To end the day, lecturer at UH, Philip Porter, discussed the issues of global warming and the state of glaciers with his speech “T-shirts on for an Arctic heat wave!” which neatly fit in with the theme and brought the day to a close.
As a whole the conference was a complete success. Audience members expressed how well the event had gone, and even the speakers were impressed by the sheer energy and organisation that had gone into making UH’s first TEDx conference.
Isobelle Clarke and Kristina Yee spoke to Trident Media about their thoughts of the theme and how the day had gone; “The theme applied really well to my actual talk.” Said Clarke, “I wanted to redefine native speakerism, and so its the whole process of a white polar bear being redefined as a pink polar bear.”
Yee had actually forgotten to mention how the theme related during her speech and explained; “The book Don’t think of an elephant by George Lakoff obviously connects with the polar bear and was my inspiration for how associations, images and words play around in people’s minds.” She went on to say that “the things we don’t see are as important as the things we do see, like women in film.”
Yee and Clarke also wanted to congratulate the TEDx team on all their efforts. “Minus a few technical difficulties, what they’ve done has been amazing,” Said Clarke, “They’ve worked so hard for ten months. I’ve only being doing it for four months and I’m stressed!”
Yee added, “It is definitely one of the most beautiful set ups with the stage etc.” To which Clarke expressed, “Yeah, my name looked amazing!”
Did you attend the TEDxUH conference or any others this year? Let us know what you thought! @TridentMediaUK #TEDxUH