Thursday, April 15, 2010
For years, the TED Conference – the long-running and über-exclusive Technology, Entertainment and Design expo/symposium/mixer – brought high caliber brain power and creative talent like former president Bill Clinton, Obama-mixing rapper will.i.am, multi-touch screen creator Jeff Han and legions of thinkers, activists and techies to Monterey.
Then, in 2008, it was announced that TED was packing up its playground of intellectual treasures and heading to Long Beach. (The LBC?) But, like the idea incubator it had always set out to be, it was starting to propagate, in the form of Oxford, England’s TED Global, with a focus on the international scene; TED Talks, online videos of TED speakers; and the newest incarnation, TEDx, smaller, independent installments of the TED format that have sprung up in hundreds of spots across the globe – this year debuting in Monterey.
Lynn McDonald is a postgraduate fellow in Organizational Development at the Monterey Institute of International Studies (she disarms the title as “the weirdo in the workplace”). She’s also a key organizer of TEDxMonterey, which plays out in the school’s Irvine Auditorium 1-6:30pm Friday, April 16.
“Some [TEDx events] are super swanky, some are in someone’s living room,” she says. “Another was in the biggest slum in Nairobi. The format’s the thing. Short presentations.”
Though TEDxMonterey is independently funded through donations and ticket sales, McDonald says TED contributes guidelines, sponsor vendors like Livestream and, notably, its name.
“People are coming from [the Bay Area] because the TED brand is so strong,” she says. The organizer of the recent TEDxBerkeley, which drew 700 people, will come and pow-wow among a growing “TEDx community.”
McDonald and a smaller-than-you-would-think team of MIIS and CSUMB volunteers have assembled a roster of local and regional authorities from different fields to speak, in 12-minute increments, on subjects that orbit the theme “Be the Solution.”
The format delivers three blocks of lectures/presentations, with five speakers and one performer per block, interspersed with two 30-minute breaks, punctuated with pre-recorded video from TED, and capped with a reception catered by Portobello’s, during which attendees can mingle and share ideas.
Among the more than a dozen speakers is Dr. Ramon Resa, who doesn’t know how TEDx found and tapped him to speak. He also says he knew nothing about TED or TEDx, but has since learned that it’s “kind of a big deal.” The pediatrician and education advocate survived a hard knock life in a farmworker family of 15, surrounded by drugs, alcohol and abuse. His only salvation came in the form of teachers in his school in rural Goshen, Calif., near Bakersfield where he still works.
“I promised the people who got me to med school I would come back.”
He’s in good company. Monterey Jazz Festival Education Director Dr. Rob Klevan will talk about his group’s support of arts education, then he’ll introduce 8th-grade jazz piano phenom Patrick Hogan, who will play (after he gets out of school). “Magic” Seth Raphael represents one of the more entertaining possibilities of the line-up. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Magic and Technology and a master’s in Wonder from MIT. A 2009 TED fellow, the bald and bearded consultant bills himself as a technology magician. MIIS student Lakhpreet Kaur, the only student on the TEDxMonterey program, gives a talk on “How Food Co-ops Will Save the World.” Kelley Calvert, an assistant professor at MIIS and Weekly contributor who recently encircled the country in a biofuel-powered car to explore the edges of the environmental movement, alternative communities, political activism and technology convergence, will present what she’s learned in a slide show titled “Hope the Verb.”
McDonald, a dynamo of energy, punctuates talk of TEDxMonterey with phrases like awesome and exciting, even in regards to the event’s attempt to leave zero carbon footprint.
“We’re trying to walk the walk,” she says. To that end, it will be stocked with compostable supperware and programs (which can be planted), and will be free of the “shwag everyone throws away.”
It will also be webcast live, with MIIS students translating, on the fly, in several languages. “On the fly” also describes the spirit of this inaugural TEDxMonterey event, which will likely experience some rough patches. But its existence represents powerful grassroots progress in and of itself.
“This is the first time we’ve done anything like this,” McDonald says. “It’s exciting.”