TEDx Lancaster – Review

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On Friday 13th May, TEDxLancasterU was hosted in the Management School for the fourth consecutive year. The organising team, which consisted of 11 students had big boots to fill after last year’s TEDx event was recognised by LUSU as ‘Student Project of the Year’. The night proved to be entertaining and informative as 15 speakers and 2 performers from different walks of life broadly coalesced around the theme of ‘invisible changes’ to share their inspirational stories, initiatives and ideas.

Positive energy sustained the conference. Speakers covering topics as diverse as sex work, eating disorders, urban design and the history of computation broadly painted a view of the future as pregnant with progress, possibility and innovation. Although at times this slipped into a sort management motivational speech cliché easily recognisable to those familiar with the TED speech format, many of those speaking were not afraid to soberly outline collective problems facing the world.

The evening opened with Maja Groff, a senior international lawyer based in The Hague who talked about law as a basis for international citizenship in the 21st Century. Not only is international law linked to sustainable peace and progress, on issues such as climate change and refugee resettlement, Groff argued “international law might be the only mechanism to solve these issues. Where Groff left, quoting Andrew Carnegie “The Hague is the most holy building in the world because it has the holiest end in view, the highest worship is service to man”, PPR’s own Prof. Christopher May continued, discussing the moral and philosophical basis for the rule of law.

Jamir Kitman, an Afghan refugee spoke about how her experiences led her to see art as a basis for peace and collective understanding with the power to “unite people around a process of growth and expression”. Dr Emily Spiers from the Languages and Cultures department drew on similar themes, discussing how technological and social trends will inform the future of literary art. Spiers emphasized the new ways in which an increasingly diverse community of readers may radically be able to “craft a shared identity not based on language or location”.

Other speakers took a much more tangible look at ‘invisible changes’. Notably Dr. John Hardy, a material scientist based at Lancaster demonstrated how the digital world is blurring with the physical world through a project called ‘ReForm’. Until recently, 3D printing has been unidirectional: once an object was modeled on screen, it was then fabricated in the material world. ReForm introduced a process called ‘bidirectional fabrication’ which scanned an object in the real world and created a virtual model and could then be modified either on screen or in the real world. Innovations like ReForm, Hardy claimed are ushering in a new “age of optimisation” where digital learning is transformed into an “ecosystem” realisable through the real world.

Michael Kinder, a guitarist and singer had to be particularly commended for his innovative style of musical expression. Kinder brought the audience to applause with lyrics that realistically reflected the challenges facing the music industry. Sunlight Machine, an alt-rock also made a lot out of very little by using guitar and exotic percussion instruments to help break up 5 hours of speeches. Hopefully the evening’s apparent success will help cement TEDx as an annual lecture-hall filling, thought-provoking Lancaster University tradition.

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