The world-famous Technology, Entertainment and Design conferences feature the most brilliant minds in the world discussing a wide range of topics from green technology to the changing face of humanity. The conferences have featured such speakers as Bill Clinton, Bono, Bill Gates and Richard Dawkins. The TED website features 1,050 free, groundbreaking talks that taken together have been viewed over 500 million times by people from all over the world. Their slogan, “Ideas Worth Spreading,” fits nicely with George Mason University’s tradition of innovation, which is exactly why TEDx is coming to the Fairfax campus for the very first time.
TEDx is a series of licensed events under the TED brand, which takes place just about anywhere in the world that the desire exists, including many at neighboring universities in Northern Virginia. Producers of TEDxGeorgeMasonU—its official title— Andrew Hawkins and Joe Renaud, have been working hard for the last year on bringing the spirit of TED to Mason. They have brought together eight members of Mason’s distinguished faculty to give talks on Sunday, May 6.
“We wanted to strive to [showcase] the brilliant minds here at Mason while bridging the gap between humanities and the sciences,” said Renaud, a co-producer and junior physics major.
Four of the speakers come from the humanities and arts departments, while the other four come from the sciences and research areas. Speakers include theater professor Rick Davis, modern and classical languages professor Paula Gilbert, public and international affairs professor Bassam Haddad and Krasnow Institute director James Olds.
“What are you passionate about?” asked Hawkins, co-producer and a Mason alumnus, when recruiting speakers for the event. “What do you have to say to the world?” For the producers, the most interesting and exciting part of organizing the speakers was seeing how similar their speeches were. With no guidelines, the eight speakers, with their varied backgrounds, found very different ways to approach similar topics.
“We noticed that there is this common thread among many of the speeches,” Hawkins said. “[The speakers have] spent their lives and careers grappling with similar themes and take different approaches to them.”
So far, speeches listed include James Olds’ “When TMI Kills: Cognitive Overload in the Age of I-Devices” and Professor Kristen Johnsen-Neshati’s “What in the World.” With many more provocative speeches to be listed in the coming days, this event is sure to be as thought provoking as past TED events.
“The exciting thing is that [the response has been] about 50 percent students, and the rest is faculty and outside members of the community,” Renaud said. “We’re excited that it’s branching out.”
The RSVP form for free tickets to the event went live on Feb. 17 and within 24 hours sold out completely with a waitlist of around 600 people.
For those who were unable to get tickets, all is not lost. The event will be broadcast online for free via Livestream from the TEDxGeorgeMasonU website. Volunteers will also post updates about the events to Twitter, Facebook and Flickr. They will facilitate online discussions through these methods and even ask questions from online viewers during the live discussions.
“We want people online to basically be there as well — as much as they can be,” Renaud said.
The talks will be recorded and distributed online for those who are not able to watch the conference live from their homes.
“These speeches will be on the Internet for as long as the Internet exists,” Hawkins said. “People will be watching them forever.”
The TEDxGeorgeMasonU event takes place May 6 in Innovation Hall. Viewers can tune into TEDxGeorgeMasonU on Facebook and Twitter for updates until the conference and for information on the live feed and recordings of the talks.