Monday, October 29, 2012

A TEDxIndy recap (for those who had to work)

Posted By on Mon, Oct 29, 2012 at 7:00 AM

The energy soared at 9 a.m. Friday outside the Toby Theatre at the Indianapolis Museum of Art as like-minded Hoosiers gathered around coffee tables before following the sounds of musical collective Thin Air into the theatre. Seeing the TEDx logo abutted to our city name — it was the first-ever TEDx Indianapolis — gave weight to the ideas that would be shared in the eight hours that would follow.

The recipe: 19 speakers, sprinkled with a few TED videos and a dash of artistic/interactive performances and activities stirred, all emceed by Megan McKinney. The result: a day of inspiring ideas and connectivity for the Indianapolis community.

Of course at any given TED event, the range of presenters selected to speak are meant to represent a broad range of ideas and disciplines. Given that diversity, what inspires one may bore another. The following is a selective list of lecturers who touched a chord with me.

Michael Indinopulous, general manager and chief customer officer at SocialText, spoke to bringing social back into the workplace, arguing that today the majority of our work is disembodied, occurring in a virtual network of people. Our modern professional exchanges have become entirely transactional, as opposed to the social interactions that were necessary for the exchange of information in our grandparents’ workplaces.

Indinopulous suggested that by bringin social media tools into the workplace, our professional interactions will become more collaborative. In addition, by designing office spaces that enhance our ability to communicate and collaborate (e.g. by knocking down cubicle walls), our work will improve.

John Nash explained our triune brain structure in a talk, “The Civil War in Our Brain," that first laid out the three parts of the human brain and their functions, as proposed by neuroscientist Paul D. McLean: the reptile brain (basic survival), the limbic brain (emotional intuition) and the neocortex brain (logic). Nash’s hypothesis suggested that our culture places emphasis on the logical thinking of the neocortex, which oftentimes contradicts the emotional intuition of our limbic system. Perhaps a reliance on our limbic resonance will allow us to find more user-friendly design within our lives.

Several other speakers shifted my mindset with their ideas. Scott Stulen’s presentation on the Open Field program at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis revealed the potential for a consumer-driven art space. Joanna Taft showed that if cultural entrepreneurism can work for Herron High School students, who have made an impact in our city with their projects, then it can work for anybody willing to put in the time and effort. Lucian Vattel spoke to the advantages of bringing play into the classroom as a means of explaining complex ideas in an organic way that allows students to think intuitively.

In all, the sold-out event was managed well by organizers: Big Car, the Indianapolis Museum of art and the International School of Indiana. The four lecture sessions were interspersed with breaks filled with interactive activities that promoted communication with fellow TED attendees.

From art activities to TED fortune cards randomly passed around to spur conversation, connectivity was a key theme of the event. While it seemed the order of talks was thematically more cohesive in the first half of the day than the second half, this inaugural TED event is hopefully only the first in a long series of opportunities for Indianapolis to think critically and collaboratively about how to improve our fair city.

Video from all lectures will eventually appear at

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