TEDTalks come to Carnegie Mellon

Charlee Brodsky, a Carnegie Mellon professor of photography, who gave a 2009 TEDx talk, described her vocation through a series of pictures she took in India. (credit: Courtesy of Charlee Brodsky) Charlee Brodsky, a Carnegie Mellon professor of photography, who gave a 2009 TEDx talk, described her vocation through a series of pictures she took in India. (credit: Courtesy of Charlee Brodsky)

Each year, Carnegie Mellon hosts a variety of panels and lectures with the goal of inspiring the campus and the surrounding community. In the spring, Carnegie Mellon will continue this tradition by hosting a series of lectures in a student-organized conference in April.

Carnegie Mellon’s TEDx will mirror the nationally recognized TEDTalks, created by Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED), an organization dedicated to what it calls “ideas that are worth spreading.” TED was founded in 1984 as an American nonprofit organization created to bringing attention to new ideas. TED’s first official conference took place in 1990, where featured guests were invited to share their ideas relating to the three themes of technology, entertainment, and design. Since then, the themes discussed in TEDTalks have become much broader — hosting many insightful discussions with a series of experts, world leaders, and artists. Some of the more prominent speakers have included former Vice President Al Gore, Microsoft chairman Bill Gates, and jazz musician Herbie Hancock. The annual conferences in Long Beach and Oxford bring together the world’s “thinkers and doers” who are challenged to give the lecture of their lives — in only 18 minutes.

Now, almost 20 years later, according to TED’s official website, TED is still going strong in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, with its speakers offering new ways to look at the world. On TED’s website, performances from TED events are available to the world, for free. More than 500 TEDTalks are now available.

The nonprofit has also created a program known as TEDx, which allows other organizations like schools and businesses to plan and host a conference of their own. Carnegie Mellon School of Art professor Golan Levin, a speaker at a previous TED conference, believes “it lends some profile to what is otherwise a local affair.”

A group of students at Carnegie Mellon expressed interest in setting up a conference, and after much planning, the event has finally gotten off the ground and is planned to take place on April 4, 2010. The event will appeal to all students regardless of interest or major. According to TED’s official website, “This immersive environment allows attendees and speakers from vastly different fields to cross-fertilize and draw inspiration from unlikely places.” Unlike the official conferences, which are by invitation only, TEDx tickets will be available to students, staff, and the greater community.

Carnegie Mellon has had plenty of interaction with TED in the past. The city of Pittsburgh hosted a TEDx Leadership Pittsburgh conference on Nov. 14, 2009, which was attended by six professors from Carnegie Mellon. One attendee, professor Charlee Brodsky from the School of Design, claimed that there was “never a dull moment.”

“It mixes the arts with humanities with the sciences,” said Brodsky, a professor of photography, who represented her vocation through a series of pictures set in India. The main focus of her talk was the combination of pictures and words that had been organized in a specific order to convey meaning. Within the other featured talks, spanning topics from computer science to poetry, she believed that “there always seemed to be something for everyone.”

A Facebook fan page has been created publicizing of Carnegie Mellon’s TEDx talks, currently sporting over 800 fans. Several speakers have been lined up. Tickets will soon be available via online reservation.