My Tedx Adelaide

It’s just before 7am on a Sunday morning when most sane childless people are snoozing away comfortably in bed.

But I’ve been awake for an hour, mulling over various things I learned yesterday and how they are going to fit into my brain and what, if anything, I’m going to do about them.

I’m going to share the concepts I took away from the talks rather than a summary of their content. I’ve already done that in the live blogging I did on the day.

I arrived at the Royal Institution of Australia (RiAus) just after 9am and was directed up to the mezzanine and to the back where those of us who stay connected via tech could tap and swipe away without fear of the blue glow of our screens and tapping of our fingers disturbing those around us.

TedxAdelaide starting soon

I am not sure how I feel about this. I’ve been to so many education conferences where the use of these devices is encouraged and celebrated. But I probably would have ended up near the side or back anyway as that is where the power outlets usually are, so I’m not going to dwell on it overly much.

I got to meet Kristin Alford finally after corresponding via Twitter and email. She is a techie, professional and mother of three children and the beating heart of this event. In setting up my gear, I heard Kristin briefing the speakers. She emphasized how important it was for them to be approachable – to even instigate conversations with the audience after their presentations as learning and sharing were all part of the day.

The first session of the day was on Augmented Reality research was presented by Dr. Christian Sandor, Director of the Magic Vision lab at the University of South Australia.

He started off by telling us the major take-away of his session was that it’s much easier to manipulate perception than to manipulate reality.

Sight accounts for ¾ of how we perceive the world and touch is ¾ of the rest – so if you’re going to manipulate perception, these are the two senses to go for when altering the perceptions of sighted people who can use their arms, hands and fingers.

I got to play with the demonstration model they brought in and got to “colour” a virtual sneaker. The little pen dragged along the laces, I could feel the grooves in the rubber and see it before me. It was amazing!,/p>

I couldn’t wait to tell my husband that night about it. His reaction (and he loves this stuff) was – they’ve been talking about this stuff for 45 years – when is it going to get out of the lab? And what will it do for humanity?

I focused too much on the tech obviously and need to explore further what it will do. I know intuitively that it could be used for design, for looking at nano particles in full detail, for practice on activities that might be more expensive to provide materials for. Chances are that it will end up being used for something my brain can’t begin to guess at now.

Augmented reality

The next speaker – Byron Sharp, also from Uni SA, promised to dispel some marketing myths around brand loyalty – using science.

He shared his view of science as repeated observations of the real world and looking for patterns that explain how things work, then developing theories based on those patterns. But theories without laws always turn out wrong – sometimes fatal, as in the Hippocratic theory of bodily humours.

He lampooned marketing experts talking about brand loyalty – one saying that if they could figure out why people join cults, they could apply that to brands. They talked about tribes and used examples like Saturn’s big get together of Saturn owners in the states. Yet, Saturn as a brand died out.
Byron then turned his gaze toward two major brands – Harley and Apple, and showed that the repeat buy rates on Apples was just over half and that the most fanatically loyal Harley riders account for only about 3% of revenue.

Look, I’m not sure that this was a TED talk, it felt more like just a really great uni lecture on marketing – but I will be looking out for Byron’s book “How brands grow”.

Wend Lear, a photographer who has self-funded projects to developing and war torn nature and teaches photojournalism to kids and photographers was the next speaker.

She asked us all to pull out a small card included in our conference packs and to write down something we were naturally good at – our gift. She said people tend to reject their gifts because 1) they come easily and 2) they are not using their gifts in any meaningful way.

She then shared her story and the stories of teenage kids in the Jenin refugeee camp in Palestine, a ‘camp’ that has existed for 40 years and looked like a poverty-stricken town. She taught the kids to take photo stories rather than just one photo and the results meant I was scrambling for tissues.

She wound up her talk by saying giving her time gave other people opportunities. Now back to the wallet – next time you’re fishing around in your wallet to give to charities – think about your gift and giving that.

James DeBoar, a year 12 student who is passionate about using social media for social justice issues, talked about why he thought it could and should be harnessed. I would have loved it if he’d had time to talk about his web site to provide “information, resources, networking and encouragement to Australian High School Students”.

Jonathan Brown, a broadcaster and community radio advocate, spoke about the reasons for communicating and the raison d’etre of tools like community radio and communication in general.
Community radio exists on basis that everyone in our society deserves to be heard and share their stories – it has touched lives, shared stories that wouldn’t have been heard otherwise.

He started off with the concept that “My Voice Matters” and made the point that with the opportunity to make yourself heard comes empowerment – but also responsibility. I liked that last. It seems to me that people don’t always take seriously that sense of responsibility for what and how they communicate. I don’t know if it’s because we can do so very easily and in so many ways – but it seems to me that the lack of sensitivity I see online and the waning instances of courtesy and respect I see offline stem from this. You can’t say something personally vicious or untrue and expect that it is defensible.

He then talked about the concept that “Your Voice Matters” and that we should actively encourage those who normally don’t speak up to have a say. We might not like what they say – but unless we hear things we might not like, the status quo will reign. If we need change, we need different voices.

On the collective voice “Our Voice Matters”, Jonathan said “one of most powerful things we can do is put our differences aside and come together and stand together with common human kindness – it’s about respecting community.”

A video about a the Adelaide Street Dreams Festival – a celebration of graffiti art. I’ve seen the graffiti art in Melbourne and apparently the City Council is considering bringing that here too. I’m not a huge fan of this art form but I can appreciate the talent of the artists and think it would work in the East Rundle area – and possibly some spaces near Hindley Street really well.

Kristin sent us out to network with the take-away “I had an idea, I made it happen, I changed opinions.” It’s been a while since I could say that and is something I am going to print out and stick to a few flat surfaces within eye space.

An incredible display of drumming and dance from a local group of Burrundi drummers kept us from after lunch drowsiness and we dove into the sex chromosomes of monotremes (they have 5 matched pairs, humans online have 1 matched pair).

Frank Grutzner from the University of Adelaide was passionate and energetic about his topic. For me, there wasn’t enough time spent explaining the significance of the overall genome research. In 30 years, 23 genes had been discovered – over the course of this project more than 18,500 have been. But poor, unscientific me didn’t come away with an understanding of what species’ genes we were talking about and where too from here.

Caroline Miller, deputy vice chancellor and VP of Research and Innovation at UniSA shared interesting research on how the pre-natal environment affects obesity in later life. Research done with sheep would seem to indicate that if a female is overweight at the time of conception, the resulting baby will battle weight problems for life. Our obesity epidemic is self-perpetuating in terms of nature as well as nurture!

Jodie Benveniste – a psychologist who works with parents and a parent herself – shared her manifesto for parents in five declarations to raise confidence, value the role they play and to celebrate what family life has to offer.

What I as a childless by choice person who has kids she cares about came away with was that it’s about being confident, not living through your kids, not comparing yourself to other care givers, enjoying the journey and feeling a sense of pride and awe in being the guardian of the next generation.

This didn’t feel like a world-changing TED talk to me, but my friend Will sitting a chair or so away who is a dad of a 2-year-old and another on the way got really excited about this one and sought out Jodie in a break to talk to her about it.

Next up was Carla Litchfield, VP of ZoosSA and a lecturer at UniSA. She’s travelled to countries that would scare the hell out of most people to spend time with and learn about endangered animals. She also organised and participated in the Human Zoo project where she and volunteers spent time in the large ape enclosure at Adelaide Zoo.

Her passionate talk was quite moving. She writes for kids and when talking to kids – tries to debunk myth of the wild – there are 2 planet earths – the complex, morally challenging world threatened by econological collapse – the other is the one we see on the wildlife programmes. She also tries to undo the anthropomorphising of animals into good and ‘bad’ by Disney and others.

I enjoyed talking to her at the break but she must have thought me simple-minded as I was rendered inarticulate by the anger of discovering that rich Westerners are consuming endangered species due to boredom with more mundane animal flesh. Jeebus.

A video from Restless Dance Theatre – using dance and theatre as mode of expression for physically and mentally challenged as well as those who are not.

Edwin Kemp Attrill is a freelance theatre artist, producer and Artistic Director of Act Now Theatre for Social Change. He shared a theatre type called Forum wherein the actors act out a situation to the point where disaster sets in, then stop the play and invite audience members to interact with them by stepping in to intervene to see if the outcomes change. They then start from the top and the audience members can thrust out their arms and yell stop when they think it appropriate.

This sort of immersive role play could be quite powerful in learning – applying knowledge and challenging pre-conceived notions or even coming up with new methodologies and strategies in problem solving.

Mark Tester form Uni of Adelaide and the Centre for Plant Genomics did his best to present a case for some forms of genetic modification to crops. He built his case well – showing that we cannot sustain our current population growth with the agricultural methodologies and use of crops in place today. The point I took away at the end was that GM is a nuanced debate – blanket rejection is not an option.

Tim Jarvis – an environmental scientist and explorer who has travelled to polar regions, deserts, mountains and rainforests shared his big idea to improve the green energy market – harnessing human apathy through making a small percentage of green energy options the default for people’s contracts with power companies. In other words, people would have to opt out to stop it.

Apparently there is a green energy credit system in place called RECs – renewable energy certificates – that works like a form of currency. The more green energy you produce, the more of these credits you get. However, the government has devalued this credit system by giving out far more than they should have to incentivise home owners to install solar panels. This has so devalued RECs to the point that power companies have no business case to invest in green energy. Making green energy a default would build value back into this market. Climate change is real – 15% has to do with domestic energy consumption – this solution will help to create a market for green energy.

Nick Palousis, an engineer and entreprenuer, introduced the concept of Biomimicry (book by Janine Benyus) – looking at what nature does and incorporating that into what we build and how we interact with the environment.
Nature runs on sunlight
Nature only uses energy it needs
Nature fits form to function
Nature rewards cooperation
Nature banks on diversity
Nature curbs excesses from within

Replace the word ‘nature’ with economy and consider what we could achieve and how much better we’d fit in with the rest of the planet.
If you want to go fast, go alone, if you want to go far – go together.

Ianto Ware of Format, an organisation that seeks out and gets approval to use unused spaces where people can come together and create their own cultural events. He describes Format as Format – an organisation designed around idea that culture is something you do not just sit around and watch and made the point that just because you don’t get it, doesn’t mean it isn’t important or culturally significant to the participants.

His influences were growing up in the suburbs where there really isn’t a centralised social space, the Internet which can be both divisive and community minded and Globalisation. He feels that governments have a consumer model of culture and what the infrastructure is that is needed for that sort of culture.

The day finished with Sarah Strong Law – a Roller Derby enthusiast from Texas – teaching us a thing or three about what it takes to build a strong community. I could so relate to her story of coming here and feeling alone. She had a friend who encouraged her in establishing her passion for roller derby here and as a result built a strong community where ‘it doesn’t matter what you look like and you don’t have to apologise for it’.

TedxAdelaide tag

Her initial struggles to cope after being a workaholic in the US to initially unemployed and alone here led her to think about time and leads to my major take-away of the day:

We talk about time like it’s a currency – but do we actually budget it – do you have an emotional equity in tied in with your time?

When you think about joining an organisation/group – you need to look at how you budget your time- are you happy – are you fulfilled – is there something you can do to rearrange your life to become involved in a participation-based community ?

I should be going back and linking to all their web sites. I should be peppering this with images. But it’s now 9:20am and I need to budget my time for other things today.

Visit the Tedx Adelaide web site – for links to podcasts, vodcasts and other resources.

3 Replies to “My Tedx Adelaide”

  • Awesome stuff KJ – love the way you write & share of yourself. Was such a joy to see so many involved & contributing to the extended conversation. I hope my time working with y’all had some influence.


    • Dear Mike

      I think you had a profound influence on the staff at (now ESA). I can assert for a fact that you’ve had a profound influence on me.

      You opened doors for me by introducing me to concepts in communication, sharing and online networking that have helped me to grow professionally and to develop and strengthen personal friendships.

      I’m now working with another organisation called part time and working on side projects with people I’ve met online using tools that you initially introduced to me or concepts of communicating that have led me to the tools I use.

      That you are so passionate about your beliefs and positive about the future as well as willing to share your knowledge is really a gift! Thanks for sharing it with all of us who benefit.

      You are on my “permalist” of #FF on Twitter and I always enjoy and learn from your experiments.

      Thanks for you.


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