UW-Milwaukee students and members of the public gathered to watch distinguished members of faculty and the community discuss everything from poetry to iPad apps for the TEDxUWMilwaukee winter showcase last Friday, Feb. 13, in the UWM Fireside Lounge.
Mike Sportiello, co-chair of the event, said that the events are important for the community because “Ideas have power.” This idea is very much at the core of Ted X’s mission statement and is seen through the night as the speakers imparted their wisdom and knowledge onto the gathered audience.
Sportiello also spoke to the natural fit that UWM and the Ted events have with each other citing diversity in the community as an important ingredient in the exploration and experimentation that allows for the creation and proliferation of new ideas.
The event began with a short speech from Sportiello highlighting the Ted X events place in the larger occasion of Geek Week, which takes place over the next few weeks. Setting the tone of the night with a presentation on what it means to be a geek and the rise of the “geek-chic” movement.
Sportiello then introduced the first speaker of the night, Kim Blaeser, a member of the UWM faculty and Wisconsin poet laureate. Blaeser spoke about her experiences as a writer and the importance of poetry. Beginning her talk with the simple question, “Why poetry?” Blaeser launched into an explanation that included quotes from 19th century French-poet, Baudelaire, to 20th century beatnik, Allen Ginsberg. Blaeser told a particularly poignant story in which a poet friend of hers is struck by inspiration on a boating trip and is forced to write a poem on the side of the boat for fear of the words floating out of her head forever. For Blaeser, poets’ and writers’ ideas have the power to transform others lives in the same way that creators of new technology have the power to change lives.
The audience was informed of the second planned speakers’ cancellation but were granted the opportunity to watch a speech by Nathaniel Stern that kept the theme of the night alive.
Stern, an artist of multimedia experiments, gave a speech on his experiences creating various multimedia presentations and how that fits into his overall ethos of “ecological aesthetics.” Through sharing his various projects and the ideas behind them Stern revealed what it means to think about art through the lens of ecological aesthetics. Ending his presentation with, “Think about the kinds of relationships and environments we’d have if we thought more about the relationships and environments we have.”
The last presenter of the night was perhaps the most energetic as it included a demonstration of the software that Kevin Schlei built and cultivated. With a topic as specific as software that creates an interface for multi-touch instruments, Schlei began his talk with the basics of what elements of music he incorporated into his software to give the user a fully formed experience of creating synthetic music. After a basic demonstration of the elements involved in his software, Schlei then gave the audience and opportunity to see just how the software works.
The event wrapped up with a short question and answer section in which each presenter shared what they believe it means to be a geek. With an overall feeling of empowerment and determination the audience filed out, some staying to talk to the presenters and pick the brains of some of UWM’s best. Many more Ted X events are to be scheduled in the future.