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  • TECHNOLOGY, ENTERTAINMENT AND DESIGN

    Free TED talk simulcast in Ashland

    International conference in Brazil features dozens of speakers
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  • In a possibly momentous first for the Rogue Valley, Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) talks will be broadcast live here, opening the door for the Medford-Ashland area to be licensed as an independent TEDx Community, supported in “sparking conversation and connection through local TED-like experiences.”
    The TEDx community here is shooting for a fall 2015 debut. The focus for now is on organizing a free live showing on Oct. 8, the second day of a four-day international conference in Brazil. It will be open to the public and presented at Southern Oregon University, say organizers Vitaly Geyman and Jordan Pease, both of Ashland.
    The umbrella TED was birthed in 1984 in the Silicon Valley and broadened out rapidly with the motto, “Fostering the spread of great ideas.” The wildly popular 18-minute speeches by noted innovators passed 1 billion views in 2012.
    The screening of this year’s TED conference is significant, says Geyman, because it’s a streaming of an event that used to cost $6,000 a person to attend — and because Geyman and Pease have applied for a TEDx license and started building the team of speakers and producers to make TEDx happen according to the organization’s standards.
    “This is the first step. ... It’s going to be regional, with local speakers,” says Geyman. “It used to be a central thing but now it’s in almost every big city. It takes a lot of energy. TED tries to keep the brand and quality of speakers very high. The speakers don’t get paid. What we want is speakers who really want to change the world and can walk their talk, passionately and can speak clearly for 18 minutes.”
    The Rogue Valley may be a hotbed of creative people of higher consciousness, Geyman says, and he’s already snooped out speakers from high-tech and the Ashland Independent Film Festival. But his TED mentor in New York has told him “it’s too narrow” and TED doesn't want to see garden-variety talks on farming, organic vegetables, sustainability and such.
    “It’s become broad, phenomenally diverse, about human rights, poverty in the world, how to deal with global warming, creativity for children, all human endeavors, ideas that revolutionize and improve on the global issues,” says Geyman. “It highlights ideas from people who are doing it right now, solving these problems on the local level.”
    The TEDx talks will be archived locally and can be vetted and appear on ted.com or YouTube, says Geyman.
    The local TEDx would be a one-day annual event and would have to be screened by the TEDx team. It would not allow politically or religiously divisive talks, metaphysical topics or issues not backed by hard scientific data.
    “It would have to have thorough research done by experts in the field,” says Geyman. “It has to be uplifting, positive and offer some resolution of the issue. It’s a tricky role to be a TEDx organizer and meet what they want. It’s such a phenomenal brand.”
    Geyman, a business and financial coach in his native Australia and Portland, called his service “Business With Spirit” and worked “to bring back spirit and innovation in an organization, to start a whole new chapter."
    “TED is similar," he says, "about innovation, leadership, taking steps, not just complaining. It can be small steps. It doesn’t have to be big. They grilled me pretty harshly. They questioned if I can pull it off with the speakers we have. It’s a matter of diversity. That’s what they want. They’re concerned with too much agriculture and forestry here. There aren’t the huge high-tech industries here, except Brammo and a few others. My job is to find the diversity of people.”
    This year's TED broadcast will be from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 8 in the Meese Room at Hannon Library at SOU. Reservations are advised and may be made at TEDx Ashland, https://www.facebook.com/events/784956024889674/. It will be time-delayed because Rio de Janiero is several hours ahead of Pacific Time. 
    The TED in Brazil website is at bit.ly/tedrdj. The full program (bit.ly/tedashland) includes nearly 70 presentations on topics including art, architecture, forest conservation, Buddhism, drug policy, technosociology, nomadic filmmaking, world music and many other areas. 
    TED’s mission statement begins, “We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world. So we're building here a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world's most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other."
    Other TEDx sites may be seen at tedxportland.com and tedxuoregon.com.
     
    John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email him at jdarling@jeffnet.org.
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