Campus & Community / Magazine Feature

TED talks connect audiences to well-known thinkers and doers

In April 2007, a Web site devoted to technology, entertainment and design (TED) was launched. Millions of people now log on to view the latest TED talks — 18-minute lectures or performances from the likes of Bono, Al Gore, Isabel Allende and many more.

The University of Denver is hosting its own TED talks in the Cherrington Hall Cyber Café over lunch on March 14, April 4 and May 2.

The idea came out of a College of Education course. After Samantha Watkins and Stephanie Panion watched and discussed TED talks during class, they thought the rest of DU should have the opportunity to see them, too. Watkins works at the Graduate School of International Studies, and Panion works in the Graduate School of Social Work and serves as president of DU’s Staff Advisory Council.

“It’s intellectual without being specifically academic,” Watkins says. “We picked ones [to be viewed at DU] we thought would be the most accessible and most entertaining.”

The lineup includes:

March 14: Malcolm Gladwell will talk about spaghetti sauce and marketing. Gladwell is a staff writer for The New Yorker and he authored The Tipping Point: How little things can make a big difference (Little, Brown & Co., 2000) and Blink: The power of thinking without thinking (Little, Brown & Co., 2005).

April 4: Hans Rosling will discuss new insights into poverty. Rosling is a doctor and researcher who has identified a new paralytic disease in rural Africa that is induced by hunger. Rosling’s trend-revealing software may increase understanding of the bigger picture.

May 2: Theo Jansen will speak about the art of creating “creatures.” Jansen is evolving a new line of multi-legged creatures designed to roam the Dutch coastline.

“We just thought it would be a neat opportunity for people to stretch [their] minds,” Panion says. “We want people to come and spend the lunch hour getting to know each other and having an intellectual discussion.”

Panion says they’re going for the ideal put forth on the TED site — to step far enough back so we can see how we’re connected. And it’s an opportunity to think about “grad concepts” in a new way.

The talks are based on an annual conference where 50 people are challenged to give the talk of their lives. The conferences began in 1984 as a way to bring people together. Themes at the conferences and on include business, science, culture, arts and global issues.

The talks at DU will begin at 12:15 on each date, and discussions will follow. The events are free and open to the public. Everyone is encouraged to bring lunch.

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