An atLarger’s Reflections on TEDx Sarasota
TEDxSarasota, which shares the namesake and general principles as the official TED conferences, but is also entirely independent, was held at the historic John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art on December 12th. The theme of the day was “Why Creativity Matters.” It truly was a day of ideas worth spreading.
Emceed by our own Anand Pallegar, the day was divided into sections of live lectures, video presentations, and interactive experiences in the TEDx WonderZone. Each third of the day corresponded to creation: Creating Connections, Creating Change, and Creating Opportunity. Aside from the four outstanding TEDTalks that were screened (this one by Chade-Meng Tan was my favorite), the day was jam-packed with free-thinking local leaders, creators, and change agents from across the Sarasota area.
TEDxSarasota easily surpassed my expectations. With a day chock-full of presenters, valuable insight was gained every minute of the day.
Rebels and Rockstars
The day started with rock ‘n’ roll. A guitar performance by slide guitar champion Kraig Kenning and a presentation from Tony Michaelides, a.k.a. “Tony the Greek,” one of the men who put David Bowie, The Police, and U2 on the map. Michaelides’ message was perseverance. Keep plugging away – you’re going to work lots of terrible jobs to get through to what you want to do, but it’s always worth it. I was able to meet up with him later in the day and we talked at length about how technology is disrupting the music industry’s recording and promotion standards – for the better. A kid in his bedroom has just as much access to instrumentation and promotional tools packaged with his laptop as even the biggest names in British rock could dream of in their heyday. It is truly remarkable how technology makes new markets easily accessible to even to the youngest of minds.
The Hoop Revolution
Theresa Rose’s presentation was as memorable for its delivery as well as its message. Her story was about her revelation of non-doing. In her life, inactivity was driving her to ill health, a lack of morale, and diminished relationships with the people she loved. She decided to change herself by trying all sorts of activities, mental and physical, but nothing resonated with her as much as hula hooping. The hoop, it seems, ignited her passion for life. When she started hula hooping, she was hardly able to do it for the people in her own house. Now, with the confidence bestowed upon her by her dedicated practice, she could hula hoop for crowds of people with the utmost confidence, transferring her passion and humor to each person in the crowd. The biggest thing I took away from it was: have fun and move. The word “exercise” can have negative connotations to it. The word “fun” never does.
The Secret Lives of Animals
Dr. Nick Whitney’s “The Secret Lives of Wild Animals” was as funny as it was revealing. Aside from being an excellent presenter with great stories about using his children as research assistants, Dr. Whitney detailed his work in tagging marine wildlife with accelerometers, found in our cellphones and video game controllers, to study the behavioral motion of marine animals. The accelerometers can monitor how often a fish moves its fins, which not only lets researchers study its behavioral patterns, but also alert them that a fish might be in trouble in time to save its life. The greater global benefit for tagging marine wildlife is gauging normal behavior from abnormal to better identify changes across an entire population that may be an indicator of environment changes or other preventable stresses.
What I Took Away From TEDx Sarasota
In my past travels, I have seen what the world’s foremost innovation areas have to offer: the Googleplex in Silicon Valley, coffee at Amazon’s Seattle office, and the innards of a cutting-edge data center in London. The one area that I see Sarasota having the most in common with is Silicon Hills in Austin, Texas. This lesser-known compliment to California’s Silicon Valley is home to a plethora of tech firms both big and small, including Blizzard, Apple, HP, Cisco, Hoover’s, Intel, Oracle, and plenty of others. Even though Austin is the capital of Texas, it hardly seems representative of the things that come to mind when you think of Texas. Austin is weird. So weird, in fact, that its slogan is “Keep Austin Weird.” Likewise, Sarasota has many features and qualities that separate it from the rest of the state – world-class cultural institutions, bike trails, and the nation’s top beach destination in Siesta Key. Between Austin and Sarasota, there is actually quite a bit in common. The year-round climates are nearly identical, both regions attract young, creative students, there is essentially one main hangout street in each city (6th Street in Austin and Main Street in Sarasota), and they are both contain huge geographical areas in their city limits. The latter point is recognizable in Austin, because the tech firms are fairly spread out throughout the city’s surroundings, as opposed to consolidating in the city center. Sarasota can attract these high-quality firms and place them the exact same way, as we have so much land available to do so. Since seeing Silicon Hills, I’ve always imagined Sarasota becoming a great tech-destination. With the momentum following the valuable insight and connection from TEDxSarasota, we can turn Sarasota into a desirable tech hub. We can call it “Silicon Sands.”
Going forward, the lessons and connections from TEDxSarasota cannot be forgotten. Our community must communicate and stick together to drive the point that we can – and yearn to – become the technological destination of Florida. We have the environment to attract tech companies to our region. We have the right people that are creating the foundation for things to come. What we need now is for the organizations that promote Sarasota as a place to live and work to come together with the area’s innovators. These two teams must put their heads together to place Sarasota on the technological map. We can do it. TEDxSarasota proved to me that we’re already doing it. By the time the next TEDxSarasota occurs, we will have made even more great strides towards this goal.
Let us work with one another through our social media, our storefronts and markets, and face-to-face on the streets of our neighborhoods, to let it be known that Sarasota is going to be a truly connected destination as “Silicon Sands.”