Five Cool TED Talks That Will Get You Excited for TEDxPhoenix

Experience TED Talks locally with the independently organized TEDxPhoenix, an annual event happening this Friday at Mesa Arts Center.
Experience TED Talks locally with the independently organized TEDxPhoenix, an annual event happening this Friday at Mesa Arts Center.

​When the first Technology Entertainment and Design (TED) conference was held in 1984, the Internet as we know it was still strange little world inhabited mostly by government employees and academics, busily creating much of the lingo (FAQ, troll, flame war) we use today.   

Since then, TED Talks continued to grow and the Internet was commercialized and made widely available, until, in June 2006, the free availability of online TED Talks added another bullet point in the pro-Internet argument. Today, there are more than 900 talks available -- including messages from Bill Gates, Bill Clinton, and Jane Goodall -- with more than 50 million views.

On Friday, TEDxPhoenix will use the genius of TED to celebrate local talent, from artists to chefs to game designers, to a 3-year-old boy who can recite lengthy poetry

Here are five TED Talk gems you'll want to check out before Friday ...

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5. Sunni Brown: Doodlers, unite!







Rundown: If Demetri Martin had a TED Talk, this would be it. Sunni Brown has a difficult job: She teaches people to doodle in the workplace. It may sound easy, but doodling has such a bad image that adults are often loathe to practice the "silly" pastime. 

To explain this, Brown traces the mean history of the word "doodle," then argues for the power of doodling to unlock the brain's potential. We're on board: We've already doodled a parrot riding a cat. Now the parrot has a monocle.

4. Alexis Ohanian: How to make a splash in social media







Rundown: Short and sweet, this TED Talk features Alexis Ohanian of reddit, a site that got involved when Greenpeace offered Internet users the chance to name a humpback whale in 2007. Designed to raise awareness for the danger posed to humpback whales by Japanese fishing, the campaign included a number of lovely, spiritual, global names, and then one very strange one: Mr. Splashy Pants

This is the story of how the web's collective mind helped one humpback whale become Mr. Splashy Pants, and how Greenpeace had to bite their tongue.\

 

3. Eli Pariser: Beware online "filter bubbles"







Rundown: Published this year, Eli Pariser's book The Filter Bubble: What the Internet is Hiding from You did a lot to call attention to how Google and Facebook were effectively filtering out important information in an attempt to tailor their sites to the users. Pariser points to some startling examples to illustrate the trend, as when two of his friends search for "Egypt." Google - in its usual attempt to live up to its "Don't Be Evil" motto - argues that the effect of the filter bubble is nothing like what Pariser claims. 

Even so, it's a fascinating look at how the Internet may be increasingly allowing us to exist in bubbles - if not pushing us - in an already increasingly partisan age.

2. Hasan Elahi: FBI, here I am!







Rundown: Artist Hasan Elahi takes a very creative, proactive approach when he is mistakenly put on an FBI watch list: He creates a website documenting his travels, including more than 46,000 images organized in categories like "Tacos eaten in Mexico City near a train station." 

 Lighthearted and hilarious, Elahi argues that the best way to deal with all the data available about us in the information age is to take control of it. There's a new term for this: Sousveillance. It's like surveillance, but from below - like with civilian camera phones - instead of above, by the government.

1. Edith Widder: The weird, wonderful world of bioluminescence







Rundown: Edith Widder was one of the first people to film the strange world of bioluminescent creatures that exists down in the dark depths of the ocean. Watch as she shakes up some algae she brought to the Talk, getting them all hot and bothered enough to glow a cool blue. Also look for the stunningly lit fish at 4:36. 

 Acclaimed director Werner Herzog began to worry that there were no more images yet unseen in the world, leading him to Antarctica in Encounters at the End of the World (2007) and inside a cave that had been lost for tens of thousands of years in Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010). Like Herzog, Widder is another visionary to bring new images (of light) to light - and they're spectacular.

TEDxPhoenix is from 4 to 9 p.m. at  Mesa Arts Center, (and dinner's provided by Wildflower Bread Company). The theme is "____ for a Change," and each speaker will fill in the blank.  Tickets are available online for $39

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