Friday, January 28, 2011

Meet TED


One could say, I suppose, that this winter is in severe danger of resembling last year. We got whacked with several inches of snow within a few hours on Wednesday night in a thunderous storm that was preceded by heavy rain, then sleet, then heavy wet snow that hit precisely at rush hour. Predictably, this made everyone's lives miserable; there were reports of 13-hour commutes over at the Capital Weather Gang's blog at the Post.

That didn't happen to any of us at the Library, though; those of us who drove were able to leave early enough to miss most of the traffic, and the rest relied on the Metro, which was still running. Our terrific student assistants helped make sure the Library stayed open through the storm until our regular closing time at midnight. And although Gallaudet opened two hours late yesterday morning, the assistants also helped make sure we were open on time!

Now that I'm here and working away, I've realized exactly how much I have to do -- more information will be forthcoming in a future blog post -- and have decided that, as a little mental break from the Library, I'm going to wander a little off-topic in today's post.

Have you ever heard of TED?

Not the person. I don't think I know a Ted, actually. I mean the annual conferences known as TED: Technology, Entertainment, Design.

TED is a little hard to define, although you can certainly start with the three words that make up the acronym. Essentially, TED's focus is on the sharing of new and interesting ideas. Most of these ideas are about different ways of doing or thinking about things, some of which can be called revolutionary and others of which are just fascinating on general principle. All of the talks are given by various people who may be well-known in their areas or remain unrecognized but significant.

All are recorded on video and nearly all videos have subtitles available in multiple languages, including English, thanks to their Open Translation Project. Actually, TED makes a point of ensuring that all videos are subtitled in English, so the accessibility is great!

One of my favorite examples of TED's ideals is Temple Grandin's talk, "The World Needs All Kinds of Minds." Identified as a person with autism at a young age, she's become one of the most widely-recognized experts on animal behavior and humane processing-facility design. Although this means she makes slaughterhouses less upsetting for cows and pigs, it's indicative of how differently she perceives the world, and she goes into detail about that in this talk, which is essentially an argument for neurodiversity. There are many different kinds of minds, she says, and weaknesses in areas that are perceived to be important may actually lead to surprising strengths in other areas that are no less significant for their obscurity.

Grandin's speech is just one example of many absolutely fascinating talks that I've spent hours watching. They cover every topic from women who are reshaping the world to food-related matters to the science of longevity. Really. It's better than TV.

On a note that may be somewhat closer to home, TED also supports smaller, independent TED conferences around the world that focus on local issues, known as TEDx events. Sometimes they're about issues affecting a country like TEDxAddis out of Ethiopia (for which I am anxiously awaiting videos), a city like TEDxPusan out of South Korea, or a specific group of people, like TEDxIslay.

Yes, there was a TEDx event for deaf people, in Austin, Texas, last May, and the talks are fascinating. Linda Bove on artistic expression, Wayne Betts on seeing the world as a filmmaker, Danny Lacey on sharing ideas ... the list goes on. Gallaudet had a strong representation at the conference, too; talks were presented by Alim Chandani, Michelle McAuliffe, Robert Sirvage, and Josh Swiller, all of whom work in various departments here.

So that's all way cool. Why am I posting about it?

Because although my focus is on the Gallaudet Library and the resources we provide, I do keep an eye out for resources in the wider world that are both available and accessible -- and interesting. The creation of new ideas is a value that's held in common by all libraries in one way or another, and TED, including TEDx, addresses this aspect of human nature on a grander scale. My decision to write about this was bolstered by TEDxIslay, as well; deaf people can play, too!

No vlog this week -- lots to do. Next week, though, will net you a doubleheader!

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