TEDxOxford 2021: Brave New World to stream this weekend

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Image Description: A stage with the TEDxOxford logo on screen.

The annual TEDxOxford conference will take place virtually over the weekend. Academics, artists, businesspeople, and students are set to give talks on topics ranging from racial justice and green energy to poetry and the social media dead. The event will be streamed for free via the conference’s Facebook page.

This year’s conference theme is Brave New World, and the event organisers hope to highlight stories of perseverance and resilience in the face of adversity. “Rather than add fuel to much of the negativity that has transpired as a result of the past year, we’ve decided to focus instead on the ways in which the world has come to adapt and react to these new circumstances,” said TEDxOxford president Samanwita Sen and vice-president Ioan Vevera.

TEDxOxford was first organised in 2011, and the conference last year was held in the New Theatre Oxford. For the first time in the history of the conference, the event will be available to view free of charge, and the audience will have the opportunity to interact with speakers live in Q&A sessions. “[We] have sought to make the most of the advantages a digital platform could distinctly offer,” the lead organisers said.

Twelve speakers will appear at the event, including two student speakers. The Oxford Student summarises the speakers due to speak at the conference:

  • Psychology professor and author Elaine Kasket will be discussing the importance of addressing the social, ethical, and practical dilemmas posed by the social media accounts of the deceased, and why Facebook “should not be the funeral director of the future”.
  • Researcher Carl Hayden Smith says we are being endlessly distracted by technology, and seeks to offer an ‘ecology of practices’ to allow people to “reclaim our humanity from the machine” while retaining the benefits of technology.
  • Margaret Casely-Hayford CBE is chair of Shakespeare’s Globe’s Board of Trustees and the first-ever Black woman to make partner at a City law firm. She argues that by understanding our past and allowing our stories to be told, we can build a better future and erode the ‘us and them’ narrative. She is also a graduate of Somerville College, Oxford.
  • Oxford Professor of Globalisation and Development and founding director of the Oxford Martin School Ian Goldin says COVID-19 has created a pivotal moment where humanity can turn its tide. He says a “radical change in direction” is needed to prevent deadly pandemics, stop climate change, prevent financial crises, and create a more stable world.
  • Poet and author Sophia Thakur will explore the importance of letters, poems, and kindness in bringing us closer “to the only kind of humanity that can survive at the hands of this world.”
  • In the midst of a public health crisis, an economic recession, and calls for racial and social justice, Harvard Law School professor David Wilkins says that the question lawyers need to help their clients answer is not only ‘is it legal?’, but importantly also ‘is it right’?
  • Carmen Hijosa is the founder of Ananas Anam, a company which manufactures pineapple-based leather alternatives. She will talk about the need for humanity and compassion in the fashion industry, and shares her personal story.
  • Siemens Energy engineer and DPhil candidate Zac Cesaro will discuss one scalable technology for the energy transition: green ammonia, a carbon-free fuel made from air, water, and renewable electricity.
  • Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative director and Oxford associate professor Sabina Alkire will explore the multidimensional ‘deprivation loads’ poor people carry, and argues that after the pandemic, it is possible to create a historic inflection point to the end of poverty.
  • Psychotherapist Petra Velzeboer will discuss the present circumstances as a training ground to practice conscious thought and build up a life free of excuses and blame.

Student Speakers:

  • Rory Welsh of Oxford Brookes University will speak about environmental politics and set out a course of action to deal with the impact of climate change on small island nations.
  • Jennifer Zhou of Magdalen College, Oxford will explore how dystopian fiction can be a valuable social tool. In light of the “emergent parallels” between our world and nightmarish visions in novels, she argues that “a broken view of the world might just be the clearest.”

More information about the event’s speakers and schedule can be found at the TEDxOxford Facebook page.

TEDxOxford is a TEDx event. TEDx is a programme of local, self-organised events bringing people together to share a TED-like experience. TED provides general guidance for the TEDx programme, but individual TEDx events are self-organised.

Image: TEDxOxford via YouTube


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