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No one knew that a conference held in1984 in Calif., which focused on the convergence of technology, entertainment and design, would have such profound affects and outreach to places like Sitka. But it did.
Sitka gets on board with 'Ideas Worth Spreading' 080112 NEWS 1 Capital City Weekly No one knew that a conference held in1984 in Calif., which focused on the convergence of technology, entertainment and design, would have such profound affects and outreach to places like Sitka. But it did.

Photos By James Poulson.

100 people came to the inaugural TEDxSitka event on July 21.


Photos By James Poulson.

Camila Thorndike speaks with another attendee during a break at the TEDxSitka event.


Photos By James Poulson.

TEDxSitka attendees browse through literature on a break from event.

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Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Story last updated at 8/1/2012 - 6:40 pm

Sitka gets on board with 'Ideas Worth Spreading'

No one knew that a conference held in1984 in Calif., which focused on the convergence of technology, entertainment and design, would have such profound affects and outreach to places like Sitka. But it did.

The conference, known as the TED Conference, is held annually in Long Beach, Calif., and a TEDGlobal conference is also held annually in Edinburgh, Scotland. TED is a non-profit organization that, according to its website, is "devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading." The scope of the conferences has broadened. Each year the TED staff brings in 50 notable movers and shakers to share for a period of 18 minutes over the course of four days. The speakers include musicians, cancer researchers, writers and technology experts. All in the name of gathering interested people and spreading the good word, that is spreading ideas.

"We believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and ultimately, the world," their website says. "It works because all of knowledge is connected. Every so often it makes sense to emerge from the trenches we dig for a living, and ascend to a 30,000-foot view, where we see, to our astonishment, an intricately interconnected whole."

The TED conferences now have many offshoots. There are daily TEDTalks, posted on www.TED.com; a TED-ed program for students and educators, and TEDBooks that expand upon an idea previously presented at a conference. Now there are TEDx conferences hosted in hundreds of communities worldwide. They are organized and address issues at a local level and follow the format of the TED Conferences. The "x" in TEDx indicates an independently organized TED event.

As one man from Stockholm explains on a video on the TED website, "You can't just relax and let other people around the world spread inspiration, you actually have to take responsibility for it and do something yourself." That was the idea that the TEDxSitka organizers, Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, Ed Ronco, Paul Cox and Elena Gustafson shared.

Kreiss-Tomkins had watched a few TEDx videos online and became inspired. He said his personal motivation was that he thinks ideas are very important. He also said he felt that Sitka was a ripe community for hosting its own TEDx.

"Sitka's a curious and entrepreneurial community," said Kreiss-Tomkins. He added that the Sheldon Jackson campus, where the TEDxSitka event was held, "Basically exists to incubate really cool ideas." He added that the TEDxSitka event was a great way to bring all the creativity on the campus and in the community into one single event.

"It's great to cross organizational and interdisciplinary boundaries," he said.

Kreiss-Tomkins said that the speakers were selected because of their known ability to creatively drive social change.

On July 21, as part of the SitkaFest, the one-day TEDx event drew 100 attendees.

The speakers included:

• Dr. Jose Carrasco, who's authored books on education, urban and regional planning and community organizing, and is active in the area of Faith-Community Based Organizing;

• Daniel Coyle, a contributing editor for "Outside" magazine and has authored three books including "Lance Armstrong's War;"

• Aisha Fukushima, an artist, educator, writer and self-proclaimed "RAPtivist;"

• Robin Kimmerer, the director of the Center for Native Peoples and the Environment at SUNY-EF College of Environmental Science and Forestry, which is active in efforts to broaden access to environmental science training for Native students;

• Andrew Lee, the designer of a successful online fantasy political game "FantasyCongress;"

• Ed Littlefield, a Tlingit native and violinist who is on the music faculty at the Sitka Fine Arts Camp, and is currently working on composing and arranging Native music;

• Amanda Murphyao, a storyteller from Chicago;

• Richard Nelson, a cultural anthropologist and creative nonfiction writer whose work focuses on human relationships to the natural world, and who also writes and narrates the radio program "Encounters;"

• Ross Perlin, a writer and linguist whose book "Intern Nation: how to earn nothing and learn little in the Brave New Economy" sparked a national discussion about unpaid labor and your economics;

• Molly Sturges, an artistic director, composer and performer currently at work on a national arts and climate change project entitled "COAL: A Musical Fable;"

• Roger Schmidt, the Executive Director of the Sitka Fine Arts Camp.

Kreiss-Tomkins admitted to being a bit wary in the stages leading up to the event.

"I'm really adverse to naval gazing and superfluous contemplation of ideas and philosophizing," he said. But he explained that after "Seeing 11 really remarkable people talk about work they have done, it grows dreams and ideas in people's heads, and hopefully people pursue them. This further invigorates the work they do. That's important."

For more information on the TED Conference and offshoots, visit www.ted.com. For information on the July TEDxSitka event, visit www.tedxsitka.com.

Amanda Compton is the staff writer for Capital City Weekly. She may be reached at amanda.compton@capweek.com.


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