The Identity of TEDx Rhein-Main
‘Identity has become a changing, volatile concept: Is identity something you are born with? Something that you acquire? Or something that you have thrust upon you?’ Those questions were evaluated at the first TEDx Rhein-Main in Offenbach last Wednesday. As I am a huge fan of the TED global talks, I was curious to see what the identity of TEDx is all about.
TED is a non-profit organization and interdisciplinary events devoted to ‘Ideas Worth Spreading’. If you haven’t used this as an inspiration source so far, you have to check out the website and the YouTube channel which is a huge library of diverting, very condensed and inspiring talks covering all kinds of topics ranging from poems of war, peace, women and power to talks about why we are all cyborgs now.
The magic of the TED talks is partly depending of the proposition that if you hear something at TED, you hear it for the first time. Now the TEDx events are so-called ‘independently organized TED events’ that try to bring that magic to other regions of the world and offer a great setting for events to exchange ideas. TEDx events are fully planned and coordinated independently, on a community-by-community basis. A friend of mine Bander AlMutlaq, who I met and worked with in Beirut, organized the first TEDxArabia event in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia last December. This was the first event of that kind in the region and a great success.
Therefore I was really curious to see what the first TEDx event in our region would be like. The overall topic of TEDx Rhein-Main was very promising, especially from a digital perspective which was the main focus of this event. To sum it up, I think the event didn’t really live up to its promise. Here is why. It was a good start for a TEDx event, but there was definitely a lack in originality of thought around the talks. I mean there were some interesting speakers, but nothing really new or unheard of. The problem was the lack in diversity. Not in terms of represented disciplines and topics, rather in terms of representative speakers from around the whole region. Regarding the list of speakers and the whole setting, this should rather have been called TEDxOffenbach. The identity of TEDx RheinMain seemed to be a little bit too provincial from my point of view. Probably my expectations were a little bit too high and still it was a great effort by the Offenbach community to organize the event. It was worth attending and interesting to see the first TEDx event in the region come to life.
This was the agenda of all speakers, with Ossi Urchs leading through the whole day. He did a good job, although I must say (I know this is smart-assy) that the TED Chris Anderson (entrepreneur) is not the Long Tail / Wired Chris Anderson (writer). Sorry Ossi.
The full program:
- Prof. Dr. Thomas Metzinger – The Ego Tunnel
- Ibrahim Evsan – The Information Company
- Prof. Dr. Elisabeth von Samsonow – Cordless Mega Confusion
- Prof. Wolfgang Henseler – digito ergo sum
- Prof. Dr. Guenter Dueck – Building your Identity
- Steven Sasseville – A Sense of Identity
- Sina Kamala Kaufmann – Homo Ludens
- Daniel Kraft – Everybody is Beautiful
- Michael Altendorf – Why Virtual Identities?
For me personally, two talks stuck out. The first one was ‘The Ego Tunnel’ by Prof. Dr. Thomas Metzinger talking about the no-self alternative. By combining philosophical and psychological concepts he made his point that there is actually no such thing as a “self”, that a “self” is simply the content of a model created by our brain – part of a virtual reality we create for ourselves.”Neuroscientific experiments have demonstrated, among other things, that the unitary sense of self is a subjective representation: for instance, one can be fooled into feeling sensations in a detached artificial arm.” This experiment is the so-called ‘Rubber hand illusion’.
More on the ‘Rubber Hand Illusion’
Prof. Woflgang Henseler talked about ‘digito ergo sum’, the digital me and some of the newest developments in human machine interface design. “If you don’t have a digital identity you don’t exist.” The presentation had some interesting cases that demonstrated the increasing role of digital technology in our daily lifes, like for example Daytum or Proteus by Novartis. This is the excerpt from the website: “Ever since we use digital media we leave digital footprints in an alternative environment. Mobile devices have becomes extensions of our physical bodies and intermediators to this digital world. Using apps with profiling technologies we track and trace ourselves to create our digital alter ego. Soon personal interface agents will be our personal digital assistants combing learnability with autonomous adaptivity and finally to create a unfragmented image of ourselves in a digital surrounding – a mental identity in a non-physical world.”
These were the two most interesting talks for me. Apart from that, it was interesting to visit the event and I think the interdisciplinary character of the TEDx talks is the core of the identity and definitely worth to expand more throughout this and other regions. Here some more of my pictures from the event and further information on the official website. More feedback and official photos can be found here.