Leila Johnston speaks at TEDxBrighton © Toby Lewis Thomas
Leila Johnston speaks at TEDxBrighton © Toby Lewis Thomas


17 June 2015

A stimulating day of talks at TEDxBrighton, by Storyteller & Technologist Natalie Kane. This year Lighthouse was proud to sponsor TEDxBrighton, a one-day conference featuring a range of inspiring and innovative speakers with a connection to Brighton. Hosted at the Brighton Dome Corn Exchange, the conference included speakers from a variety of backgrounds, interests, disciplines and perspectives, whose talks focused on legacy, and what we are passing on to future generations.

After a short game of IKEA or Death, Konrad Brits of Falcon Speciality asked how to make life better for coffee producers, ensuring a safer, fairer system. Asking us to reassess the supply chains that provide us with coffee, Brits explained that through collaboration we realise the wealth of our resources.

Taking us through complex neuroprocesses right through to the outer reach of space, artist and researcher Kate Genevieve told the story of her body of work. Using augmented reality technologies, such as the Oculus Rift, with traditional forms of sensory stimulation, Genevieve asks us to reconsider our position in the world, as ‘although we are so tiny, our sensory reach is huge.’ We can imagine, and pass on this curiosity to seek new frontiers and new journeys; we can follow NASA’s Voyager 1 through the heliospheres.

Asking us about our relationship to the economy, Dr Mick Taylor explained that money itself has been largely taught wrong. Our assumptions are wrong, and ‘therefore our analysis is in danger of being false.’ Addressing the myriad of problems with our own, current economy, Taylor asked us what we’d like to pass forward, suggesting a different, more responsible system that takes the money supply away from private business and into the hands of public, accountable bodies. Placing the power back into the community.

Choreographer Subathra Subramaniam demonstrated, through traditional dance, how concepts of science and education can be interpreted, and analysed through choreography. Working with surgeons, scientists and dance companies to create beautiful, visceral work, Subramaniam showed us how to examine our relationship to other bodies.

Why are we so keen to leave our mark for future generations? Technologist, and previous Improving Reality speaker, Leila Johnston, asked us to get over ourselves. We have created a prospective heritage, through time capsules, millennial memorials and other records of our apparent significance, to prove that we were there. By creating these funerals of the present, and obsessing over an uncertain future, we are missing the problems of the present. Johnston asks us not to pass on this culture of ‘memorial graffiti’ to the next generation, instead, examining our role in the present, however insignificant.

Architect and educator Duncan Baker-Brown, had a simple, if effective message; Waste is a valuable resource. Guiding us through his work building houses made from recyclables and repurposed, unwanted items, Baker-Brown encouraged the next generation of builders and city-makers to embrace sustainable building practises by realigning our relationship to materials.

Campaigner and founder of charity Mother’s Bridge, Xue Xinran asked us to analyse our relationship to our heritage, and how we can ensure that we remain connected to it. Illustrating through stories of China, her homeland, Xinran spoke on misconceptions of the east and the vast injustices of sexual selection, where girls are left behind. Passing on the heritage of those children internationally adopted, rather than dislocating them, is thoroughly important.

In one of the more impassioned talks of the day, sixteen-year old Sam Watling presented to us the shortcomings of the current English educational system. Through anecdotes of his own school experience, to those of others, Watling asked us to really, truly, ask if the current structure is working, or is it just failing to support those who don’t fit in – ‘I’m not saying it’s a Dickensian nightmare, but it’s flawed and doesn’t allow flexibility.’ These were crucially valuable insights for us to consider, not only as current educators, but what to pass on to future trainees.

Talking on copyright, data ownership and creativity, Ithaca Audio’s Chris Evans-Roberts told us to become less precious about the work that we create, so that we can enable the innovation of others. We’ve gone from a culture of mass consumers to one of mass creators, and should allow for appropriation and reinvention without punishing those who do so with prosecution. Evans-Roberts also showed us how the theme from Shaft and the Imperial March from Star Wars mix rather nicely together.

When eradicating old rules, we need to make sure we are not creating new ones, particularly concerning affairs of the heart. Dr Megan Barker, led us through the dangerous patterns that appear in relationships, asking us to pass on openness, rather than restriction when talking to young people about relationships. People are not objects we can play, we should embrace uncertainty, live freely, and play our own game.

Should we change Return on Investment to Return on Involvement? Nikki Crumpton, who was instrumental in the marketing for the London Olympics, asked us how we can learn from current business legacy, and set positive, human standards for future events. We need to give those who volunteered more than just a thank you, by making people part of something, you create a stronger, longer-lasting legacy.

Subathra Subranamiam © Toby Lewis Taylor
Subathra Subranamiam demonstrates her choreography © Toby Lewis Thomas

Being a teenager in Cornwall was boring, says Journalist Dave Waller, who adopted the otherworldy culture of hip-hop as a way to escape the apparent mundanity of his life. Waller asks us to do the same, and discover the world outside of our living room, without forfeiting the intricacies of his own culture in the process. Through this you can reinterpret and reimagine, and, with confidence, push your boundaries further than you ever thought you were able to.

In a brave, frank talk about endometriosis and the mythology behind periods, artist and accountant Carol Pearson asked us to talk more openly about the wolf at the door. We need to ensure that we are talking to our daughters about their health, so that we are not only improving their health, but also furthering scientific progress.

As a closing keynote, our current technologist-in-residence Aral Balkan spoke about how our civil liberties and human rights in the post-features era are dependent on whether we can bring design thinking to open source to create products with seamless experiences that can achieve mainstream adoption in the consumer space. Aral calls these experience-driven open technologies and they are a necessary prerequisite to empowering the general population to own their own devices, services, and data —what Aral calls Indie Data.

You can see Aral talk further on Indie Data at the November Monthly talk at Lighthouse. For more info, click here. To find out more about TEDxBrighton, visit their blog.



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