Sunday, September 29, 2013

Catch up part 1: TEDxDublin

Well hello!
Seems like ages since I last wrote, and it has been a few weeks. Had a few bits going on since then so here's part one of my catch up posts!

I can be a bit of an information sponge. I like learning about new things, I'll happily watch documentaries about just about anything and I love hearing different perspectives on things. Earlier this year a colleague mentioned Ted Talks to me. I'd never heard of this, and thought she might be talking about the film Ted. Turns out it was nothing to do with the film and was a website, featuring talks of varying lengths on a plethora of subjects. I was hooked.
I downloaded the app to my phone and I was listening to talks on my way into work on the bus and in bed. I wrote about some of the stuff I sampled in a past blog post.
The majority of the talks seem to be from the US but there are also a lot of talks from TEDx events. These are events held around the world, fully endorsed by the TED brand, but organised by an outside party. A few months back, a friend (Aisling of the awesome mentioned that TEDx was coming to Dublin in September and that she and her boyfriend had bought tickets. I dropped a quick mail to my mates but wasn't too surprised when they weren't that interested in coming along, so I phoned Ticketmaster, told them where my colleague was sitting and managed to get a seat close by. Another colleague did the same for her and her husband and we were all rather excited about the prospect of the day of talks. 
As we all know, my summer has been a bit of a mad one, and before I knew it TEDx was quickly upon me and I'd not looked at any information re speakers etc. A bit of research between myself and Aisling unearthed a fair bit of info. 
TEDxDublin 2013 was being organised by Science Gallery and besides the main day of talks (running from 1-7pm), there were also a number of before and after events being organised for TEDx ticket holders. There was kayaking down the Liffey, a 10km run, paddleboarding and a grafitti workshop. But the one that grabbed my attention was a walking tour of Dublin with one of the city architects, Ali Grehan (also a speaker at TEDxDublin 2012). The walk was free, and all particpants were invited for juice and fruit afterwards at Science Gallery. I booked my place, and was not at all phased that I'd be going to this on my own. My fellow attendees were unable to make the walk for varying reasons, but this didn't bother me, I'll talk to anyone, yes I know, you're all mightily shocked at this! 
The day before the walk I got an email to tell me we'd be leaving at 10am from an urban art installation on the corner of Dominic St and Parnell St. For those of you that don't know Dublin, although this is technically city centre, it is viewed as being a bit 'out of the way' and it isn't the nicest part of town...this information will become relevant later. 
I got up early on the Saturday, I made a packed lunch and I headed off for my day of fab TEDx stuff. 
The walk lasted and hour and was based over quite a small area of northern inner city Dublin. It's an area of the city I don't really know. I've lived here nearly 7 years and I walked streets on this tour that I've never walked before. This is for a number of reasons really. I've never had any real cause to wander through the Parnell St/Parnell Sq area of the city, and in all honesty, I didn't think there was anything to see there. I was wrong. 
The walk started in Granby Park, which if you search for on a map you probably won't find. An area of wasteland at the bottom of Dominic St had been turned into a community space by Upstart. The installation was only there for 4 weeks and I was disappointed I'd not heard of it before. It was a small space, probably about 100yards in length, filled with a multitude of things. The majority of it was a covered space with tables and chairs set out for various activities. There were little art installations and at the top of the space there was an ampitheatre made solely of wooden crates, and performances had been held within it. There was also a 'Dream Farm' which was a small perspex box with various plants in it. By turning a handle on the outside you watered the plants and kept them alive. Such a simple concept but wonderfully represented. (i'm not explaining it well here, but it was fab!). The whole installation had been created to try and make use of vacant spaces in the city. One thing that had been observed within Dublin was that there weren't many open, social, interactive, creative spaces. Yes we have parks, Merrion Sq etc, but they're few and far between and although they have events through the year, they don't have semi permanent interactive spaces. Upstart wanted to change this and Granby Park is an excellent example of this. Unfortunately, as far as I'm aware, Granby Park has now been dismantled as the site it was using is required (and always was) for building upon. Anyone was welcome to come in and take part and the site was run entirely by volunteers. I know I'll definitely be keeping an eye out for future stuff like this throughout Dublin. 
The Amphitheatre

Dream Farm
We spent quite some time in Granby Park as there was a lot to see and Ali was giving us a background of the concept. We then moved on and walked round Parnell Sq. Ali told us about the Rotunda Hospital, which was the first public maternity hospital in the British Isles, founded in 1745. It's also the oldest continuously operating maternity hospital in the world. Two facts I'd never been aware of. Heading round Parnell Sq we stood outside the Garden of Remembrance, which although I'd heard of I'd never known where it was.
Garden of Remembrance
As we stood outside the garden, looking across to the Hugh Lane Gallery, Ali pointed out an empty building to the left of the gallery, an old school building. She then went onto say that this old school building would be the new location for the Dublin City Library, now located in the Ilac Centre. I was rather ashamed to realise that up until this point, I didn't even realise that the city library was located in the Ilac Centre. Dublin is a city of culture, and the library's current location isn't a particularly functional one. Yes it works, but compare it to libraries in other capital cities and it comes up wanting. The plan is to relocate the library into the old school building on Parnell Sq, providing conference rooms and other areas fitting for a city of culture and its library building. Timescale on this is yet to be confirmed, they're in the early stages of assigning an architect for the project. 

The Hugh lane gallery itself is a lovely building from the outside, and is closely located to the Dublin Writers museum (which I had no idea was there, and will be visiting!), and the Abbey Presbyterian Church, a lovely building, standing out from the other architecture on the square. 
Hugh Lane Gallery
Abbey Presbyterian Church

The walk continued then down O'Connell Street, down the Quays towards Samuel Beckett Bridge and then over the river and up to the Science Gallery site on Pearse Street. it was a stunning day, and although the rest of the walk did interest me, I was captivated most by the stuff on Parnell Sq. Ali did make a very interesting observation about the whole landscape of Dublin City though. In the main, it lacks tall buildings. The SIPTU building stands out as being one of the tallest. And it comes down to brass tax. Tall buildings are expensive to build, and tall, well built buildings are definitely expensive.

View down the Liffey towards Samuel Beckett Bridge
SIPTU building on the left, Custom House on the right
It was a beautiful morning and I thoroughly enjoyed the walk. Back at the Science gallery we had some free fruit and smoothies and I chatted with some fellow walkers before heading up to the main TEDx event just up the road in Grand Canal.
Outside the theare I overheard a woman tell her pals that she'd booked to go on the walking tour as she thought it would be around the Grand Canal dock area. But after learning it would be on the northside of the city she'd decided not to go because, and I quote, she had "absolutely NO interest in walking around THAT part of the city", and had decided to spend her time better I resisted the urge to go over and smack her for being such a bloody snob. Yes it wasn't in a great part of town, but that was its main appeal, the hidden gems it unearthed!

There were 12 speakers throughout the day, averaging 10 minutes each. As is the norm with TED the subjects were incredibly varied! (at some point soon, all of the talks below will be up on I'll post links when I can!)

Fiona Newell, Psychology Professor at Trinity College, spoke about what we all see as beautiful. Using different research data she explored the phrase "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" and outlined some very interesting ideas. For example a symmetrical face is said to be more aesthetically pleasing than a non symmetrical face. And a person becomes more attractive to us the more we see them. She used the recent example of the blobfish being named the ugliest creature in the animal kingdom, but said that continued viewing of the blobfish could make it attractive to us! She also said that babies are more likely to focus on an aesthetically pleasing face than any other, although I forget the reasoning behind this!

Easkey Britton, Irish national surfing champion, talked about how surfing can be used to overcome fears and anxieties. She also talked about her project to get women in Iran surfing, and the experiences she'd had whilst conducting the project. Read more about her here

Constantin Gurdgiev, Finance lecturer at Trinity College, talked about the shifting global economy and the trends within it. I'll be totally honest. I was lost for a lot of this talk. Although he clearly knew what he was talking about, I struggled to follow the concept! 

Dave Smith, creator of Mabos, talked about Mabos and the concept behind this space. All they wanted to do was build a 5 storey robot! The basic message of this lecture was the red tape and blockers that small creative enterprises face, and that we as the public can help this by visiting these spaces/projects/installations and making them worthwhile. As he says "What sounds more interesting, living in a city with a 5 storey robot, or one without?!"

Sean Love, Executive Director of Fighting Words, a creative writing centre in Dublin helping children to write short stories and realise their own creative writing potential. He lead the entire audience (1700 people) in creating the basis of a short story, to demonstrate how the Fighting Words workshops run. We were later told that we'd broken a world record for a Fighting Words story inception!

Quantum levitation was next on the list, and we were shown this TED Talk from 2012. It's a fascinating concept and one that was demonstrated in front of me later out in the foyer, by the fabulous folks from Science Gallery. 
Quantum Levitation or locking

Quantum Levitation or locking
Fergus McAuliffe, Environmental Scientist at Cork University, spoke about how science can alienate people by using incorrect language. Everyone can understand scientific concepts, if the right language is used. But he was also not just talking about scientific presentations and concepts. He used a prime example of "Death by PowerPoint", a slide FILLED with words. One that you as an audience member will never read and fully absorb, and its presentation will likely make you switch off completely. I fully realise that I'm presenting you with a LOT of reading in this post, but I am trying to break it up with pics to make it more digestible! 

Niamh O'Mahoney, Applications Engineer at Shimmer, spoke about the emergence of technology in the medical profression, and how that although placing a lot of reliance on technology in this space may sound scary, it is likely to provide more accurate results as you remove the personal opinon aspect, and can deal with the raw data as its presented and founded from your body.

During another break, Aisling and I went for an explore and were mesmerised by the 3D printer demos in the foyer. I could have stood for hours watching this little printer make those little Xs!
3D Printer!
Kevin Thornton, Michelin starred chef, spoke about how important it was to make sure that we ate seasonal food. He used many examples but the one that stuck with me was lamb. He only serves lamb in his restaurant in spring. He said that spring lamb is divine, full of flavour, the way it's meant to be. Commenting on someone's expression that New Zealand lamb was delicious, he was astounded that people would rate NZ lamb over the fresh lamb from their own countries, but the demand of lamb all year round meant that NZ lamb was thriving and Irish spring lamb wasn't appreciated the way it should be. He had a box of apples from an orchard, one for everyone in the audience. He asked us all to take one, to smell it and appreciate the seasonality and freshness of it before enjoying it. I don't like apples, so I gave mine to Aisling, but as we walked out of the theatre later, 95% of people were eating the apples given by Kevin. It was lovely to see!

Shane O'Mara, Professor of Experimental Brain research, talked about zombies. Yes, zombies. it was brilliant! He talked about the zombie epidemic and the recent documentaries like The Walking Dead. It was a cleverly done lecture, amusing, but with real scientific info behind it. He'd obviously looked at zombie characteristics and determined what brain injuries would cause those symptoms. Fascinating really!

Cathal Garvey, creator of Indie Biotech talked about our constantly changing and evolving world. The basic message was that no one or no thing is perfect, it's just the "least worst thing that's managed to survive". It sounds harsh but it's true. We as humans are constantly evolving and adapting to new challenges, as is the world around us. 

And last but by no means least was Lisa Domican, a mother of 2 autistic children. She developed GraceApp, to help children with autism express their needs independently. Both her children struggled with verbal communication and she found that pictoral guides helped them communicate effectively, but most crucially, independently. She was fascinating to listen to, and as I've mentioned previously, someone close to me has been identified as autistic so this lecture was of great interest to me. I was moved to tears when at the end of the lecture Lisa recounted a story of her daughter Grace. Lisa was away from home and had phoned home to say goodnight to her husband and the children. Grace was still struggling with verbalising her wants and needs, but at the end of the phonecall Lisa heard Grace say "I want Mummy". Lisa's voice broke as she told the tale, and I have tears in my eyes now writing this. Those 3 words represented a massive amount, both to Grace and Lisa. 

Wow, that's a lot of writing! Hopefully you've stayed with me and been interested in what I've said. I'll hopefully update the links in this post with the lectures once they're uploaded.
I found the day incredibly informative and enjoyable, not least because Aisling and I acquired 2 Xs made by the 3D printer! We were like little children! So as a reward for staying with me, here's one final pic, of Aisling and I with our Xs. How happy do we look?!
Aisling and I, independently organised!
Until next time (when I'll regale you with tales of my trip to Rome), much love.


Lisamaree Dom said...

Thank you !

dontlikeberries said...

Most welcome Lisa, and thank you for the talk. One of my favourites of the day.

Aisling McCabe said...

What a fantastic day we had. It was SO exciting, as you can see from our faces! Thanks for the write up, it's a lovely reminder of our fun and the fascinating talks. Now to plan the next geeky (cultural) day out xxx