TEDxSomerville brings new ideas to Somerville

TEDx is a program that helps create locally run and organized conferences where community members can come together and discuss any topic they are passionate about or an expert on. TEDx is a division of TED (technology, entertainment and design). The event will be coming to Somerville on Mar. 4 at the Arts at the Armory.

The conference, which is called TEDxSomerville, boasts the tagline “creative economy and sustainable community.” The broadness of the subject matter opens the event to a wide range of topics and speakers. The idea of “creative economy and sustainable community” will act as the theme for the day and will guide many of the lectures.

Two Tufts−affiliated individuals will be speaking at the conference: Sam Sommers, associate professor of psychology and author of the acclaimed book “Situations Matter: Understanding How Context Transforms Your World,” and Georgy Cohen, the former Manager of Web Content and Strategy at Tufts for many years.

At TEDxSomerville, these live lectures will be combined with TEDTalks videos to foster many in−depth and intimate discussions on a variety of timely and crucial issues. While TED is an international organization, the event is completely self−organized by residents of Somerville and its surrounding areas.

“I think this will be really great for the community. I’m looking forward to going and maybe even getting involved if I can,” freshman and Somerville resident Carolyn Winslow said.

TEDxSomerville hopes to take advantage of the creative energy in Somerville. Other than New York City, Somerville is the home of more artists per capita than any other city in the United States. With such a collection of thinkers to draw on, the event’s organizers expect to give a platform to a diverse group of local artists and intellectuals.

For over six months, TEDxSomerville’s website has featured a section where individuals could nominate themselves or others to come speak or perform music at the conference. So far, 18 speakers have been confirmed for the conference. In addition, several local musicians and artists will perform and have their works displayed throughout the conference.

The event’s organizers are also trying to attract as diverse an audience as possible for the event. The organizers want all the different demographic groups of the area represented in the audience, from retirees who have lived in Somerville for decades to college students who are just passing through.

“The conference sounds really interesting, and any forum for artists and speakers always attracts me,” freshman Kira Patterson said. “I think this is going to be really important and a great way to connect all of Somerville in a unique way.”

According to TEDxSomerville Social Media Manager Scott Seiffer the ideal speaker for the event “would have … a unique story and view.”

“TED is about ideas that are worth spreading,” he said. “The speakers need to be knowledgeable, passionate and have a personal story. That’s what we’re looking for. We want this event to really speak to Somerville: The speakers, the musicians, the artists and even all the way down to the food vendors all have some roots in Somerville.”

Having such a Somerville−centric event has not limited the wide array of topics that will be discussed. Interested individuals with any area of expertise are allowed to apply as speakers. Some of the featured topics will include sustainable food practices and the recent foreclosure crisis in the United States.

In planning for the event, Seiffer said TEDxSomerville must address the challenge of integrating with the international TED organization while trying to remain specific to the character to Somerville and its people.

“Since the beginning, [the Somerville organizers] have taken the focus to get to the core of Somerville,” Seiffer said. “The speakers, food, artists and musicians all pull the different groups that are in Somerville together. That and the theme bring them together to celebrate Somerville.”

Speakers will be at the event for the entire day at different venues throughout the conference, so audience members will be able to approach them to discuss their ideas in more detail.

Even those who are unable to attend can still experience some of the conference since TEDxSomerville’s organizers will be live−streaming much of the event on their website, TEDxSomerville.org. As with most TEDTalks videos, many of the lectures and performances will also be posted to the official TED website, ted.com.

Patterson believes the online content will make a valuable addition to the conference.

“I think if someone makes an important point at this event, then the online videos could allow it to be reached by a lot of people, which would be great,” she said.

The conference has a strong online presence already, especially on social networking sites Facebook and Twitter, which have helped to get the word out about the event and connect the organizers with other people who want to be involved.

TEDxSomerville encourages anyone who is interested in contributing to or attending the conference to visit the event’s website and learn more about ticket availability and what the event is doing. TEDxSomerville is looking to have every group from the surrounding community represented at the conference, which, Seiffer said, includes Tufts students.