No. 4 • 2020-05-27

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Virtual TEDx

Like everything else, conferences have been dramatically reshaped by COVID-19. Some have been cancelled or postponed and others restructured as virtual events. These are interesting experiments and likely to have a lasting impact, since conference travel (and housing) is expensive, tiring, and presents a high barrier to access. Ultimately, it depends a great deal on the particular conference whether it makes sense as a virtual event. One of the biggest experiments will be Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), normally an extremely hot (and expensive) ticket, which is going completely virtual (and free) this summer.

The canonical TED/TEDx Talk is already well established as a video-based medium, so a virtual conference with streaming video presentations makes a lot of sense to me. This Sunday (May 31 at 2pm) is TEDxDrexelU 2020, a free event featuring speakers representing our University and the Philadelphia region:

  • Nancy Volpe-Beringer, Fashion Designer and Project Runway contestant
  • Christopher J. Ferguson, Boeing Test Pilot and former NASA Astronaut
  • Dr. Eric A. Zillmer, Director of Athletics (Go Dragons!) & Professor of Neuropsychology
  • Jane Golden, Executive Director and Founder Mural Arts Philadelphia
  • Nadia Malik, Director of the Porch Light Program, Mural Arts Philadelphia
  • And yours truly.

I’m honored to be presenting alongside such prominent speakers, and I’m excited to hear from all of them. I can’t tell you anything about my presentation, except that it will be a different topic from my TEDxPhiladelphia talk last year. I’ll just say that I’ve thought a lot about how best to utilize the medium of a virtual presentation.

There will be a chance to interact online after each presentation.  I hope to “see” you there!

(Socially) Distant Creations

  • The Virtual Philadelphia Orchestra is a fantastic series of recorded performances and education programs from one of the best orchestras in the world. A recent offering is the April 2018 premiere performance of Philadelphia Voices, a “crowdsourced city symphony” by composer Tod Machover, which the ExCITe Center had a small role in developing.
  • Fill the Walls with Hope, Rage, Resources, and Dreams [The Philadelphia Citizen] An inspiring project, displaying the work of local artists and poets around the city to uplift, educate and provoke. Click here to view some of the exhibitions.
  • Virtual Tours and Town Halls [National Constitution Center] While the Center is closed, they’ve posted 360° virtual tours of four of their exhibits, and the Virtual Town Halls welcome guest speakers on topics related to our nation and its history.
  • Knight Rider for 8 Cellos [YouTube] – London-based cellist/arranger Samara Ginsberg has been posting some awesome 8-part cello videos, including this one released last week. As a child of the ’80s, and a big fan of K.I.T.T., I felt an obligation to share this. Her performance of The Imperial March is also great.
  • 2020 CX Report [formerly Design In Tech] This week, friend of ExCITe John Maeda posted his annual review of computational and consumer experience trends (he usually presents this at SXSW). As always, it’s stuffed full of great insights, and he’s also posted a 13 minute highlight version.

What I’m creating

We have an ExCITe tradition of occasional Friday musical jam sessions at the Center. Truly live collaboration isn’t really possible over the Internet (there’s too much delay to stay in sync), so my Music & Entertainment Technology Lab students and I have been experimenting with “pass the baton” sessions where we add instrument tracks to quickly hear and build upon each other’s work. It’s not ideal, but you can judge for yourself if it worked well enough for this week’s video.

  Johnny B. Goode  

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