Fifth TEDx Talks “Open to Interpretation”

“If
you were to look into your enemy’s heart, what would you find that is different
from your own?”

Ari
Saperstein PZ ’15 posed this question at the fifth annual TEDx Claremont Colleges
event in his speech. His topic, the importance of empathy, was especially
pertinent in a world dominated by social media and narcissism. For many, it can
be easy to choose emotional detachment over intimacy, especially in a world filled
with tragedy and upheaval. 

Saperstein,
however, was not on a crusade against technology.  

“This
is not an anti-technology talk,” he said. “It is a mindful technology talk.”      

Saperstein,
and many other eloquent speakers from the Claremont Colleges and beyond, got
the chance to share their thoughts on this year’s theme, “Open to
Interpretation.” Students that attended the all-day event on March 7 heard
about everything from synesthesia to chimpanzees to immigration reform.           

The
goal of this year’s theme was to provide an open forum for conversations on interpretations and perspectives on ways to approach different topics.       

Rachel Song PO ’18, one of the two
logistics coordinators of the event, was pleased with the results of her hard
work.           

“The theme is
intentionally open-ended because the goal is to stimulate conversations among
attendees and share ‘ideas worth spreading,’ as the motto of the TED talks goes,”
she said.         

The TEDx Claremont
Colleges, which premiered in 2011, is a licensed, independently-organized and
student-run TED conference. Many other colleges and some high schools around the country hold
their own TEDx conferences.

The multitude of
speakers, which consisted of professors, students and professionals from a variety of fields, provided expert insight into their topics of expertise.          

Rachel Mayeri,
an associate professor of media studies at Harvey Mudd College, talked about
how chimpanzees interpret art and how we can compare that interpretation to
both human and non-human primates. 

Olivia Warren HMC
’14 discussed how people with synesthesia perceive the world. Synesthesia is a
neurological phenomenon in which the stimulation of a particular cognitive or
sensory pathway leads to an involuntary experience in a second pathway. For
example, a synesthete might associate certain smells with music or hear colors.
And while it seems like an interesting trait, it can still provide a confusing
array of sensory data for the person.          

“The interesting
thing about having a unique perspective is that it doesn’t always have a
positive connotation,” she said.         

Dr. Alvaro
Huerta, an assistant professor of urban and region planning and also ethnic and women’s studies at Cal Poly Pomona, talked
about a similar kind of connection. He reinterpreted immigration from a more
humanistic perspective, arguing the versatility of the term “migration.”           

“We need to view
migration as an international human right, because we all migrate,” he said. “If immigration is a known human right, why do Americans continue to insist on
a divide?” 

Throughout the
day, lectures included topics such as using genes to decode congenital
heart disease, reinterpreting religion and understanding how teaching reading is a crucial act of human interpretation. 

And
while the audience listened, Song and her fellow volunteers were busy
making sure everything was going according to plan.           

“There are a lot
of things that go into planning an event that a lot of people don’t realize,” Song
said. “There’s catering services, reserving facilities, coordinating
volunteers, and even small details like buying snacks for the volunteers and
speakers, and ordering Walkie Talkies for the staff.”           

On top of those
responsibilities, it was Rachel’s first time working, so coordinating something
of that scale—even with the support of
her co-lead and team members—was quite daunting.          

“One of the
downsides of coordinating the event is that you
don’t get a lot of time to actually watch the talks,” she admitted. “However, I
did get to see one talk from Danielle Agami, an artistic director and dancer
from L.A. Her talk was really unique because she actually brought in a few
dancers and performed a modern dance piece that was really interpretive.”           

Ornella Altunyan
PO ’18 admired Saperstein’s talk on technology for its relevance to college students. 

“I think it’s a
really important message to give college students,” she said, “especially in a
time that’s dominated by non-personal technological relationships.”

As this year’s Tedx speakers demonstrated,
peering at life through another lens can be a little intimidating, but
ultimately enlightening. 

Imam Daayiee Abdullah, one of the first openly gay Muslim
Imams in the world, summed up this diversity in a talk about re-interpreting
religion.              

“Like a
kaleidoscope,” he said, “each human being is different.”

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