DePaul TED conference returns for second year

April 05, 2013|By Erin Vogel @eringejuice | For RedEye

Get your thinking caps on, Chicago: DePaul University's TEDx conference, TEDxDePaulU, enters its second year Saturday.

The all-day conference operates under the TEDx program of independently organized events modeled after the original global nonprofit talk series TED that boasts the tagline "Ideas Worth Spreading."

Two DePaul students, Matt Helbig and Daniel Gurevich, organized the event, which includes 10 speakers and a post-event reception catered by celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck's company.

This weekend's event sold out all 300 seats ($45 per ticket) at the Edison Theater at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Speakers include Doug Zell, founder of Intelligentsia Coffee; Marcy Capron, partner and CEO of Polymathic; and Elaine Chernov, who founded the all-female design collective Quite Strong.

Sophomore finance major Gurevich, who has been familiar with TED since the website went live in 2006, said his interest in the conference has grown since high school, when the talks helped him through some of his darkest points as a teenager.

"It really is part of me," said Gurevich, 20. "I am a huge proponent of the ethos of ‘ideas worth spreading.' Organizing this conference never feels like work to me."

For 21-year-old senior business management major Helbig, inspiration to organize a TEDx conference arose after he volunteered at TEDxMidwest, another large TEDx event in the Chicago area. He said he feels as if he has a lot of stake in making sure this year's event is a success since it will be the last one he will organize before he graduates.

He helped create the conference's theme, "Creators & Curators."

"I've found that a large majority of people simply curate online, by collecting things on Tumblr or Pinterest, but don't really put anything back in the world," Helbig said. "I think there's a lot of interesting space for people to learn more about what they're doing online and sharing online, and actually start participating offline."

Jon Satrom, one of the conference's speakers, is a local mixed new-media artist and School of the Art Institute professor who is very familiar with the act of creating and curating materials.

One of his specialties is "glitch art," which he creates by manipulating and breaking data in computer systems to produce both intentional and unintentional malfunctions--breaks in the normal flow present in a computer program or TV show that "paints a larger picture" about the information you're consuming, according to Satrom, who helped organize the first GLI.TC/H conference in Chicago in 2010.

"I don't know exactly ‘the big idea worth spreading,' but I do know everybody can relate to a glitch," said Satrom, who will present real-time examples of glitch art. "There is a moment there, when a glitch happens, that's super exciting, and artists are using that moment. I hope I can convey that moment."

Once this year's conference wraps up, Gurevich said he plans to start organizing an event for next year with an expanded scope that will no longer be limited primarily to the DePaul community. He is tentatively planning to rename the TEDx event completely in order to open up more to the city--possibly creating a bigger umbrella event that could include organizers from several different Chicago universities.

While TedXDePaulU is a student organization that receives university funding, Helbig said the school hasn't been as supportive of the conference series as they would like them to be. Helbig and Gurevich have also struggled with obtaining more DePaul student and alumni involvement.

"We love DePaul, we think it's a great school, but [DePaul] has not been extremely supportive in providing us any additional value," Helbig said. "We think we're probably big enough now to sort of do it on our own next year."

See the full list of speakers for this weekend's event, which will be held at the Edison Theater at the Museum of Contemporary Art from 2 to 8:30 p.m., here.

Erin Vogel is a RedEye special contributor.

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