TEDx steps up with ‘361 degrees’ theme

Chris Babic takes the stage to open this year's TEDx conference at Ryerson. (Nuruddin Qorane/Ryersonian Staff).

Chris Babic takes the stage to open this year’s TEDx conference at Ryerson. (Nuruddin Qorane/Ryersonian Staff).

Chris Babic didn’t get any sleep Friday night. “In true TED fashion,” he added after stepping off the stage at Ryerson’s fourth TEDx conference Saturday. Babic is part of the student team that has been working for months to make the conference a reality.

Ryerson’s TEDx theme this year was 361 degrees. Babic explained the concept to the large audience at the opening of the event.

“This may be hard for mathematicians to grasp, but imagine walking around a problem. Completely seeing all aspects of that problem from all different angles for 360 degrees and then taking a step up,” he said.

TED conferences, which were popularized on YouTube and Netflix, are focused lectures from distinguished speakers who share their ideas surrounding technology. The audience is then encouraged to take that knowledge and turn it into a reality. The ‘x’ in TEDx means that the event is independently organized for the team’s own community.

The conference took a step up from previous years by engaging with every faculty on campus, something organizers say didn’t happen in previous years.

“TED started in the business school and was business-oriented. We made a conscious choice to reach out to everyone and get lost facets of the university together,” Babic, who is the curator and speakers steering lead of TEDxRyersonU, said later in an interview.

“The TED team does something different than other administrative models. We have a horizontal approach rather than a vertical one – where no one is really at the top and ideas can be shared with everyone,” he said.

Another feature the team added this year was student speakers. Michelle Kwan, a student at the Chang School of Continuing Education, was one of the winners of the TEDxRyersonU speakers audition and, as a result, gained a spot in the conference.

Kwan, who graduated from Ryerson’s applied science in nutrition and food program, spoke about using the power of images to change how people think about health.

“The subject is something I’ve been thinking about for a long time. People would tell me, ‘Art is your hobby and can’t be used in health sciences,’” she said in an interview. “But they’re not mutually exclusive subjects.”

Kwan told the audience about the different qualitative ways of using art to help spread health knowledge.

“We know people who are experiencing illness who use art in a therapeutic sense,” Kwan said. She gave an example of cancer patients who use colouring books to find a way to escape from their ailment.

“It’s a way to explore and focus your mind when chemo and drugs are overwhelming,” she added.

Other methods she discussed included an approach called body-mapping in which patients draw what they’re feeling on life-sized outlines of themselves. The activity is useful to give insight into the relationship between the patient’s body and mind.

Kwan said she was thinking about her uncle who is suffering from terminal lung cancer in Hong Kong while she was writing her speech.

“I’m very interested in the patient experience,” she said. “We’re putting all these drugs and IVs into these people and their experience matters.”

Babic called Kwan’s artistic approach to health research one of the many “truly actionable ideas” to come out of TEDx conferences.

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