TEDx Transmedia 2012: The TEDx Talks and Day in Review


We came, we saw and we conquered TEDx Transmedia 2012 - Wekids: Dreamers, Geeks, Mindshifters, as the ancient Roman adage goes. 

Now one week later and a couple of weeks before the individual talks hit the YouTube channel we’re taking stock of the tremendous ideas and thoughts that were shared on the TEDx stage in Rome. This summary of each talk gives you a précis of the day and an opportunity to decide which you want to tune into first when they’re live. 

The auditorium at the MAXXI Museum was filled with press, media professionals, students, friends and fans and more than 3,000 tuned into our livestream worldwide, including from Columbia, Brazil, India, America, Canada, Mexico, Holland, France, South Africa, Spain and the UK. 

Our Facebook reach topped 15,000, floods of tweets ran through the #tedxtransmedia and #txt12 hashtags and hundreds of you shared our live blogged quotes from the talks. All this despite a digital version of the Roman ‘tablet curse,’ which meant no wifi or 3G connectivity in the MAXXI auditorium for attendees.

Just some of the positive responses to the event include from Anthropologist, Cristina Cenci, who said: “Inspirational event. My inner child thanks warmly Nicoletta Iacobacci [TEDx Transmedia Curator, pictured on stage above].”

Columbian digital and transmedia professional, Jaime Tenorio, said: “That is something great to have streaming. You have a bigger impact and the world connected. Amazing! Democracy of knowledge. Thanks from Colombia. I’ll be waiting for the next TEDx Transmedia.”

Speaker, Robert Tercek, said: “We rocked Rome this week. The event was excellent and it was fun to share my thoughts about creativity and the imagination with such a smart group of people.”

Danish Head of MEDIA DESK Denmark, Ene Katrine Rasmussen, said: “Thank you for fantastic inspiration and great organization.”

Transmedia producer, Anne Zeiser, in response to surprise guest, Salvatore Iaconesi’s talk, said: As a cancer survivor I could relate completely to that Mindshifter session!”

Previous speaker, Mohamed Nanabhav, Founder of Al Jazeera New Media Group, said: “Watching the TEDx Transmedia tweets with envy - the MAXXI in Rome is a beautiful venue. Loved speaking there.”

Attendee, Francesca Castenetto, said: “Inspirational speakers. Great atmosphere. Thanks to TEDx Transmedia.”

Attendee, Greg Elvis, added: “Thank you so much Nicoletta. Today was phenomenal!”

Canadian writer, Margaret Doyle, said: If you have stopped dreaming, tune into TEDx Transmedia livestreamed.”

And student documentary filmmaker, Chase Finn, who thanked some of our speakers individually, said: “Inspiring words - as a young filmmaker who seeks to create meaningful work, your talks resonate.”

So, let’s do a quick recap of the brilliant day all transmedia roads led to Rome. 

Curator, Nicoletta Iacobacci, opened WEkids: Dreamers, Geeks, Mindshifters with a call to free your inner child and the spirit captured in this viral video at the heart of her vision for the day. 


The DREAMERS session was infused with a spirit of optimism and possibility by speakers known for their abilities to see ‘over the rainbow.’




English Author, playwright, journalist and founder of storycentralDIGITAL, Alison Norrington, laid the first brick in the TEDx Transmedia yellow brick road with her infectious energy and enthusiasm for storytelling. Her talk spanned from her shy childhood, when she was too afraid to play because she “didn’t know the rules,” to an encouragement to create transmedia storyworlds with “strong beating hearts at their core” and enough gaps and spaces that amplify an audience’s desire to play and participate in the world. Alison rounded off her opening talk with a call to be more creatively impulsive and a fitting George Bernard Shaw quote: “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

[Quotes from Alison’s talk] 



Next on the red TEDx stage was CEO of Qyuki, Poonacha Machaiah, with a talk rooted in his Indian culture and life in his home town of Bangalore, the hub of the country’s technology sector. Poonacha shared the concept of Jugaard, an Indian word meaning improvisation and the ability to think creatively and adapt to challenges on the spot. He argued that storytelling and development of technology needs to be alive to that concept and aware that a generation may be growing up with a “lack of physical intimacy in their social interactions,” which could breed problems with empathy and solving humanitarian crises. He called for a heightened awareness of our environments, and one another, to build “purposeful technology” and invest beyond our social networks. 

[Quotes from Poonacha’s talk]


For the first time, and as an essential part of the WEkids theme, young people, all from St George’s British International School, were invited to share the TEDx Transmedia stage as ‘Change Makers’ and kicked off with a musical performance using Boomwhackers Tuned Precussion Tubes. Better than a morning espresso, the kids lit up the stage with colours and energy and were followed by a presentation from three 9 and 10 year olds: Lorenzo Bianco, Guia Basoccu and George Mandel-Mantello on their project Design For Change. 


It’s one thing to talk about the wonder and egoless courage of the ‘inner child’ and another to see it live in action. The trio were so funny and engaging that they gave some of our most accomplished speakers a run for their money. In their joint talk they shared their project to paint a playground in the park and the four steps that helped them achieve their goals: 1. To FEEL the problems in the local community 2. To THINK about those that were most important 3. To DO something to help provide a solution 4. To SHARE their passion with others and prove how positive-thinking and enthusiasm can change the world. Not bad rules for life.



Norwegian kids’ philosopher, Øyvind Olsholt, was next with a thought-provoking talk entitled ‘Rethinking Entertainment - Philosophy As Evocative Fun.’ Øyvind took a swipe at some of the values he perceives underpinning contemporary purposes of entertainment: “propaganda,” “commercial success” and “escapism.” He asked that we take a “closer look at our priorities” and not settle for a “lazy” motto of: “if it turns me on, it’s good, if it doesn’t, it’s bad.” Instead, he invoked the “ancient erotic” of a quest for ‘truth’ and ‘wisdom’ at the heart of philosophical practice as a way to ‘rethink entertainment.’ Using examples from philosophy classes he’s run for kids, Øyvind argued for philosophy as “evocative fun,” as something which challenges our emotions and our intellects, and provides a form of entertainment that ‘forces’ us into a state of self-consciousness. He claimed that this approach could be a way to recalibrate entertainment of the future. 

[Quotes from Øyvind’s talk]



Spanish journalist Rosalía Lloret, Chief Digital Officer at PRISA News, rounded off the Dreamers’ session arguing that traditional Big Media organisations still have a fundamental role to play in the media environment. She claimed they still provide “social currency” by helping to shape what we talk about “around the coffee machine,” and what we care enough about to vote or demonstrate on. She added that in a time-starved “age of information avalanche” we still hunger for reliable “gatekeeping” and curating. That which selects, filters, analyses and makes accountable, arguing that this is the way “quality media” must continue to compete - with a reputation for “trust” and “authority.”

[Quotes from Rosalia’s talk]

The second session was packed with detail and example as our GEEKS got down to the nitty-gritty of issues in their fields and brought their own eccentricities and experiences to the stage. 




Teenager, Alice Barber, 17, opened the Geek session with a talk on the St George’s School partnership with a Zambian Orphanage in Serenje and her own experiences giving reading lessons to the young orphans. The school raises funds for the orphanage and each year sends a group of students to give reading lessons. Alice’s story of a young girl who told her that her most important possession was a science book because she wanted to be a doctor when she grew up, and help people, illustrated her point that listening to your inner child is about being less cynical, more caring and more open to the idea of positive change. 



Next up was Maurice Wheeler, Partner at specialist consulting firm the Little Big Partnership, who’s done significant work in understanding how to communicate with kid, teen and family audiences. Maurice’s talk was focused on how to talk to 6-12 year olds online and explored methods of understanding who they are, and what they need help with, in order to efficiently and sustainably engage with them. He broke pre-teen Web users down into three distinct groups: Control Freaks (those who like to collect, nurture and customise), Tribal Sharers (those concerned with how they fit in) and Identity Explorers (those who test out new identities with different audiences). His insights into these different psychological motivations and how they impact on the spaces kids inhabit online provided essential information for anyone seeking to communicate, and engage with, a wide range of kids.

[Quotes from Maurice’s talk]



English games writer Rhianna Pratchett, lead writer on the new Tomb Raider reboot, took to the stage next with a talk that referenced Oscar Wilde, entitled: ‘“To define is to limit” The future of the videogames writer.’ Rhianna shared horror stories about how she and fellow writers have been treated as “story robots” and “narrative paramedics” in a games industry that she argued “doesn’t know how to use them yet.” Rhianna called for an understanding of the importance of stories in games and an evolution in the understanding of what it means to be a writer in the field, by working out which limits to work within and which to challenge and change. Contrasting the way that writing and story is traditionally viewed as at the heart of an entertainment experience, Rhianna compared games writing to the body’s lymphatic system. Her talk was a ‘from the trenches’ approach to creative practice and packed full of useful tips and information on the multifaceted role of writing for games, including finding the “sweet spot” between character and information in a way that doesn’t break the narrative and serves the game, environmental storytelling and writing as part of a team. 

[Quotes from Rhianna’s talk]



Canadian Ana Serrano, Chief Digital Officer of the Canadian Film Centre and Founder of the CFC Media Lab (when she was 27!), took the audience completely by surprise by opening her talk with a song. That approach underpinned her case for courage in creativity and the ability to share, even if you risk failure. Ana discussed her 20-year career in education and as a producer of interactive works and focused on “rethinking” the role of “the creator” in participatory formats. Ana argued for a need to “cultivate tensions between: arrogance and humility; rigidity and flexibility and being open and closed.” Echoing those tensions with a call for movement between approaches, Ana concluded that to be a creator in the digital world requires: a shifting between self and others, feeling we have control and understanding we don’t, being confident in an identity but also open to change, and from dreaming in secret to sharing our thoughts.  

[Quotes from Ana’s talk]



Dane Peter Espersen, the Online Community Lead for LEGO Group 13+ age group, took to the stage to talk about passion. In a talk that frequently made the audience chuckle, Peter made a forthright case that if your business is based on something where a dominant technology has emerged you must “push to adapt or implode.” Citing his experience with LEGO fans, Peter talked about “the new campfires” of social media where the majority of communication is coming from people other than those working for a brand, and clever invention and play is on display. He said his approach is to enable those passionate people, to “make their inner fires run even wilder and more immense,” by trying to understand them and celebrate what they’re doing. Finishing with a funny viral featuring a LEGO Darth Vader, Peter urged brands to “drop their tools” and lose control in order to adapt effectively to the new media environment they’re operating in. He said: “Like fireman caught in wildfires sometimes brands need to drop the tools they normally rely on so they can make it out alive.”

[Quotes from Peter’s talk]



American designer and writer, Andrew Shea’s talk: ‘Designing for Social Change,’ opened with an honest admittance of a project failure that led him to asked basic and more child-like questions about how to work more effectively for positive change in communities. As a result, Andrew researched and came up with ’10 Strategies for Community-based Graphic Design,’ some of which he shares in his talk and all of which provide useful tips for creators. Using fun examples like fake flies etched in urinals to encourage ‘target aim,’ he tackled the wider issue of how disruptive design in our environments can change behaviors and break bad habits. Andrew argued for beginning work with an understanding of what motivates behaviours in order to design in a way that subtly shifts them for social good. He called for creators to “play with conventions and formats to make something original.”

[Quotes from Andrew’s talk]

Our final session featured our inspirational MINDSHIFTERS. Those famed for their revolutionary thinking and record of taking risks. Those capable of leading others through transformation and change, of altering perceptions and nurturing creativity. 




With no prior announcement and an introduction by Nicoletta that gave nothing away about the content of his talk, surprise guest Salvatore Iaconesi took to the stage. The 39-year-old Italian opened with an image of a CAT scan, with an area highlighted in green. He pointed to it and said: “That is my brain cancer.” There was a hush as Salvatore described being diagnosed with a brain tumour and his feelings of “being replaced by clinical records.” He shared how the medical profession, while doing an important job, had replaced him with a file and forgotten to answer some of the questions fundamental to his being: “Can I work? Can I have fun? Can I be creative? Can I study? Can I make love?” Salvatore decided to do something about that. He hacked his own medical records and uploaded them in an open format online, inviting people around the world to respond creatively and take part in his cure. Naming it ‘My Open Source Cure,’ Salvatore described how his website has elicited responses from doctors, patients, filmmakers, artists and more, including his tumour being given a ‘second life’ on the Thingiverse. He said that in a mere couple of weeks more than 50,000 different strategies to cure cancer had been sent to him, and through them he’s developed a strategy to confront his cancer. One that is not just about his bodily reality but also his spiritual welfare. He ended with a powerful remark that “no one commiserates me. Everyone is part of a human society and not having to deal with a patient or a diseased person. It’s real-life, human technology. This, for me, is an open source cure.” 

[More on Salvatore’s story]



Finnish Producer of Ideas, Saku Tuominen, was the next Mindshifter up with a simple message that he loves to “dream and do” and believes in being a “creative hard-worker.” Using the example of his hero, Walt Disney, and his belief that “if you can dream it, you can do it,” Saku charted a means of making people “better dreamers and better doers.” His talk described a cyclical process with three elements, which he argued are the building blocks of happiness: “What we’ve done, what we’re doing and what we will do.” Saku transposed that relationship of history, present and future onto the idea of dreaming, doing and recognising what you’ve done to begin to dream anew. Saku argued those who ‘dream’ without ‘doing’ remain unhappy, those who achieve their dreams but never change them stagnate, but those who reinvent and dream again have more likelihood of happiness. That cycle, he said, was “the ultimate meaning of life.” 

[Quotes from Saku’s talk]



The talks gathered more spiritual pace through Canadian filmmaker and transmedia producer, Josh Shore, and his rallying cry that “we’re in the wild west of the digital frontier where great tools are becoming available to us, and for the first time in history, the people truly have power.” Drawing examples from his work creating TV, transmedia and a guerrilla news network, Josh argued that there is a “conscious psychographic” eager for media that helps them achieve a “higher consciousness” and empowers through “direct digital democracy.” Reeling off some of the mind-boggling advances in technology in a “neuro-nano era,” Josh urged for responsible use of technology and media that seeks to make us more “conscious, productive and compassionate,” in order to find solutions to pressing global problems. Sharing how the loss of his father to terminal disease informs his creative bid to bring together this psychographic, Josh described four approaches to creating transmedia that makes a difference: “Breaking new ground, making it about the ethos not the brand, focusing on community not content and the movement not the medium.” 

[Quotes from Josh’s talk]



Next up was 16-year-old change-maker, Lillian Caputo, who passionately shared her personal experiences as a young citizen of Rome becoming aware of the need to improve  the environment around her and inspire others to do the same. Describing the impressive work St George’s School does as part of the ‘Retake Roma’ environmental projects, which aim to clean up the city, Lillian argued that by “reversing the trend of feeling powerless in our cities, you can start from your own backyard and do something which will make you feel like you belong.” Her talk was a clarion call, demonstrating how seemingly small actions can have wider implications and add up to dramatic cultural change.  



Belgian Digital Visionary, Derrick de Kerckhove, Marshall McLuhan’s translator, assistant and co-author, was the penultimate speaker on the Mindshifter stage. Derrick’s talk opened with an image of the fossil radiation of the Big Bang that’s his “mindshifting” desktop wallpaper. Derrick analysed the various kinds of ‘mindshifts’ we experience, exploring his own, some of the major ones in history, those in different cultures and then zeroing in on the mindshifts underway in a digital era, including: “sharing one’s mind with a screen every day, being affected by our digital unconscious, exporting the Self through digital publishing and living in an unending present.” He argued that digital transformation raises powerful questions about the extent to which we are changed by our technologies. He added that we must be sensitive to these influences in order to understand how we’re evolving and continue to shift our minds.

[Quotes from Derrick’s talk]



And so we arrived at our final Mindshifting speaker, and TEDx Transmedia’s very own American Mark Antony, Robert Tercek, who enraptured and enlightened the audience with his “7 Gifts for Creative Activists.” Robert, a pioneer of interactive content on every platform and Chairman of the Creative Visions Foundation, dubbed us the “luckiest generation” with the “freedom to pursue our creative ideas” but the “obligation to fulfill our dreams” and “wake up and take action.” Celebrating the power of participatory media and the ability to tell stories that “change attitudes and change lives,” Robert offered a “framework for creative collaboration,” through the seven learnable disciplines or skills: “the seven gifts you can give to yourself and share with your collaborators.” Most empowering about Robert’s talk was his revelation that these gifts are within us and at our disposal, ready to be tapped into and honed to the advantage of everyone. He began with ADVENTURE and the spirit of discovery and curiosity that in the process of testing you provides insight. He moved onto INTUITION and PERCEPTION, the “twin sources of the imagination” that pair what you’re “feeling inside” with what you’re “sensing outside,” to generate patterns and connections that enable new artistic expressions. Those gifts moved naturally into METAPHOR and JUXTAPOSITION, the process of noticing similarities and differences. Robert argued for metaphor as “one of the mind’s great conjuring tricks,” which works to search our inventories of previous experiences to find matches that can provide “design inspiration.” He contrasted this with juxtaposition, arguing that creating something new from two different elements “is the alchemy of creativity.” The sixth gift was EXPRESSION and the imperative to communicate your vision to others at the beginning of a project in a way that inspires everyone in a crew to build it. The seventh gift built on the sixth with COLLABORATION and a call to create clear roles for your team and “relinquish a little control to your co-creators” and your audience. He argued that enabling people to take part and play will provide “an endless source of ever-changing inspiration and ideas.”

[Quotes from Robert’s talk]

And so with that parting and uplifting message, we all set off on our own yellow brick roads to go forth and conquer again. 

Please let us know what you thought in the comments, so we can feed your thoughts into the preparation of the next event.  

Review by Hannah Wood, TEDx Transmedia Online Communications Manager. 

Pictures by Lisa Lemee and Matteo Piselli 

Dreamer, Geek, Mindshifter graphics by Robbie Brewster 




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