Narratives of Changing Places: TEDx Seattle 2017

A violin rock concert, a professor “Calling Bullshit,” a fashion show and Native American chants all highlighted this year’s TEDxSeattle “Changing Places.”

TED, which stands for Technology, Education and Design, started recording its famed TED talks in 1984.

Attending one of the four official TED conferences has become harder due to the scarcity and the demand of attendees, but TEDx conferences are much more easily accessible. Although they are independently owned, Seattle puts on a yearly TEDx conference at McCaw Hall. This year’s topic was “Changing Places.”


Under the overarching theme of “Changing Places” were four sub-themes for each of the sessions: “Changing the Game,” “Changing the Future,” “Changing the Intolerable” and “Changing the Human Spirit.”

“Changing Places came about because of what was happening in our nation today and focusing specifically in Seattle,” said Elizabeth Coppinger, Executive Director and Curator for TEDxSeattle. “TED subthemes and the speakers that represent them are supposed to represent the emotional arc the of the day. The end is changing yourself as a person after seeing how others are changing the world in the beginning.”

Speakers in “Changing the Game” included Jevin West, a data science professor at the University of Washington and self-proclaimed “bullshit fighter,” responsible for creating the viral “Calling Bullshit” course offered at the university.

“To be sophisticated bullshit-callers, we have to call bullshit on our own side, on our own yard,” West said to the attendees. “We have to be bullshit-neutral.”

West gave lessons to become a sophisticated “bullshit-caller.” Thanks to all of the data that is shared across social media, West advised audience members to read beyond news headlines. To achieve this, bullshit-callers think more and share less.

Since emotions sway the ability to think logically, West also suggests to be wary of emotional hooks. Even though scientific data are reliable sources, axes manipulation of graphs can change the meaning entirely. By using proper judgement and being more aware, anyone can see through the bullshit and find the truth.

A high school senior, Aji Piper, also spoke at the conference. In 2014, Piper sued the Washington State Department of Ecology with seven of his peers, demanding that Washington state use science to mitigate climate change.

Even though Piper and his peers won, he expressed frustration that the ruling in Washington spawned little change.

“We got a super strong ruling for our judge and nothing happened,” Piper said. Piper will continue the fight and is currently one of the 21 other plaintiffs suing the United States Government in a Landmark U.S. Federal Climate Lawsuit because “my future was at stake and planting trees isn’t enough.”

In “Changing the Future,” we heard from Charlie Swan who, as a UW undergraduate, co-founded Pacific Hyperloop. Hyperloops are networks designed to transport people and freight at 700mph between cities via a frictionless sealed pod system.


Patty Haven Fleischmann, founder of Stolen Youth and Ava Holmes, co-founder of Fashion for Conservation spoke in “Changing the Intolerable”.

To stop child trafficking at its core, Fleischmann co-founded the Stolen Youth Coalition. The Stolen Youth Coalition has used a multitude of ways to stop child sex trafficking, including confusing and distracting sex traffickers using Chatbots and targeting traffickers using online ads that, when clicked, lead to resources to go for help.

Holmes tackled the “intolerable” from an angle of responsible consumption. Though fashion can be notorious for its waste, Holmes found a way to marry her passions for fashion and naturalism by starting her own fashion label with a focus on environmental justice. Fashion for Conservation is designed using only conservative, eco-friendly materials. At the end of her talk, she surprised the audience with a runway walk showcasing her latest designs inspired by the African wilderness.

Holmes grew up running around with bare feet, and even today she calls anywhere in nature her home. “This to me,” Holmes proclaimed, “is fashion with integrity.”

The last session, “Changing the Human Spirit,” showcased Northwest Tap Connection, who were responsible for the viral YouTube video titled, “HellYouTalmBout.” which was created to heighten awareness about black individuals killed by police. Northwest Tap Connection performed on the TEDx stage.

“This piece was derived to give them something to fight back with,” the dancers said as youth members were performing. “Hopefully, it gives back your future to your face.”

With so many changes happening, TEDxSeattle proved that being a part of any change has no age limit, can cross any field of study and is happening in Seattle. Whether the change is good or bad, it’s only limited by the individual that wants to stand up and fight for it or against it.

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