Last Sunday’s TEDxAmericanRiviera conference brought speakers and guests from around California to a “continuing conversation” on topics ranging from adultery to iPhone hacking to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

Held at Bacara Resort in Goleta, the event was an independently organized offshoot of the popular not-for-profit TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) which has as its motto, “Ideas worth spreading.” Talks from both the annual TED conference and smaller TEDx events like this are posted to their website and distributed worldwide.

Local and national leaders brought their knowledge and passions to life on stage through lectures three to 18 minutes in length. Former pro surfer and Santa Barbaran Shaun Tomson shared the painful story of his young son’s death to much audience acclaim. Engineer and Dos Pueblos High School parent Dr. Yulun Wang demonstrated a giant pseudo-doctor robot, reminiscent of Star Trek, that allows doctors to remotely view and communicate with patients. The brutal urgency of issues like overpopulation and overconsumption stood in contrast with philosophy and poetry, as speakers felt few limitations on their content.

“[TEDxAmericanRiviera] was to be around the theme of ‘Imagine if…’ … and focusing on the issues that we face in Santa Barbara,” said Eric Greenspan, co-host and founder of the company Make It Work. Although many of the speakers were friends of Greenspan and his co-hosts Mark Sylvester and Kimberly Weil (of introNetworks), he said that each nonetheless underwent a rigorous screening and selection process.

Renowned author and speaker Noah benShea opened the three lecture sessions with an inspirational video monologue on imagination. Speakers mingled with guests around the Vision Wall, an innovative six-sided cylinder on which attendees posted their names and dreams for the future. Throughout the day, guests were encouraged to help others achieve their visions and post their contact information on the wall. Dos Pueblos Engineering Academy seniors Chip Huber, Max Silva, and Claire Matthews constructed the tower, along with teacher and recent MacArthur grant recipient Amir Shaeer.

This was the second TEDx event held in Santa Barbara. The first, TEDxSantaBarbara, was held at UCSB this spring. Several guests said Sunday’s event had a less academic vibe, with a greater focus on social issues.

Next year’s event, planned for 11/11/11 at the Music Academy of the West, is already in the works. The hosts are keeping mum on the speakers, but say they want to recreate this year’s personal, positive vibe.


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