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Innovation Celebrated at USC’s TEDx Event

Innovation Celebrated at USC’s TEDx Event
This year's theme was reflected in a comic book-style installation.

What do you get when you mix 1,200 curious audience members, 18 insightful orators, a poet, a DJ, a rock band and a circus? You get the explosion of sight, sound and thought that is TEDxUSC.

The primary purpose of TEDxUSC is to celebrate the art, film, music, research and technology coming out of USC while also hosting outside activists, performers and professionals as they share their innovative work.

The event was hosted on April 12 by Krisztina Holly, vice provost for innovation at USC, executive director of the USC Stevens Institute for Innovation and curator of TEDxUSC, and Derrick N. Ashong, musician and host of the Derrick Ashong Experience on Sirius XM’s Oprah Radio.

This year’s theme was “Actions Speak Louder,” as reflected in a comic book-style installation that doubled as a nod to the everyday superheroes who crusade for better ways of living and thinking.

It was a fitting beginning for the third installment of the popular TEDxUSC event organized by the USC Stevens Institute for Innovation.

In dramatic fashion, Bovard Auditorium went completely dark and an emotional voice declared that “the fight for a better world begins when you move out of the phone booth as Clark Kent.”

The voice was that of actor, playwright and national poetry champion Steve Connell reminding the audience who the real superheroes are. He explained that “it’s not heroic to take a bullet when you know you can’t be killed; being bulletproof is easy when you’re bulletproof.”

The program’s format, which requires speakers and performers to give the talk of their lives in 18 minutes or less, provides a look at some of the world’s most interesting technologies, ideas and projects. Just as important as the speakers, performers and demonstrations is the audience, which spent a full day immersed in conversation about what it was seeing and feeling. The audience members left with new friends, connections and ideas that eventually will lead to new partnerships, collaborations and business.

“I think what people are most surprised to see is that it’s not a conference, and we don’t have headliners,” Holly said. “It’s a day-long performance where everyone in the audience and everyone on stage are the players.”

USC was well-represented at the event, which included a presentation by USC neuroscientist Alan Horsager, who has developed a potential therapy for blindness.

Stephen Smith, executive director of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education, discussed the Holocaust following a screening of the student film Kristallnacht Sonata by Julius Robins of the USC School of Cinematic Arts.

Andrew McGregor MA ’09, founder of the Tiziano Project, which involves the instruction of new media journalism in developing nations, told stories about revolution in war-torn regions. And astronomer Jill Tarter encouraged people to be active participants in the search for signs of intelligent life across the universe.

Following the main program, the crowd moved to Town & Gown to visit the Interactive Game and Demo Lounge featuring art and technology installations, progressive media demonstrations and examples of USC’s top-ranked video game design program.

Rutgers University professor Aram Sinnreich announced his new alternative Internet called, a decentralized, ad hoc wireless mesh network that is universally accessible and censor-proof.

Also announced was a $1,000 prize that will be awarded to the winner of a TEDxUSC video scavenger hunt taking place on, an online video-editing platform conceived and developed at the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism. Videos must be submitted by Friday, April 29 on

TEDxUSC is the result of a partnership between the USC Stevens Institute and the elite TEDx conferences. The partnership led to the first independently organized TEDx event in 2009.

Because of the success of that pilot program, the institute created a universal registration system that gave other groups, universities and organizations an opportunity to produce their own TEDx events. Over the past two years, 1,600 such events have been held in more than 95 countries and 37 different languages.

“Perhaps what struck me most is that TEDxUSC is a real platform and launching pad for the university,” said Kelly Porter ’85, a member of the Board of Councilors for the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences. “You are showing the very best of USC’s ability to play a role in global innovation, and that is extremely important in the continued initiative to push USC into the ‘pantheon of elite universities’ worldwide.”

The videos from each presentation and performance at TEDxUSC will be available at

Innovation Celebrated at USC’s TEDx Event

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