The theme of this year’s “first ever online, free, and interactive” TEDxOxford conference will be ‘Brave New World’ and will take place on the weekend of the 6th and 7th of February 2021. 

The format for this virtual conference will take the traditional model of a 15 minute ‘talk’ from each speaker but will add the opportunity for attendees to participate in a 45 minute “interactive zoom session” with them afterwards.

Now, the conference has now announced its headline speakers, discussing topics “from digital afterlives to environmental politics” and “self-driven wellbeing”. The speakers come from a diverse range of backgrounds including academics, entrepreneurs and even current students.

Perhaps the speaker with the most intriguing background is Petra Velzeboer, a mental health consultant who grew up in a cult. The title of her speech will be “Sort Yourself Out”, using her professional and personal experience of adversity to show the audience how to “practice bravery” when the world around them gives more and more opportunities to blame it for our predicaments.

Meanwhile, Elaine Kasket, a Psychology professor, will discuss the “digital afterlife” – that is, what happens to the online data of the deceased. Kasket suggests that these bizarre online profiles, which “walk alongside the living”, could provide a key case study in how society decides to allow media platforms to handle our data more generally. If we can prevent the likes of Facebook from becoming “the funeral director of the future”, Kasket will suggest, then perhaps we will also become better at handling the data of those still very much alive.

Another source of intrigue for potential attendees of the conference is that students from both Oxford and Oxford Brookes Universities will be speaking during the course of the weekend. Brookes student Rory Welsh will address environmental politics in “small island nations”, while DPhil Oxford student Zac Cesaro will raise similar issues when talking on “The Fuel of the Future”. Specifically, Cesaro will explore how the world can reach the IPCC targets to eliminate the “extractive flow of fossil fuels” by 2050.

Scheduled to close the conference is another Oxford student, Jennifer Zhou, an English student at Magdalen College. Zhou will use her expertise in English to explain to the audience why dystopian fiction is something of an “addiction” and how this can be channeled creatively to “build a better” world.

Those wishing to attend are encouraged to RSVP to the event’s Facebook page, as videos of the talks will be streaming there. 

Image Credits: Headway on Unsplash

Mitchell Marshall

Mitch (he/ him) is Editor-in-Chief for Trinity term 2021 as well as a long-suffering Sunderland fan, keen runner and general sports obsessive. His other interests include indie music, arthouse cinema, and coffee.