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Technology, Design, and the future of New Bedford

Mark Parsons

Mark Parsons onstage at TEDx, stage design by Dena Haden and Jake Ginga.


TEDxNewBedford brought a day of stories, ideas, and inspiration to the stage at the Zeiterion Theater last Friday. As a former organizer, I can say that it was lovely to kick my feet up and sit in the audience, after the bustle of being backstage last year. Make no mistake– a TEDx conference is a major production and it requires a massive amount of (unpaid) work to pull it off. So my thanks and gratitude goes out to this year’s team for making it happen.

Now, down to business: there were two talks in particular that seemed to be custom-tailored for our city. Both speak to the power of creativity, design, technology to transform a city. And both speak to the importance of collaboration.

DAT is the Future

Roger Mandle, former president of RISD, published scholar, and global consultant, believes that DAT (design, art, and technology) is our future. Mandle spoke about the importance of design to make things useful and relevant, and how technology needs artists. Without art, Mandle warns, design and technology can bring us threats (think bombs). Mandle emphasized that the confluence of design, art, and technology creates a forcefield of creativity. It’s hard not to think that New Bedford has exactly those ingredients and is thus poised to become the world’s next tour-de-force: think about the UMass Dartmouth CVPA, IoT Impact LABS, the Co-Creative Center, and Groundwork! all within a mile of each other.

Embrace Failure, Work Together

Mark Parsons has an impressive resume that includes founding the Consortium for Research and Robotics in New York City,  designing the Haiti Soft House for earthquake survivors, and sailing around the world for three years. Parsons spoke to the importance of failure because it creates unexpected outcomes. His experience installing soft houses in Haiti taught him that people want to help and contribute. At the Robotics Consortium, he saw the power of getting people from different disciplines into the same room: “Competition is great, but if you put an engineer, architect, and designer in a room they start talking & solving for the future.”

Listen up, world!

Perhaps I am just New Bedford-centric, but it is hard not to think that we are destined for greatness after hearing these two talks. New Bedford has always been a strong artist community, and now with the IoT movement firmly planted in the South Coast, initiatives like EforAll and our own little coworking space, it looks as though we have a distinct and exciting opportunity to become something great.

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