TEDxCity2.0 Event Review – Dream me. Build me. Make me real.


September 22nd saw TEDxMelbourne stage their TEDxCity2.0 event at Swinburne University’s Advanced Technologies Centre as part of TED’s global City2.0 day.

MC for the afternoon was self confessed nutritional overachiever, Warwick Merry, who kick started the event by introducing TEDxMelbourne curator Jon Yeo. Jon reminded everyone that the entire event was put together with the passion and dedication of volunteers.

City2.0 Jon Yeo 640x480

Taking a video stream from the main City 2.0 held at the TimesCentre in New York, we received insights on how to change a city for the better from New York’s Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. It starts by re-imagining the streets she explained. It is possible to change them quickly, inexpensively and for the city’s residents to experience immediate benefits.

“Streets are the one of the most valuable resource a city has,” she said. From introducing protected bike lanes (a first for the US) to changing the fact that the city was largely without seats (not good for seniors, kids or the fire hydrants people took to sitting on) Sadik-Khan showed what can happen when you “focus on quality of life and the efficiency of infrastructure”.

The next live stream talk was by architect Chris Downey. Downey lost his sight after brain surgery in 2008. He proposed that we use the blind as the “prototypical city dweller when re-imagining a city”. One outcome could be a rich walkable network of sidewalks for example. He shared the “outsights” (as opposed to insights) he’s gotten since losing his vision e.g. cities are great places for the blind – you experience kindness and blessings from strangers (“God bless you, man!” is a common one he gets these days, he joked), a reminder of our shared humanity.

City20 Chris Downey via streaming

The third speaker was Robin Nagle of the New York Department of Sanitation, who compelled us to think about who cleans up after us. Garbage collecting is one of the ten most dangerous occupations in New York – there’s traffic to contend with and hazards in the garbage itself.  Sanitation workers are “the first guardians of your health,” she said. They are out there everyday “protecting us from our dross”. She also revealed that some affluent city dwellers often throw away really good stuff. If you happen to find it in the garbage, you can keep it.

Reminding us of the more urgent situation in Detroit, Architect Toni Griffin showed us that all of Detroit’s vacant land put together is almost the size of Manhattan. The city is being re-visioned through actions like urban community gardens and small businesses deliberately choosing to move to Detroit.

City20 Toni Griffin via streaming

During the break, participants chatted and networked. Some of TedxMelbourne’s twenty volunteers appeared to ask the question of the day: What does Melbourne desire? Town planners, architects and builders all had their suggestions. “People in Melbourne want to connect, it’s the feeling of small city in a big city,” one designer added. Click the image below to see the full image set on Flickr.

City20 vox pop 640x284

In the atrium Swinburne students Emily Hon, Mitchell Phillips and Ben Kankipati were on hand to talk about their award-winning self-built electric Formula racing cars. They race as Team Swinburne and you can follow their success on their Facebook page.

City2.0 continued with a series of live TedxTalks and videos. Kate Dundas is a senior Landscape Architect and Urban Designer at Planisphere, she spoke about her passion for helping people find a connection to nature and food production. Melbourne was once surrounded by orchards and backyards, which have now been taken over by sprawl. With 63% of Australia’s population overweight or obese, Kate sees the unlocking of underutilised land as a way to create urban gardens, and grow fresh food in the city. Inspired by the 596acres project in New York, Kate is developing a Melbourne version to “reshape the planning system’ and learn skills of planting, preserving and cooking’. As she said, ‘the future’s bright and productive’ for a ‘fresh food city.”

With City2.0’s theme of “Dream me, Build me, Make me real,” the presenters looked at new ways of talking about the city and its data, and how to deal with its environmental impact. Canadian scientists Miranda Wang and Jeanny Yao spoke about their exciting research into a bacteria that breaks down plastics,

Greg More is a Senior Lecturer at RMIT University and founder of OOM Creative, a design consultancy specialising in data visualisation and digital design. His talk was about “the concept of seeing the city through data and how data can shape a better city.” Greg shared the staggering statistic that 90% of the world’s data has been created in the last two years. “The art of data visualisation can connect people with and through data, it’s a language to work with large amounts of data.”

Referring to the City of Melbourne’s Urban Forest project which tracks every single tree in the area, Greg commented that the city “through visualisation can deal with large amounts of information, and in turn our knowledge and adapt to the needs of the city.”

The final speaker Donna Gallagher, a marketing expert with a passion for digital mapping and spatial data, declared “location is the new black,”. Digital mapping “creates context to content, saves us time, money, effort and changes perceptions.” She curated the recent Art of Data exhibition in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane which was “fun, surprising” and explored the art in grids and maps.

Check our Flickr feed and Facebook page for image sets and videos as they become available. To see all our event photos on Flickr, check out our Flick photos

See our City2.0 theme blog posts:
Community Gardens of Melbourne’s north
Adapting our cities for one-person households
Havana’s Market Gardens 
CERES Global

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About the authors.
Van Roberts is a writer, editor and the director of Little Raven Publishing. She is driven by a passion for original, strong, quality writing.

She has contributed to several publications including Frankie, Time Out, The Pun, Lingua Franca, Sotto, Horror, Sleaze and Trash, Spineless Wonders and Australian Love Poems 2013.

Cece Ojany is a writer and life coach. Her passions are creativity and contribution. She is the Writers-In-Prison Officer at PEN Melbourne and founder of The Main Protagonist. Her poetry has featured at several events including Federation Square’s Light In Winter Festival and The Dandenong Laneway Festival

You can follow her at mashariki.wordpress.com


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