TEDxFoggyBottom 2018

TEDxFoggyBottom presents: Fear Itself

Each year, our theme provides a lens through which our audience, speakers, and team engage with the "ideas worth spreading" on our stage. Every day, we are faced with new challenges that force us to re-examine our conceptions of fear. This is why we are working hard to curate our best event yet, a full-day conference with sixteen speakers, 1300+ attendees, and interactive exhibits that will empower you to meaningfully engage with these challenges.

For our April 14, 2018 conference, our Executive Board aimed to set a theme that would present ideas that re-examine the concept of fear and present talks that cast it in different lights: as a hindrance, a motivator, a biological response, a source of entertainment, and even as an immovable given. We hope we see you at Lisner Auditorium in April! Read below to see what Fear Itself means to each of our Directors.


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This year, more than ever before, we are thinking about our theme for TEDxFoggyBottom in the present tense. What is happening right now? What might happen today that will impact tomorrow? How might the ideas sparked in this moment bring us into the future? While some might say we are in a tumultuous time, there has also been no greater period for innovation and optimism in our society. We have found ourselves in a place where we can use our insecurities, our anxieties, and our fears to push us forward.

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At first, I was apprehensive about using fear as the central theme of our conference. I was not sure how people would react, whether or not it would be enticing to our attendees. However, I will be the first to admit that the framework with which I was initially imagining our conference using this theme was too narrow. Through weeks of discussion, I began to realize how integral fear is to our daily lives. It is not just a thing to shy away from, rather it is a concept that shapes our decisions, evaluations, impressions, memories, relationships, and aspirations. By choosing fear as our theme, we are enabling our audience to connect with our presenters in order to form their own unique interpretations and understandings of it. My initial hesitations have been assuaged and I am beyond excited to work on this year's conference, helping to bring to light these necessary topics.  


I have had a tendency to be afraid of fear, to see it as a blockade. I did not give it the credit it was due for the role it played in pushing me through barriers of which I would have rather waited outside. Fear certainly is constant and inevitable, but the space it fills does not have to be negative. So here we examine the underrated state in its full capacity as we give our attention to fear itself.


At the start of this year, I sent an email to my team describing what 'Fear Itself' means to me. At the time, I was thinking about concrete representations of fear: conquering it, succumbing to it, fear of the unknown, of change, of others. Since then, it's been incredible to watch our team blend their passions, curiosities, and their own interpretations of 'Fear Itself' to bring a truly unique lineup of speakers and performers to center stage. Collectively, we've begun to think of fear as a given, working through fear and not around it as we spent late nights discussing a vision that wasn't always within grasp. Often, we've found, the challenge is to keep functioning even when fear is a constant condition of living.


When we started to think about this year's theme, we kept discussing either directly or indirectly the idea of fear. I started to think about the ways in which we describe experiencing fear: as an emotion, a chemical reaction, a flashbulb memory. But no categorization seemed to fully encapsulate the visceral and inevitable nature of fear. Fear eludes classification because it exists within the inescapable dichotomies in all of our lives. Between love and hate, trauma and joy, history and modernity lives fear. Fear itself reclaims that complexity, and compels us to question what happens after we accept that fear is so much more than simply inevitable.


When we first began discussing our theme for this year, we found ourselves continually circling back to the uncertainties and anxieties that arise when people are faced with the unknown. But even as we discussed these themes, we all seemed afraid to approach the idea of fear directly, despite its intrinsic connection to the topics being debated. Ironically, we had become so afraid of the connotations of the word fear that we were preventing ourselves from asking the questions we wanted to ask, and ultimately, preventing ourselves from exploring the ideas that we wanted to explore. So what better way to embrace that fear than to bring it center stage? Fear is a human emotion like any other; nuanced, complex, and worthy of examination. To deny that is to deny ourselves exposure to ideas and discussions that could change our lives. 'Fear Itself' is a declaration: We live with fear, not in it.


Fear is the bedrock of all society; it is a basic human instinct. Fear informs our most fundamental decision making processes, and initiates ripple effects that have lasting consequences. This sort of trickle down scenario replicates itself throughout our everyday lives and informs not only the decisions we make today but the ones we’ll make tomorrow. From art, to education, to technology, to relationships fear guides how we receive and perceive information. It is also the mysterious impact those split-second decisions have on our future selves. When it is something so ever-present, how can we not talk about it - in all its forms?


Fear is a huge part of what makes us human. When originally discussing potential themes, we knew we wanted to focus on something that would both unite and relate to a diverse group of people but also evoke individuality. To me, fear is a perfect example of this. Taken literally, fears and phobias are unique to every individual; to me, skydiving is my worst nightmare given my fear of heights, yet for someone else, they can’t wait for that rush of adrenaline. However, no matter these differences, every single person knows what it’s like to be afraid. It’s an element of life that immediately incites compassion and empathy. This year, we want to explore what fear means in all of its forms. Fear can empower us or impede us; how do we know when to overcome it or give in to it?

To learn more about our 2018 speakers, conference theme, tickets, and event information, click here. Thank you for taking this journey with us this year — we are just getting started. 

The TEDxFoggyBottom Team