TEDx explores meaning of ‘home’


The auditorium was buzzing with excited energy, a room full of people who were anxiously awaiting the start to a day dedicated to considering, sharing and discussing ideas.

On Wednesday, March 27, TEDxWaterloo was hosted at the Centre in the Square Theatre in Kitchener. A variety of speakers, each with very different backgrounds, took to the stage to discuss the theme  “chasing home.” The day was divided into three sessions. The first focused on the concept of “homeWITHIN,” the second,“homeTOGETHER” and the third,“homeBEYOND.”

TED is a U.S. based not-for-profit group, committed to“ideas worth spreading”from the fields of Technology, Entertainment and Design. TEDxWaterloo was formed in 2009 and since has established itself as a leader in bringing innovative ideas to a local level.


The opening group of speakers discussed ideas evolving around the topic of “home within.” This included discussions about the intimacy of the human brain and internal organs, ranging to the very personal topics of self-acceptance and identity.

The discussion was opened with Holly Painter, a young slam poet who shared her difficult and emotional journey to self-acceptance. Painter struggled with her identity as a gay woman in a small town. She shared her story saying, “For most, first love marks a coming of age. But for me it was an inability to come out and tell anyone her name, so she and I made new homes inside our closets.”

Following Painter’s empowering personal story, the discussion moved onto the topic of the brain, which as Chris Eliasmith, a neuroscientist at the University of Waterloo, explained, “Is perhaps our most intimate home.”

The first session concluded with the wit and humour of Mag Ruffman, a Canadian actor, author and contractor. Ruffman shared her ideas about the positive effects on the brain of hands-on work for children.

Aaron St. John, an audience member, was excited about the energy in the room. “I think the environment is really chaotic,” he said. “Everyone’s very excited; everyone’s so willing to participate with the speakers. There’s a very good sense of unity amongst the crowd.”


The second session of TEDx Waterloo was appropriately named homeTOGETHER, representing the complexities of human relationships and co-existence. This section took on a more sociological theme as speakers directed their talks towards how humans function together.

Noel Biderman, CEO of ashley.madison.com, spoke about the psychology behind human infidelity.

He explained that unfaithfulness is extremely age-sensitive, and that his website, often criticized for promoting cheating, makes us think about why we have these mid-life revelations and can help society recalibrate how we structure the home.

Sudz Sutherland focused on the assimilated home and is currently working with deportees. Noting that many landed immigrants eventually consider Canada their home, he asserted that we need to “look systematically” and promote citizenship. Failing to do so could lead to deportation and a life sentence to homesickness.

Mark Greenburg continued this theme of finding “home” together with his discussion on the difference between curing and healing.  He recalled many cases where children may have been “cured” from their disease but ran into many psychological, behavioural and societal issues in the future.  Although the impact of an illness can never wholly go away, Greenburg feels that modern medicine needs to focus on the long-term effects — trying to heal the family as well as the patient.


TEDx Waterloo takes home beyond the planet itself in the third session, homeBEYOND. During the final segment, speakers of great scientific backgrounds spoke about their contributions to modern science and how their findings will affect us on Earth indefinitely.

Alison Lister, a particle physicist, has spent years studying the molecules that were present moments after the Big Bang. She explained that science is never ending and that society needs more people with a natural curiosity for the subject.

Moving forward, Wade Larson introduced his company, UrtheCast, which is putting HD cameras on the International Space Station. Essentially, a visual of Earth will all be accessible to anyone who has an Internet connection. Wade called UrtheCast a mash up of Google Earth and YouTube and hopes it will provide a new perspective of the beauty behind our home planet.

Rob Manning, the man behind the missions to Mars, closed off TEDx Waterloo with a different perspective of the home. Manning has developed a deep philosophical view on humanity’s infinite reach for the stars and with a unique twist on the theme, questioned, “Could we one day call Mars our new home?”

TEDx Waterloo concentrated on the concept of the “home” and took it beyond the walls of buildings. Ultimately, the speakers gathered under the same conclusion: the individual who lives there determines what is a “home.”

Leave a Reply

Serving the Waterloo campus, The Cord seeks to provide students with relevant, up to date stories. We’re always interested in having more volunteer writers, photographers and graphic designers.