Day 3: A Day Of Thought Leadership
By Sam Peshek, Texas A&M University Marketing & Communications
Texas A&M University researchers and internationally-known subject matter experts gathered on the same stage Tuesday for a day of high-level panel discussions at the Courtyard Marriott in downtown Austin during SXSW.
Human Rights Policy in a Connected World
Former United Nations Ambassador John Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador-at-Large Rabbi David Saperstein, Texas A&M University President Michael K. Young and BBC journalist Kasia Madera kicked off the event with a sprawling dialogue on human rights initiatives in the digital age.
The panelists, all of whom served at the same time on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom earlier in their careers, agreed that social media as a tool for societal change is a double-edged sword.
For Young, the power to spread information and organize movements through social media doesn’t always have the desired outcome.
“I think precisely because this information is shared rapidly, there’s a certain set of expectations it sometimes raises,” Young said. “The Arab Spring is an example of that where you have expectations raised by the fact that you are seeing the revolution, seeing people out in the streets and seeing people share information on social media makes you think you have this new power and then it turns out in many cases it’s disappointing in the sense that you don’t have the capacity to change things. Through social media you can attain information but you don’t necessarily have the force or power to bring about change to the fundamentals of the government.”
Young also said the values of a nation determine the outcomes of human rights campaigns in the digital age. He pointed to Russia as an example where portions of the population may be indifferent to suppression of information flow as long as it bolsters the nation’s standing on a global stage.
“It’s not a question of information flow, it’s a question of values,” Young said. “I think sometimes we assume that if we all have the same set of information we’ll arrive to the same conclusions.”
Bolton looked at recent protests in Iran as an example of how communication technologies can be used against citizens.
“State radio and TV were able to respond very quickly to make sure [protesters] weren’t able to communicate with each other,” Bolton said. “The means that allow communication for some purposes can be used for repression, too.”
When asked if he thought the U.S. was imposing its values on other nations through such technologies, he disagreed and said people do it within their own population, and often along religious lines.
“I think what has happened around the world as communications technologies have spread, it actually becomes possible for people to differentiate themselves more,” Bolton said. “They say ‘what distinguishes ourselves from the country next door?’ and it turns out in some cases its religion, or pride in religion.”
In nations where information flow to the outside world are suppressed by the government, Saperstein believes that the United States has not made it a high enough priority to break through information firewalls and create pipelines for citizens to communicate.
“There’s a real need for the United States and other democratic countries to be working harder on firewall circumvention, so that countries like China cannot shut off information,” Saperstein said. “The United States spends too little money really developing mechanisms in firewall circumvention and it really needs to be a priority of what we’re doing. Otherwise we’re going to see a monopoly by these governments providing their own information and shutting off other information. There cannot be a greater priority for us in terms of diplomatic efforts.”
The Community, Culture and Science of Barbecue
Critically acclaimed author and cook Jess Pryles led a Texas’ BBQ culture and the techniques, seasonings and cuts that drive the culinary art. Pryles was joined on stage by the meat scientists and pitmasters behind Texas A&M’s Camp Brisket Jeff Savell, Davey Griffin and Ray Riley.
What a great pleasure and honor to be involved in my first SXSW panel with the three brisketeers from TAMU! Thanks @texaslifestylemagazine for the pic. #TAMUatSXSW https://t.co/ftmQgzTQYv pic.twitter.com/PzreWHzTuQ
— Jess Pryles (@jesspryles) March 13, 2018
Together they took a deep dive into how to buy the best brisket, tips on pre- and post- cooking fat trimming, the magic of meat resting and grass fed versus corn fed beef, to name a few topics.
Future Society: AI & Generative Systems
For Emmy-winning TV host and digital lifestyle expert Mario Armstrong, there is no better time than the present for entrepreneurs to blaze their own trails with emerging technology or create their own.
Amazing panel. Sooo many possibilities. Great to be a part of a panel that represents an academic & student body that Never Settles – like our show 🙂 https://t.co/ItCx1L4Gzt
— Mario Armstrong (@marioarmstrong) March 13, 2018
“When there is something so new in your mind, you don’t need to wait for other examples because you can set the examples,” Armstrong said. “If you can start with broad strokes and go with more action than theory, the market is wide open. It’s up to you to push on your passion. The passion is what gives you the resilience to get you where you want to be.”
Armstrong was joined by Texas A&M College of Architecture professors Philip Galanter, Ann McNamara and Texas A&M Soft Interaction Lab Director Dr. Jinsil Hwaryoung Seo for a wide-ranging discussion on the roles artificial intelligence, virtual reality and generative systems will play in the everyday lives of humans in the not-so-distant future.
Disrupting Traditional Healthcare with Innovation & Technology
At a time when healthcare is facing new challenges and opportunities spurred by advancements in technology, Texas A&M’s top health science experts offered SXSW goers a glimpse into a more affordable, accessible future.
Carrie L. Byington, dean of the Texas A&M College of Medicine, senior vice president of the Texas A&M University Health Science Center and vice chancellor for health services at the Texas A&M University System; Dr. Gerard Coté, director of the Center for Remote Health Technologies and Systems and a world-wide expert in optical sensing for diagnostic and biomedical monitoring applications; and Roderic I. Pettigrew, CEO of Engineering Health (EnHealth) and executive dean for Engineering Medicine (EnMed), joined moderator and healthcare industry expert Benjamin Glenn in showing that a healthier future is within reach thanks to Texas A&M initiatives.
The panel discussed how doctors and patients talk about healthcare has changed along rural and urban lines with a growing and evolving population.
For Byington, it has presented a new teaching opportunity in addressing how doctors and patients interact long-distance through video chats.
“One of the great challenges as the dean of a medical school is how can I teach them to develop a therapeutic relationship across a screen,” Byington said.
She added that Texas A&M not having its own hospital means students will learn how to conduct work outside of the traditional hospital setting – an advantage Aggie medical students have over others across the country.
“Everything has changed in the United states for healthcare delivery and payment,” Byington said. “It used to be that the hospital was the money generator, and now care is being pushed out to people in their homes. This is a really exciting time.”
She said this revolution in doctor-patient interaction will likely result in major savings for those who receive care.
Cote said that the future of medicine is in personalization for the patient, which likely means wearable or implanted technology that can collect vital biometric data and feed it to physicians in real-time.
“We’re looking at smart, connected health,” he said. “The key is sending the right data to the right person at the right time. You want smart algorithms to alert the right person, and they have to work together with sensor technology.”
Thanks to the groundbreaking Texas A&M program EnMed, a generation of hybrid physician-engineers, called “physicianeers,” will be able to bridge this gap between emerging technology and patient care. Pettigrew sees these physicianeers who have come of age as digital natives who are well equipped to not only develop tools and techniques for administering care, but think about how healthcare can be improved and made more cost effective by implementing emerging technologies.
“Engineers will know medicine first hand. Their inspiration for solving problems will come from encountering problems in the hospital and medical segment, and they will go out in different ways to solve real world problems,” Pettigrew said.
“Future Proofing” Disaster Recovery
The devastation wrought upon the Texas coast by Hurricane Harvey is still being addressed more than seven months later, but that has not prevented the Texas A&M University System and Texas lawmakers from mitigating or even preventing damage from the next super storm.
Commission to Rebuild Texas Chair and Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp, journalist Roland S. Martin, Texas Sen. John Whitmire (D-Houston), and State Rep. Geanie Morrison (R-Victoria) laid out the challenges that lie ahead for transforming a state still recovering from Harvey into one that can withstand another devastating weather event.
The illuminating dialogue focused on five areas of response and future-proofing: quantify the suffering Texans are currently experiencing, assessing the unexpected hurdles, developing an infrastructure plan for the future, striking a balance between state and local control and fraud and scam prevention.
For Sharp, the first major step that was taken toward future-proofing after Harvey was assigning the robust network of Texas A&M extension agents to work with local governments who ultimately decide how to use relief and future-proofing funds on a daily basis to ensure they know how to respond in a leadership capacity to a disaster.
“They’re the ones who have to make the choice,” Sharp said. “At the end of the day all of those structures, whether you’re building dams or you’re building levees or razing houses, all are made by county judges or mayors or whatever your jurisdiction is.”
For Whitmire, too much local governance and lack of government funding and planning could hinder recovery and future-proofing efforts long-term
“Less government is catching up with us,” Whitmire said. “We had one of the biggest disasters in the state’s history. Why didn’t we call a special session? Why were we calling committee meetings in Houston and not on the Senate floor? I would like to emphasize when we ask how we do it differently next time, we have to have someone in charge, whether it’s a fine institution like Texas A&M or another entity, somebody has to be in charge. It can’t be a part-time legislature with district and county judges, because local control governs, but maybe local government doesn’t work when you have a disaster.”
Morrison said that while legislators and local governments have a flurry of decisions to make as the recovery process rolls on, residents in disaster areas like Rockport are facing issues that compound by the day.
“We still have a lot of people that don’t have a place to live,” Morrison said. “Not only do you have homes destroyed but you have apartments destroyed along with new hotels and old hotels. Businesses are reopening but they don’t have anyone coming to work because they don’t have a place to live. Then you have workers coming in to clean up, and there’s no place to stay. People are being forced to move further and further away, and sometimes they won’t come back.”
Day 2: Dive Into Texas A&M’s Global Impact
Texas A&M followed up its 2017 debut at the SXSW trade show at the Austin Convention Center by offering more opportunities to experience Texas A&M’s research at the “24-Hours Of Global Impact” virtual reality experience.
High visibility on a global stage
The 13-foot-tall exhibit stood above the hundreds of global brands and institutions on the exhibit floor and offered virtual tours of campus, 360 degree videos of Texas A&M researchers abroad and opportunities to win apparel prizes.
The booth, which is open through Wednesday, March 14, was staffed by a group of 64 rotating Texas A&M students who could share Texas A&M’s story directly with visitors as they guided them on their virtual tours.
Building upon last year’s 360 video playlist, which took exhibit visitors to the coral reefs of the island nation of Palau and the JOIDES Resolution research vessel and the Panama Canal, Texas A&M’s emerging media and social media teams added Germany, Kazakhstan London, Peru and NASA as virtual destinations.
BBQ and live music in the heart of Austin
First-time and returning Texas A&M x ’47 Discovery House visitors were treated with authentic Texas BBQ samples courtesy of Texas A&M BBQ Genius Partner Stiles Switch BBQ and a surprise appearance by “Hardcore Carnivore” cook and author Jess Pryles.
Pryles will team up Monday with Texas A&M Distinguished Professor Dr. Jeff Savell, AgriLife Extension Service Meat Specialist Dr. Davey Griffin and Rosenthal Meat Center Manager Ray Riley for the Community, Culture and Science of Barbecue panel at the Courtyard Marriott Rio Grande Ballroom.
— ’47 (@47) March 14, 2018
Live music from local and nationally-known artists poured out into the street from the Discovery House again Tuesday.
Texas artists Harley Hall, Western Youth, Cody Jasper and Super Doppler set the tone for the day before headliners Gus Dapperton and Snoh Aalegra played for a packed Clive through the evening.
Day 1: Welcome To The Texas A&M x ’47 Discovery House
Texas A&M University kicked off its four-day stay in Austin for SXSW Sunday at the Texas A&M x ’47 Discovery House to showcase its storied history as a land-, sea-, and space-grant institution with an afternoon of immersive sensory experiences and live music.
Exploring land, sea and space
Texas A&M and apparel partner ’47 transformed local favorite Clive on Rainey Street into the Discovery House, where visitors could experience Texas A&M as a land-, sea-, and space-grant institution through animated graphics and 3D displays in three areas of the venue.
Upon entering the location, visitors had the opportunity to launch themselves into the cosmos in the main bar space, be submerged in research at the mescal bar, or roam through the wilderness on the patio.
During their journey through the house, guests experienced Texas A&M food security research first-hand on the Clive patio space with complimentary coffee with the help of the Texas A&M Center for Coffee Research & Education, which helps protect and grow the global coffee industry.
Outfitting Austin with ‘47
Upon entering the venue, guests had a chance to receive special edition Texas A&M at SXSW apparel, which featured three different characters that represented Texas A&M’s status as a land-, sea-, and space-grant institution, or a Texas A&M hat.
In order to get their hands on swag, guests had to fill out a blank passport with stamps at land, sea and space locations. Only upon completing their journey around the Clive could they get their hands on Texas A&M x ’47 swag.
Aggies in the live music capital of the world
True to SXSW’s live music tradition, Texas A&M in partnership with ’47 and media partner Highsnobiety rolled out the first day of a two-day lineup of on-the-verge local musicians and chart-trending headliners.
The sound stage featured DJ sets from ORANGE CALDERON, opening acts from local talent Forty Thieves, Justin Langston and Kimberly Dunn, and headline performances by Injury Reserve and Joey Purp.
The Discovery House, located at 609 Davis Street will be open again Monday, March 12 from 11 a.m. to 12 a.m. The experience is free and open to the public for guests 21 and over.
Introducing The #TAMUatSXSW 2018 Live Blog
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Visit the official Texas A&M at SXSW website for scheduling and location information, activation details and multimedia resources for reporters.
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