Technology: An Amplification of the Human Force

Town Hall and KUOW collaborated for That’s Debatable: Technology Will Save Us at the Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute on March 24.  Huma Ali, a junior at Lake Washington High School and a TeenTix Press Corps editor, was in attendance:

When I first think of technology, I think of smartphones. But when I ponder it further, I realize that technology is infinitely more present and relevant than the entertainment device my smartphone largely serves as. Technology is in hospitals, roads, cars, and industrial machines. Technology is in my life, your life—even your dog’s life. It has enabled us, as humans, to advance our society.

And as such, when the statement “technology will save us,” is placed before me, I naturally agree. With access to the whole world at my fingertips, it’s confusing to think that it won’t save us. Because it will. Right?

It turns out that, prior to the debate, 52% of the attendees at KUOW and Town Hall’s event, That’s Debatable: Technology Will Save Us, thought so too.

In previous decades, it was widely believed that our means of transportation would, by now, be dominated by flying cars. While that isn’t the case, there is still a vast collection of innovative technologies that tinge our world—now, inventors can even construct impeccably life-like “people,” and are able to reproduce voices into customized “voice fonts”.

The evening’s main event took the form of a debate, which began with Elizabeth Scallon’s, head of WeWork Labs Northwest, opening statement arguing in favor of the assertion that technology will save us. Scallon laid out the drastic issues plaguing our communities: the need for 100,000 more doctors to accommodate increasing patients, lack of clean water, and broader, more controversial issues, like global warming. By highlighting these problems, Scallon introduced the idea that we could create solutions to them through technology. Alongside her, in agreement, was Vinay Narayan, Vice President of Product Management and Operations for HTC VIVE, who labeled technology as a “tool” and means of problem-solving.

After hearing the argument, it can be understood how technology will aid in saving us. But will it be the driving force, and the entirety, of what will save us?

Hanson Hosein, Director of UW’s Communication Leadership Program and President of HRH Media Group LLC, argued no, and subsequently pushed the question, “what do we need saving from?” Hosein asserted no matter what it is that we need saving from, technology isn’t going to do the saving for us, rather humans must save themselves. Hosein was not opposed to using technology as a tool—stating it was neither the problem not the solution, but an amplification of the existing human force.

Amy Webb, quantitative futurist and founder of the Future Today Institute, carried the conversation from such ideas, pointing out the lack of transparency of powerful tech companies in their work and intent. Webb focused on the fact that a minute few are making the decisions that affect the majority, and that this is the prominent issue within the technology industry—the lack of trust. How can technology save us if we are being left out of the discussion regarding it?

Before voting our final stance on whether technology is going to save us or not, audience members were prompted to discuss our thoughts with those sitting next to us. I spoke to a man working in the tech industry, who revealed some raw truths avoided by the debaters arguing yes: that no matter how rich one was, they would still lack the power, influence, and capabilities of major tech companies—so the idea that average individuals can create solutions to the world’s most prominent issues is a hoax.

The outcome: 72% of the audience members claim that technology will not save us.

Technology has enabled people to an extent in that they are able to use it in whatever way they’d like. As Hosein contended, technology amplifies the human force. So claiming that technology will save us as a blind absolute, may be the root of our downfall. In the end, only we can save ourselves.

Spring Poems for the Spring Equinox

Recently on the Town Crier, we were discussing a plague of Seattle Spring poets.

With the Spring Equinox now upon us, let us celebrate in verse!

Today we’ll be showcasing the poetry of Shin Yu Pai.

Shin Yu Pai was one of our four In-Residence for our 2018 Inside/Out season. One of the Town Hall events she curated was “Sacred in the Everyday,” an evening of poetry and conversation with Zen Buddhist and poet Peter Levitt. You can watch that performance here.

Without further ado some spring poems…

the uncarved block

the thing we think
we want, perfection

to honor a fidelity
to origin when all

was ever in a state
of emerging

the soft bones forming
a newborn’s skull

the fontanelle of the David’s
marble crown left undone

imperfection a wholeness
complete in and of itself

the gift

in another land
I ask permission to take
from the fig tree

my guide says
the Bhutanese believe
plucking a leaf

is akin to cutting
the throats of one
thousand monks

here, he says
let me do that
for you,

how is this one?

Trongsa dzongkhag nyagoe

the strong man from Trongsa
turns his face away

when the medical aide
plunges the needle

into my upper arm,
the emergency room

bathed in morning light
where he brings me

when I slip and lose my footing
near the irrigation ditch

on the path to Chimi Lhakhang,
a landscape painted in phalluses

in the grainy streaming video
I watch his tiny figure compete

in log dragging, wood chopping
heaving giant tires across a field

to secure an honor; the veteran
of war on the tour, our frailest traveler

falters, hobbled years ago
by a yacht injury, lucky to walk again,

he maneuvers with hiking poles
& when he tires, the strongman

carries the 235-pound grown-up
down the dirt path atop his back

to the edge of Sopsokha Village
when I turn back to look

he’s holding the old man’s hand
tending to those who can’t move

as quickly, walking by my own side
on the ascent to Tiger’s Nest,

he shares a dream of nearly finishing
engineering school, in his fourth year

to be expelled for an error made
in youth, I regard the tattoo on his

left arm that brings him regret
concealed beneath the sleeve

of his tartan gho, the pain
of old mistakes, to feel

one’s worth, the might to strain
forward into the emerging

And there has been a late entry to our spring poems. Here’s one written by Jordan Gauthier:

Tulips,

Two,

Lips,

To lisp,

A whisper,

My name,

Or my true color?

Ignite Education Lab – A Storytelling Event Like No Other

Town Hall and the Seattle Times collaborated for the Ignite Education Lab 2019 at the Campion Ballroom at Seattle University on March 11.  Lily Williamson, a sophomore at Shorewood High School and a TeenTix Press Corps editor, was in attendance:

Ignite Education Lab is a storytelling event like no other—and exactly what the education community needs right now. Hosted by the Seattle Times, and in its fourth year, Ignite takes the broad and hotly debated topic of public education, and confines it. A group of eleven presenters get exactly five minutes and twenty slides (advancing every 15 seconds) to tell their story. This tight format restricts various views of the expansive topic into a succinct package that really packs a punch, and forces the storytellers to really be creative.

This year’s event was based around the theme of special and specialized education, and many of the presentations took this topic to new and seemingly antithetical places. Shannon Hitch, a former school psychologist, described how learning that her child has autism caused her to speak differently with the families of differently abled children—now, she focuses more on collaborating with parents and the child’s abilities, rather than the child’s restrictions. On the other hand, Victoria Mott, a science teacher at Washington’s Echo Glen, a juvenile-detention center, spoke about how teaching incarcerated teenagers can be difficult but is incredibly rewarding. She states that “the ‘why’ behind why I teach” is continuously reinforced. Hitch’s and Motts’ talks, while seemingly disparate in topic, combine to highlight the intersectionality and importance of special and specialized education.

The stories told are made even more enrapturing by the people who tell them: all are compelling and well-spoken. Sometimes presenters would forget what they were saying, or a slide would advance at an awkward time—one woman almost started to cry midway through her set. But these little inconsistencies only added to the presentations, making the stories and their orators seem all the more human, and all the more relatable.

The most revolutionary thing about Ignite Education Lab is how well it portrays public education as something that affects everyone. Even though education is often believed to be only an important facet of the lives of students, their parents, and teachers, Ignite Education Lab shows that the public schooling system is something that regards an entire community. The Lab brings together a group of presenters that are diverse in gender, age, and race, from all aspects of a community—this year’s presenters included teachers, parents, students, and even individuals with seemingly no involvement in traditional schools. Mohammed Kloub, one of the event’s organizers, explains why the event is so purposefully diverse: “Getting just one perspective doesn’t show you how the education system affects people very differently… and the education system affects everybody.”

Ignite Education Lab takes a fresh approach in demonstrating the importance of equitable public education for an entire community. It breaks the stereotypical idea that the education system and it’s future is only applicable and important to students, parents, and teachers. Instead, Ignite sheds light on how education is a cycle, that impacts all parts of a community. The capabilities of education will be confined without everyone in a community being invested it—and attending Ignite Education Lab is the perfect way get involved in the future of education.

Stay in the Loop; Hear it All

As part of the acoustic upgrades taking place during Town Hall’s renovation, we’re permanently installing the Hearing Loop system in all three of our performance spaces. To give us a better idea of how a Hearing Loop works—as well as how this critical system supports members of our community who experience hearing loss—we turn to Mike James, who serves on Town Hall’s Board of Directors. Mike spoke with Town Hall’s Alexander Eby about his history with hearing loss, and shared all the reasons why he passionately supports the Hearing Loop’s installation.

Town Hall’s platform is built on the idea that everyone deserves to be heard—and for audience members like Mike James, this philosophy has never been more literal. Mike has lived with hearing loss since his late 30’s. Though his hearing aids are sufficient for smaller events, he’s encountered difficulty fully engaging with the lectures and performances he loves when they’re held in larger halls. But Mike is still a frequent visitor to Town Hall’s events, and he’s been able to fully experience our programming thanks to our Hearing Loop system.

“I’m fortunate enough to live right across the street from Town Hall,” Mike explains. He regularly attends Town Hall’s programs, and the Hearing Loop has enabled him to participate on any given night in impassioned community conversations, civic discussions, and science lectures. “The beauty of the Hearing Loop system is that it just…happens. You can sit down in the audience along with everyone else, and the sound from the event is transmitted directly to your hearing aids.”

Hearing Loop systems wirelessly transmit sound through microphones on the stage, transforming hearing aids fitted with telecoil receivers—like the ones Mike wears—into in-the-ear loudspeakers. “It’s the quality of the sound that’s the most significant thing. You’re hearing the program with yourhearing aids, so it’s adjusted specifically for your own levels of hearing loss. You can clearly hear what’s going on onstage, and at the same time you can be a part of the discussions going on around you.”

From his position on Town Hall’s Board of Directors, Mike has enthusiastically supported the permanent installation of the Hearing Loop system in Town Hall’s performance spaces. For other audience members experiencing hearing loss, this could make all the difference in the world. “A lot of people like me gave up on going to the theater or attending lectures because of the difficulty of hearing. That’s really overcome with the loop.”

To support audience members like Mike, we’re permanently outfitting our Great Hall, Downstairs, and the new West Room with their own Hearing Loop systems as part of Town Hall’s historic renovation. Accessibility is core to Town Hall’s design, and the Hearing Loop is a critical part of ensuring that members of our community who experience hearing loss will remain a part of the discussion.

“I was born in England, and I have relatives there. We’ve traveled together throughout Europe, and found that Hearing Loop systems over there are common. At museums, box offices—you name it, all of that is looped.” Town Hall is inspired by this broad accessibility, and we’re excited to be among the first organizations in our region to offer this technology to our community. “The great thing about Town Hall is that they’re one of the first institutions in Seattle to really pioneer this. It’s a tremendously positive change, and a real asset to Town Hall.”

To learn more about the Hearing Loop system, and about all the ways our new acoustic systems will transform Town Hall into a world-class performance hall, visit TownHallSeattle.org/HearItAll

Please considering making a donation to the project here.

Crooked Yet Strong

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Crooked Yet Strong

Fun Fact: One of the columns above our portico is misaligned (and has been since the 2001 Nisqually Earthquake). Don’t worry, it’s structurally sound, but this unique view atop the temporary scaffolding gives us a rare glimpse of this little quirk.

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Moulding Restoration

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Moulding Restoration

The historic moulding in the Great Hall is in terrific shape for its age. A few pieces require some restoration, and those that we’re unable to repair will be fully replicated. Our friends at RAFN construction carefully removed some of the existing plasterwork prior to demolishing the old elevator. Their staff is currently working on stripping the old paint and creating molds from the newly-cleaned pieces. This will allow them to cast new plaster elements to match the original decorative accents. Soon we’ll have newly-cast moulding that’s faithful to the graceful and historic design of the original!

When the elevator was added to the building in February 1960, the construction required some of the existing plasterwork to be cut or removed. With the new mold RAFN is making, they’ll be able to replace the missing or damaged pieces and restore the Great Hall’s plasterwork to the way it looked before the elevator’s installation nearly six decades ago.

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From Paperwork to Private Events

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From Paperwork to Private Events

We’re transforming our former admin offices into a brand new intimate performance and reception space. With the removal of the walls, this space will become a ~75 seat performance venue ideal for poetry readings, group discussions, or community gatherings. Our staff already hardly recognizes their former workspace![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

View from the Top

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View From the Top

The stained glass windows in our Great Hall have been fully removed and taken offsite for restoration, leaving us with an unconventional view of the changing leaves. It’s remarkable how quickly the renovation has changed the look of our familiar building, and there’s still so much more to go.

Like the trees, Town Hall will spend this winter laid bare and awaiting rejuvenation. Come next spring the decorative stained glass will return and our building will start to look like its old self again. And by this time next year the renovation will be close to completion![/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Robot on the Stairs

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Robot on the Stairs

The vomitorium from our lobby level to the Great Hall remained unused due to safety concerns. Although this stairway certainly lent some charm to the lobby, with the help of this excavator, we’d much rather use the space for adding 17 accessible new restrooms on the ground floor!

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