by Julia Choi, Passion Talks 21 Poster Session Co-Chair
Passion Talks 2018 was a time when we could meet face-to-face with relative ease. It was also the first year we had poster sessions, when people came together to have conversations about their passions, using poster stands and other props to invite others to engage – with the ambiance in a cafe, with gentle sunlight and the scent of coffee and cookies softly wafting through. What I remember most was that it was a beautiful hum of a multitude of conversations at once, in respect and curiosity, even though many who were dialoguing might not otherwise have crossed paths, or chosen to sit together over a meal. When Sherol Chen, the founder of Passion Talks first shared the idea that we should consider poster sessions to provide another medium alongside talks for people to share about their passions and ideas, I immediately recalled years of distilling research work to prepare poster presentations for scientific conferences. While engaged with cancer research, poster sessions for me were a primary way of cross-pollinating ideas between biologists, physicists, radio chemists, cancer researchers, and engineers. Our first poster session in 2018, reveal what is perhaps a new wineskin for image bearers to share and communicate, and see parallels to how Jesus walked through ostracized and oppressed communities to speak face-to-face, as well as, empowered disciples to go forth. Perhaps there are parallels also to how the many-to-many model is adapted into paradigms like decentralized finance/blockchain.
In response to misinformation, the surgeon general Dr. Vivek Murthy recently shared, “What we have learned is that information alone isn’t power. Information, plus trust is what creates power” (PBS NewsHour, July 2, 2021). Rather than seeking to over-cram one another with yet more information, statistics or “facts,” it’s my belief that we are only able to build trust with one another as image bearers when we are able to recognize one another face-to-face, and to see and hear one another in empathy. Through the poster sessions, we seek to create a space for mutual respect and earnest understanding. While it might be more challenging to meet face-to-face in-person, we have an opportunity to create virtual spaces to share in a format that no longer requires everyone to be in the same place or time zone, and to still hear and engage face-to-face virtually.
In 2020, many scientific and academic conferences moved from in-person to virtual in the wake of the global pandemic we have been experiencing using virtual spaces including Gather.Town. Similarly, we have a unique opportunity with this year’s poster sessions for cross-pollinating diverse perspectives and ideas. There’s research that suggests active engagement in learning may be more effective than traditional lectures (one-to-many format, Freeman, Eddy et al., 2014). It’s fascinating that Jesus’ recorded interactions with people were mostly where people lived most of their daily lives (over 90% of interactions were outside of religious spaces: out of 132 recorded contacts in the New Testament, only ~10 interactions took place in temples or synagogues), and they focused on stories and questions asked in eager curiosity shared in face-to-face conversations. And it’s notable that people of all walks – including those experiencing health disparities and other forms of injustice were where Jesus invested time. In the last chapter of his testament, John as a disciple summarizes, “Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written” (John 21:25).
It’s my hope and prayer that this year we’ll find more beautiful conversations for shared sparks of inspiration from fellow image bearers, using a new medium (virtual poster session engagement) as new wineskins. Similar to how tax collectors, mothers, daughters, fathers, sons, fishermen, paralytics, Roman centurions and Samaritans crossed paths and came away changed into a better form of themselves, we seek positive change through the convergence of a cross-section of those with passionate ideas and questions to share from around the world. Though we might not all agree on everything, we can gain a deeper respect and understanding for one another, and experience a mind-expanding time of encouragement through different, rich perspectives and experiences through conversations in our Passion Talks 2021 Poster Sessions.
- Official poster session: Friday, Aug. 13th, 2021, for 5 – 6 PM PDT
- “After-party” virtual mingle, optional session, continued from Friday: Saturday, Aug. 14th, 2021, for 7 – 9 PM PDT
Join us on August 13th and 14th for Passion Talks 2021. You can find out what else we’ve in store for you at this year’s conference, as well as register using the below link.