Lance Knobel, founder of the news site Berkeleyside.com, talks about “Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas.” Now in its second year, the two-day event this weekend offers animated discussions and workshops with nearly 40 leaders in a variey of disciplines, inlcuding Nobel Prize-winning biologist Randy Schekman and Adam Mansbach, author of “Go the F— to Sleep.”
Why did you start “Uncharted”?
The idea was to tap into the question, “What’s special about Berkeley?” What’s in the DNA of the city?” The notion of “ideas on the edge” is a great Berkeley tradition, so we invited great thinkers in an amazing array of fields: science, technology, social innovation, food, the environment, diversity, political activism.
Can you talk a bit about the style of the programming?
We compare our quality to TED talks, or the Aspen Ideas Festival, but the format encourages spontenaeity and surprises. You might see people wrestling with ideas in the flesh, as opposed to offering pat answers. At every session there will be time for questions; it’s not a place where you sit on your hands and listen in awe.
Can you compare this year’s event to 2013?
I’m a little sad that, because it’s so close to the election, we aren’t as strong on politicians as we were last year. But we have great people from the arts, like composer John Adams; his opera “The Death of Klinghoffer” recently was the subject of huge protests at The Met in New York. I’m excited about Mina Girgis, an ethnomusicologist and founder of The Nile Project. (The nonprofit encourages sustainability of the Nile River’s ecosystem.)
What do you see for the future of “Uncharted”?
We’re still pretty much single-tracked, with most of the people in one room most of the time. But we want this to be a three-ring circus that kind of takes over downtown Berkeley, and have fantastic sessions like last year, when Phil Bronstein and Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton spoke on “Are we born racist?” It was a great, deeply engaging conversation that ran overtime.
I’m embarrassed to admit that I’m not familiar with many of the speakers….
Don’t be. Part of our job is to find people who you haven’t heard of, but should have heard of. We want you to leave saying, “I came to see Randy [Schekman] or John [Adams], but was really blown away by someone else.”
IF YOU GO
Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas
Where: Berkeley Repertory Theatre, 2025 Addison St., Berkeley and nearby sites
When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 24-25
Tickets: $215 to $345
Note: Registration begins at 8 p.m. each day at Freight & Salvage, 2020 Addison St., Berkeley