TED (Technology Entertainment Design) talks are mind-bending lectures by
experts and academics that range in topic from aquatic apes
to the artistic merit of video
. Some independent organizers have just launched a timely spin-off: TEDxOilSpill
a forthcoming conference on the Gulf of Mexico disaster that will take place in Washington DC. The high-minded lecture series is an unusual match
for the dirty, ground-level problems of the oil spill. Could these TED
talks propel good ideas into the desperate post-spill debate, or are
they an inappropriate waste of energy?
- For TED Oil Spill
Conference Fast Company's Ariel Schwartz writes, "The
inspiring lecture series tackles the unfolding oil-spill disaster. ...
The team believes that it can cover what the mainstream media cannot
because it is 'outside the scope of the major media networks who have to
balance out immediate access with ongoing relationships with local
officials.' For the event, the team plans to put together documentary
videos, slideshows, and perhaps a print-on-demand book. The expedition
only began on June 13, and already the TEDxOilSpill team has posted some
impressive pictures. We're looking forward to taking
a look at the rest of the multimedia bounty later this month."
TED Oil Spill Conference Politics Daily's Joe Keohane writes, "While the
junk shot tried and failed to plug BP's oil gusher with golf balls and
trash, an event called TEDxOilSpill will attempt to stanch the flow with
flattery, gimmicks and piety. ... This is where my ambivalence comes
in. ... This is the single most urgent issue facing America right now,
and it's a massively complex one. So why, if you're going to pull
together a conference on fixing it, do you use a gimmick that limits
each speaker to 18 minutes? ... Secondly, this thing is still happening.
Right this second. Yet we have to wait until the end of the month to
hear how we're supposed to fix it? That just doesn't seem terribly
helpful." Keohane also asks why TED is requesting up to $200 for tickets and
providing fancy catering for an event that's ostensibly about saving the
Gulf of Mexico and thus in the public interest.
If the conference's reason for being is to get ideas out there, why does
there need to be a live audience/venue at all? Why not throw the thing
together fast, shoot it in some borrowed studio space, and broadcast it
online? That way, the overhead would be next to nothing, and the ideas
still hit a wide audience, without the weeks-long delay for pulling the
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