The TED annual conferences began in 1990 with a focus on technology.  But it gradually broadened its scope to become a venue for the presentation of new ideas in virtually every field of creative endeavour.       In June 2006, the talks (each always limited to about 20 minutes or less) were made available on the Internet at TED.com.  They immediately became extremely popular and the audience has continued to grow at a phenomenal rate.  It seems there really is an audience for ideas presented concisely and dramatically!  By 2009 these talks had been viewed 50 million times, and by June 2011 it was up to 500 million. There are currently 900 TED talks available online.  The TED concept caught on, so they started the TEDx series, which are independently organized, curated, and sponsored TED events that follow the format of the regular TED lectures.

Many educators use the TED lectures as supplementary AV material in their courses, so now refining (and shortening) the format to create free pedagogical tools is the latest elaboration of the TED concept.

Having had the nerve-wracking honour of giving a Nipissing University sponsored TEDx talk recently, I can’t begin to imagine the stress of having to present in front of a potential audience of millions.  Many TED presenters are more accustomed to wrestling with ideas alone or with colleagues than with playing the role of media ‘personalities’

It has to be said that TED is not without critics.  It has been accused of dumbing down complex ideas to what can be stuffed into 18 minutes, and of shifting the focus from the ideas to presentation skills.  One significant criticism is that the talks are actually too entertaining, and are often judged on that criterion rather than the value of the ideas. Here is one somewhat sceptical and considered opinion.

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One Response to 2012-03-30—THE TED PHENOMENA

  1. stephanie says:

    I’m looking forward to seeing your TED talk when it comes available. I think the topic fits very well with many of TED’s most popular postings.

    On a different note, I meant to post this link to your Man Friday about Magic Science, alas I was distracted. So, I’ll put it here. It’s an article in WIRED by James Randi. As you’ve noted, amongst his talents, Randi is also a great writer: