The Current

TED Talks: "Ideas Worth Spreading" or oversimplified info-tainment?

Are some of the ideas in TED talks worth sharing or do they spread a little thin? We hear why some people really dislike the TED talks lecture series.
Technolgy, Art and Design professor Benjamin Bratton calls the TED talks model, among other things are ‘middlebrow megachurch infotainment’, 'placebo politics', and 'a recipe for civilizational disaster.' (<a href=’http://www.flickr.com/photos/seandreilinger/11484360676/’>sean dreilinger</a> via <a href=’http://photopin.com’>photopin</a> <a href=’http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/’>cc</a>)

The original Technology, Education and Design conferences (TED Talks) were brought about as opportunities to bring Big Thinkers and New Ideas to everyone, anywhere, on stage and online. Supporters would argue they still do. But critic Benjamin Bratton sees what he calls the TED-ification of information.

Yale university student and comedian Yaya Zinkow and her impression of a Perfect TED Talk.

If you're familiar with the lecture series, you likely recognize some of the clichés.

TED Conferences started in 1984 with the intention of bringing together thinkers from the Technology, Education, and Design fields. Since then, it's expanded to include conversations on urban gardening, self-esteem in the fashion industry and the power of empathy. TED's premise is: "Ideas Worth Spreading", and it invites thinkers to give what it calls "the talk of their lives" in 18 minutes or less. Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates have been TED talkers. Robin Williams once stole the microphone.

TED's next conference will be held in Vancouver, in March. Today according to TED curator Chris Anderson, more than 2 million TED talks are viewed online everyday. TED has also created TEDx, independently organized events that model the TED experience at a local level but have no official affiliation or oversight from TED.

Benjamin Bratton is a professor of visual arts at the University of California San Diego who specializes in technology, art and design. He gave a TEDx Talk last month on ... What's Wrong With TED Talks? He calls the TED model, among other things: "middlebrow megachurch infotainment" and "placebo politics."

Benjamin Bratton was in La Jolla, California.

John Bates is an executive leadership and communications coach who helps craft TED talks. He has been working in TED talks for 5 years, and coaches both participants and TEDx organizers. He was in Escondido, California.

The curator of TED, Chris Anderson declined our invitation, but here is his response to criticism of TED in the UK's Guardian newspaper.

What do you think of TED Talks? Tell us about TED Talks that have changed or challenged you... or do you think they are oversimplified info-tainment?

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This segment was produced by The Current's Shannon Higgins, Karin Marley and Pacinthe Mattar.

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