It’s true- For the first time in three years, I didn’t go to the open forum of Technology, Entertainment, and Design hosted at the University of Florida that is TEDxUF. I went as far as to fill out the application and be ‘accepted’ to the event, but when the speaker list was announced, and the website updated, I lost all interest.
2014 won’t be added to my collection.
As with most things, there wasn’t a single event or reason that convinced me not to go. I’ll start with the most superficial: the website is appalling.
As a web developer, I can handily say that for an event that contains the word ‘Techonology’ it it’s acronym, the site is a poor example of technology. It is a WordPress site (I have no problem with WP, in fact this very blog is in WP) but it was done in such a manner that I am convinced the author hasn’t a shred of understanding as how to use quite a few of the tools of the world’s most used, and simplest CMS. It breaks on resize thanks to their theme customizations, their SEO plugin isn’t customized, there’s no favicon, and for a site that would be having thousands of visitors in a very short time, there is no semblance of caching enabled. The most basic on tools are broken, or missing.
With my web dev rant over, I’ll attempt to focus on the substance of this years’ TED. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much substance. The speaker list was a spattering of people who could hop out of bed and walk to the event, bookbag in tow for their classes the next day.
I am not contending these speakers don’t have things to say, nor do I hope I come across as ungrateful that they would lend their voices to this event, but I feel like for an event that is held only once a year, with an attendance of thousands, a larger net could be used. While there is no ‘I” in TED, TED is implicitly defined as ‘Innovation’, and while Gainesville may have the capacity to innovate, it also has the ability to isolate us from the rest of our global society.
I’m reminded of a TEDx talk by Benjamin Bratton that is much more eloquent than I ever could be:
We need to raise the level of general understanding to the level of complexity of the systems in which we are imbedded and which are imbedded in us. And this is not about personal stories of inspiration. It’s about the hard, difficult work of de-mystification and re-conceptualization.
There are plenty of quotable moments in those eleven minutes. What I get from the talk is that TED, and TEDx events specifically should not be about self-gratification, about selling a personal story in exchange for pseudo-encouragement, or about the next innovation that makes life easier for those that already lead a plush life.
This isn’t my first rant about entitlement and stagnancy, nor do I think it will be my last. I only encourage myself to do good, regardless of visibility or personal impact. I hope others are similarly motivated.