Technology, Entertainment, Design (TED), which is moving to Vancouver for two years starting in 2014, has announced its 21 2014 Fellows., I’ve excerpted biographies and links from just a few fellows, all of whom will be in Vancouver,
Andrew Bastawrous (Kenya | UK) – Eye surgeon + innovator
Kenya-based ophthalmologist who has created PEEK, a low-cost smartphone ophthalmic tool that delivers eye care in some of the world’s most challenging places, to those who need it most.
Steve Boyes (South Africa) – Conservation biologist
South African conservation biologist passionate about protecting African parrots and their forest habitat within the continent’s last remaining wilderness areas.
Aziza Chaouni (Morocco) – Architect + ecotourism specialist
Moroccan civil engineer and architect creating sustainable, built environments in the developing world, particularly in the deserts of the Middle East.
Shohini Ghose (Canada + India) – Quantum physicist + educator
Theoretical physicist who examines how the laws of quantum mechanics may be harnessed to develop next-generation computers and novel protocols like teleportation.
Erine Gray (USA) – Software developer
American software developer and founder of Aunt Bertha, a platform that instantly helps people find social services such as food banks, health care, housing and educational programs.
Shih Chieh Huang (Taiwan | USA) – Artist
Taiwanese-American artist who dissects and disassembles the mundane detritus of our lives – household appliances, lights, computer parts, toys, plastic objects – transforming them into surreal, animated “living” organisms.
Janet Iwasa (USA) – Molecular animator
Biochemist who uses 3D animation software to create molecular and cellular visualizations – such as how the HIV virus hijacks human cells – allowing researchers to visualize, explore and communicate their hypotheses.
Sergei Lupashin (Russia | USA | Switzerland) – Aerial robotics researcher + entrepreneur
Swiss-based engineer developing the Fotokite, an easy-to-use flying robotic camera. His work also includes unmanned aerial vehicles and autonomous cars.
David Sengeh (USA | Sierra Leone) – Biomechatronics engineer
Inventor of next-generation wearable mechanical interfaces that improve prosthetic comfort for amputees while simultaneously reducing costs, making the devices affordable in the developing world.
Shubhendu Sharma (India) – Reforestation expert
Indian industrial engineer restoring natural forests with his company, Afforestt, which offers a way to plant maintenance-free, wild and highly biodiverse forests using specialized afforestation methodology, research and cutting-edge technologies.
Robert Simpson (UK) – Astronomer + web developer
British astronomer who creates online platforms to cultivate a community of citizen science volunteers worldwide – crowdsourcing science. Projects cover a wide range of disciplines, from hunting for exoplanets to decoding whale language to mapping the Milky Way.
Bora Yoon (USA | South Korea) – Musician + sound architect
Korean-American vocalist, multi-instrumentalist and composer who creates immersive audiovisual soundscapes using digital devices, voice, and found objects and instruments from a variety of cultures and centuries. She evokes memory and association to formulate a cinematic storytelling through music and sound design.
I focused mostly on the people involved in science and technology but for more inspiration do go visit the TED2014 Fellows page. You can find out more about the Fellows program and find links to the application form here.
Earlier this year (2013), there was a great deal of excitement when the announcement was made that TED would be moving from its longtime home (five years) in Long Beach, California to Vancouver, British Columbia for two years starting in 2014 from the Feb. 5, 2013 Vancouver Sun article by Jeff Lee,
For nearly three decades the conference — known for its motto of “Ideas Worth Spreading” and its popular TED Talks interviews — has called California home. That it was considering leaving the United States to come to Canada was, for Klassen [Greg Klassen, the senior vice-president of marketing for the Canadian Tourism Commission and Antonson [Rick Antonson, Tourism Vancouver CEO], stunning. This was the Holy Grail of conferences, so big in fact that it might even be viewed on the same level as the idea for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics — whose birth, ironically, had taken place 15 years earlier around the same table.
“I turned to Katherine and said ‘I thought I was coming for Oprah. I never thought it was this big,’” Klassen recalled Monday [February 4, 2013].
To the uninitiated, bringing the 1,400-delegate TED conference to Vancouver may not seem like much. After all, this is an Olympic city that knows how to put on a show.
But then, TED is so rarefied, with its agenda of provocative leaders and speakers, that each of the attendees — many of them influencers and thought-changers in their own right — have to submit an essay on why they should be allowed to buy a $7,500 ticket.
The conference, one of the world’s most influential incubators of ideas about technology, entertainment and design (thus, TED), has become so popular that more than 1,000 of its speeches, which since 2006 are now indexed online, have received more than one billion views.
The main conference and a second global conference based in Edinburgh, Scotland, have featured everyone from presidents of countries and leading scientists to business leaders and social innovators.
In Frances Bula’s Feb. 4, 2013 article for the Globe and Mail, she described the response at Vancouver’s City Hall this way,
The Monday announcement caused a visible bubble of euphoria among city officials. “This is a game-changer for Vancouver. We’re known as a world-class tourism destination but this shows we’re breaking through in thought leadership,” Mayor Gregor Robertson said. “I’d like to explore how we can best leverage the opportunity to vault Vancouver into the spotlight and endear us to the leading thinkers who come here.”
While his [owner Chris Anderson] organization had been looking at various locales, Vancouver won their hearts. The city, where TED staff know several people already, was welcoming. (The organization, which has its main offices in New York, has had its conference-organizing staff based in Vancouver for a decade.)
As Bula notes in her article, there have been some criticisms of TED. Her Globe and Mail colleague, Gary Mason in his Feb. 7, 2013 article expounds further on that theme (Note: Links have been removed),
Until recently, TED – whose credo is Ideas Worth Spreading – enjoyed mostly fawning treatment from the popular press. Lately, however, the organization has been the recipient of some withering critiques. It has been skewered for lectures that are formulaic in design, that emphasize style over substance and that come across as little more than crass sales pitches for whatever book the presenter happens to be flogging.
Alex Pareene, writing in Salon.com, said the standard TED talk is modelled on a recipe popularized by author Malcolm Gladwell. Common tropes, he suggested, include oversimplified explanations of complex problems, idealistic solutions to said dilemmas, unconventional explanations for origins of identified vexing issues and “staggeringly obvious observations presented as mind-blowing new insights.”
The most devastating review of what TED has become was penned by a former conference presenter, Evgeny Morozov. Writing in The New Republic, he said TED was no longer a curator of ideas worth spreading but, instead, something quite menacing. “Today TED is an insatiable kingpin of international meme laundering – a place where ideas, regardless of their quality, go to seek celebrity, to live in the form of videos, tweets, and now e-books. In the world of TED … books become talks, talks become memes, memes become projects, projects become talks, talks become books – and so it goes ad infinitum in the sizzling Stakhanovite cycle of memetics, until any shade of depth or nuance disappears into the virtual void.”
All of this is not to say TED doesn’t have something to offer. Many of the lectures – including one by Sir Ken Robinson on how schools are killing creativity – are terrific.
Nathan Heller critiqued TED at length in a July 9, 2012 article for New Yorker Magazine (excerpted from the abstract; the full article is behind a paywall),
… Abroad, “TEDx” events run at a global rate of about five per day, in a hundred and thirty-three countries. [Describes the TED lecture of Lior Zoref, an Israeli Ph.D. student whose aim was to deliver a crowd-sourced talk, on the idea that a group of networked minds can shape a better product than an individual imagination.] TED’s closely governed editorial process begins with the concept: the conference’s “curators” feel out a speaker’s interests, looking for material that’s new and counterintuitive. … Critics tend to regard TED as a rogue force of idiocy, chasing ideas with a meat grinder while serious thinkers chew their leafy greens. … The TED talk is today a sentimental form. Once, searching for transport, people might have read Charles Dickens, rushed the dance floor, watched the Oscars, put on the Smiths. Now there is TED. The appeal of TED comes as much from its presentation as from its substance. Establishing intellectual credentials in order to break past them helps give TED a somewhat vaporous tone. … TED’s attendee list looks like something a Harvard development officer might hallucinate after huffing too much envelope glue. By most measures, TED shapes its style against the mores of academia. [emphasis mine] It’s a recourse for college-educated adults who want to close the gap between academic thought and the lives they live now.
Following up on the reference to academia, I found this June 18, 2013 Indiana University news release about academics and their TED talks (Note: Links have been removed),
Academics earn street cred with TED Talks but no points from peers, IU research shows
Though fewer in number, presentations by academics preferred by public
TED Talks, the most popular conference and events website in the world with over 1 billion informational videos viewed, provides academics with increased popular exposure but does nothing to boost citations of their work by peers, new research led by Indiana University [IU] has found.
In the comprehensive study of over 1,200 TED Talks videos and their presenters, lead author Cassidy R. Sugimoto, an assistant professor in IU Bloomington’s Department of Information and Library Science, and a team of researchers from Great Britain and Canada, also looked at the demographic make-up of TED Talks presenters — only 21 percent were academics, and of those only about one-quarter were women — and the relationship between a presenter’s credentials and a video’s popularity.
Data gathered from the TED website and from YouTube also found that male-authored videos on YouTube were more popular and more liked than those authored by women — possibly because research has shown that females are less likely to comment on YouTube than males — and that videos by academics were commented upon more often than those presented by non-academics. While YouTube videos by male presenters were more viewed than those by women, this was not true of the TED website.
“Overall, academic presenters were in the minority, yet their videos were preferred,” Sugimoto said. “This runs counter to past research that has argued that the public, because of a lack of literacy on the subject, has a negative perception of science and technology that has been fostered by the media.”
The new work instead finds positive associations with science and technology information and possibly, Sugimoto noted, some discerning characteristics in the public between presentations by academics and non-academics.
Co-authors with Sugimoto on “Scientists Popularizing Science: Characteristics and Impact of TED Talk Presenters,” were IU doctoral student Andrew Tsou; Mike Thelwall of University of Wolverhampton, United Kingdom; Vincent Lariviere and Benoit Macaluso of Universite de Montreal and the Universite du Quebec a Montreal; and Philippe Mongeon, Universite de Montreal. The new research appeared in PLoS ONE.
The work was funded by the Digging Into Data initiative, a multinational funding program to promote “big data” research. Teams must be composed of scholars from at least two countries and receive funding from one of a number of potential national scholars. The U.S. portion of this grant was funded by the National Science Foundation.
Here’s a link to and a citation for the published paper, which is open access,
Scientists Popularizing Science: Characteristics and Impact of TED Talk Presenters by Cassidy R. Sugimoto, Mike Thelwall, Vincent Larivière, Andrew Tsou, Philippe Mongeon, & Benoit Macaluso. Published: Apr 30, 2013 PLoS ONE 8(4): e62403. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0062403
Say what you will about TED, it cannot be denied that it has captured attention and has influence. I think it’s a good sign that it’s being criticized and critiqued, one doesn’t bother with the unimportant and the irrelevant. For anyone who’s thinking of attending March 17-21, 2014 in Vancdouver, (as of 2013, you needed $7500US and you had to write an essay), here’s more from TED2014’s program overview (this is the organization’s 30th anniversary year),
4 exciting changes
First and foremost, we’re moving to a spectacular location: Vancouver, Canada, one of the world’s great cities, combining a thriving culture of innovation, with glorious nature. There’s a new convention center there in the harbor that takes our breath away. It’s across the street from three terrific hotels, with more options within a short walk, and offers majestic 360-degree views of water and mountains.
Second, we’re reducing the audience size. You heard that right. From 1,400 in Long Beach, we’ll reduce to just 1,200 attendees. Every successful conference has to find a balance between scale and intimacy, and we think this is the year to nudge back a little smaller, so that in-depth human connection will be easier.
Third, we’re inviting back to TED2014 some of the best TED speakers of all time. Not necessarily for the main stage … but to join us in the audience, and contribute to breakout groups, lunches and dinners. TED2014 will feel like a glorious reunion, and a wonderful opportunity to connect one on one with the people who’ve done so much to shape how we see the world.
Finally, we’re pulling in some of TED’s greatest design talents to help us create a new kind of theater space. The convention center includes a beautiful open area that is perfect for us to install a custom-designed-for-talk-theater we have long dreamed of — one whose sole goal is connect speaker with audience as powerfully as possible. Nothing quite like this currently exists.
The TED2014 experience includes:
- Starting Monday at 6pm, the famous TED mainstage program full of 18-minute talks, plus music, comedy, dance, short talks, video and other surprises.
- TED Fellows Talks, where you’ll hear about projects and visions of the next generation of world-changers.
- TED University, where TEDsters share their own expertise, from “How to negotiate a term sheet” to “How to break a board with your bare hands.”
- Evening events, art exhibits, tech demos and other immersive experiences
- Caffeine-fueled conversation breaks between sessions
- Spaces to watch TED in an informal setting — on couches, beds, beanbag chairs; while blogging, tweeting, eating, networking …
- The TED Gift Bag
- Online tools for connecting with other attendees, before and after the conference
- TED Book Club mailings
Enjoy either in person or via the podcasts that will be posted. Finally, congratulations to the 2014TED Fellows.