I realize I might be one of the few individuals in this country to not be in love with TED (and TEDx) Talks. It seems that people swarm to them on YouTube like ants to a summer picnic, but if I’m being honest, they generally don’t “do it” for me. I wish I were an English major and could more poetically articulate what it is that makes me want to cringe when I see a TED Talk in the line up of Weekly Resources in GEDI or when I see them slathered all over my Facebook news feed. Since I am not gifted in my ability to write gripping, page-turner text, I will attempt to highlight below what I ‘think‘ it is that irritates me about the TED (and TEDx) hype.
1. “Ideas Worth Spreading” – According to who? By simple invitation to/inclusion at a TED event the audience is already set up to assume that whoever is speaking it going to deliver something incredibly wonderful and unique which therefore must be passed along. What ‘ideas’ are deemed “unworthy” to be shared and therefore not spread by the folks in charge of TED events? Generally the ideas seem never to be very progressive or thought-provoking, but all remain in “safe” territory.
2. Format- Along with the slogan, the format really only allows for ideas to be spread from one “chosen” individual to the passive audience. How about an “Ideas worth discussing or debating” type set up. I don’t like that the format implies this person is correct and I should take what they say and run with it because some other people decided it was a “superb idea”.
3. Accuracy- I like science and hard data. I don’t like opinion pieces not backed up by rigorous experimental observation/design and peer-reviewed literature. TED talks are not always peer reviewed for accuracy and this is dangerous. It simplifies complex scientific mechanisms down to quotable snippets that average-joe’s with no context specific background take and run with as fact. Because of that we risk spreading half-truths and inaccuracies. Evidence provided at TED talks tends to be along the lines of “I once had this experience” and therefore allow me to generalize and bash our entire education system.
4. Joining In- Like most new fads and trends there seems to be a need to get wrapped up in it just to be part of the group. This only serves to contribute to a sheep-like, follow the leader, don’t think and analyze for ourselves mentality. Are all ideas worth spreading? No. Do all talks deserve to end in a standing ovation? NO …yet the vast majority at TED do. Probably a few people stand and then out of social pressure/instinct the rest stand whether they originally thought the talk stand worthy or not. Folks watching these videos for free later on the Internet maybe just don’t like one or a talk doesn’t resonate with them – yet the carefully planned audience panning shows members of society being so engaged, nodding along, giving the speaker a standing ovation, etc. that they may start to think – hmmm, maybe I just don’t “get it”. “Better pretend I also think this is one of the greatest things ever so I can fit in.”
I’m sure there might be more, but that is how I can best verbalize (err, write) what it is that just doesn’t have me jumping for joy about TED talks. I do see some good from TED talks, so please don’t think I am bashing their entire existence. TED talks serve as great videos to study and attempt to emulate from a professional presentation stand point. It is also nice to listen to a person who is knowledgeable on a topic and articulate give an entertaining presentation on it. However, as someone who tends to gravitate towards the null, I would rather see the data and papers backing up their claims rather than just taking their “ideas” at face value.
Does anyone else not find themselves captivated by TED (TEDx) talks? Why or why not?