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Stephen Downes is not enamored by the TED machine:

TED has certainly figured out how to monetize learning – and Alan Levine notwithstanding a big part of that, I would say, lies in offering opinions and talks that are safe for business people offered by speakers who are TV-pretty, speaking the language of the empowered, addressing first-world problems.

I am highly doubtful I will evert pay the $6000 to cross the velvet ropes to attend a TED event, but I also am not quite as confident I can judge fully the intent of the people behind it. The selection of a link Stephen’s on the word “language” is I am not sure more than a cheap shot. But I shoot ’em cheap all the time. Sure they are making money, but in the TEDTalks they are also providing a lot of content, in re-usable form, for free. Stephen would say it is part of their campaign to monetize. But we do live in a capitalistic society and I do not begrudge someone’s efforts to make money.

My point is that if we weren’t dazzled by things like TED, we’d see the message, in its more pure non-homogenized non-secularized form, all around us.

Are we mind controlled? What is this dazzlement that videos do that blind us? Seriously?

Bottom line, I am not buying into the TED business model, but I will take advantage of what is there. If they sell their stuff to some folks to enable the continued providing of free content, is that so horrific? Seems to be favor of freemium approaches.

Stephen suggests it is a massaged, measured. polished version of what is out there in other forms. I do not discount there are plenty of places on the internet to find “ideas worth spreading”.

But I did look at al of the suggestions Stephen suggested, and whilst they all talk about the notion of regret in some manner (a few of them are in context of larger messages), I did not find one that hit me on an emotions, personal level like the talk by Kathyrn Schulz I blogged about. All of his resources were third person objectified, and hers was done in the storytelling form I find compelling. I take these videos as not the endpoint, but the beginning point to explore farther.

Yes, you can look at her story of a tattoo as a “first world problem” but that was just the metaphor for her message. And frankly, it was done in a more impactful way than any of the readings Stephen provided, which is not to say they were not of value (especially Rabbi Michael’s piece about Kol Nidre).

The unanswerable question is- are these talks genuine or some part of a manipulative doping campaign? I have no idea how anyone can really determine this beyond supposition. Is the message the message, is the medium the message, or is the messenger the message? Yes, the source of our information is important to consider, but is it also correct to dismiss it out of hand? I have trouble with that.

I got a lot out of attending a local TEDx in Phoenix a few years back – am I some sort of hypnotized drone? The people I saw in Phoenix were not from Stepford County.

Frankly, I am open to ideas no matter where they come from, and I have another post that launches from ideas I saw in other TED videos. I am in no ways a TED fan boy, I just like some of the talks I have found there and it generates new ideas for me.

I expect a rebuttal in a few minutes. I’m braced.

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An early 90s builder of web stuff and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as


  1. I’m not sure why TED talks should be frowned on by the likes of Downes, just because there is other “equivalent” stuff out there that is less polished form. Saying that “if we weren’t dazzled by things like TED, we’d see the message, in its more pure non-homogenized non-secularized form, all around us” is rather like saying that if educational designers didn’t bother with making learning well structured and engaging, students would suddenly have their eyes opened to all the amazing learning opportunities around them. Both claims are, at best, a horrendously biased and narrow view of what learning “should” be; at worst, simply wrong.

    TED may be driven by a (highly successful) commercial model, but frankly, seeing online learning models succeed in any form is informative for those of us involved with it. Likewise, the TED Talks are a valid source of learning. There may be gloss and glamour, but there is also considerable substance and inspiration, and for me, that’s what really counts.

  2. > The selection of a link Stephen’s on the word “language” is I am not sure more than a cheap shot.

    Just to be clear, I linked to the word ‘wuss’ because of the way the word ‘wuss’ was used in the TED video, and not as any sort of personal comment or cheap shot. The use of the word ‘wuss’ was an example of “the language of the empowered” I was referring to.

    I guess I could have been a bit clearer with that one.

  3. Hmmm…I refrained from comment on your first TED post…but this time I’ll say a little in response – based on my own TED experience.

    I would not say that I qualify as a TED ‘fan-girl’…I really can’t condemn or condone the ‘big’ TED….although I have seen some really creative teachers do some awesome things engaging their students using talks as a conversation/writing prompt.

    What I would offer is the gentle suggestion to the reticent that before you dismiss it outright – the philosophy (‘Ideas Worth Spreading’) – that you participate fully in a local opportunity – either by attending, or even better by supporting, planning, collaborating, thinking, hey-maybe even GIVING a talk…etc….immersion in it at a completely local level.

    I did that last fall in our first ever TEDx here. I met people I would never have crossed paths with otherwise….really good people with really important ‘ideas worth spreading’ …around here. Maybe those talks will ‘hit the big time’ at TED (they become part of the larger archive). Maybe not. The point was that a group of people passionate about ideas here came together for a little while to work on the common goal of sharing those ideas. The results remain to be seen, of course. But, for me – it’s a whole lot like what happens on the web…how connections get made and thinking and sharing happens in new and creative ways.

    I’m with you. New ideas is what it’s about. And then there’s those awesome connections.
    My 2 cents…

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