red tulips | copyright Jill J. Jensen

 

 

TED — Technology, Entertainment, Design

the ultimate interface: "inspired talks by the worlds greatest thinkers and doers"

 

Back in another century, not so very long ago, a few people started to notice how much information was being created. "More than ever before in the history of the world!" "As much information as has been created since time began!" Thus sang the headlines.

Also of note was the amount and kind of technology — new! amazing! life-altering! — that would save us from ourselves and everything else.

Now, about the design part of this.... Some of those folks were breaking out of the bland, grey desktop computing boxes to bring us sleek and candy-colored whirring machines that were just too cool.

Into this adventure came Richard Saul Wurman, an architect and graphic designer, who wanted to make better sense of the flood. Wikipedia notes that Wurman coined the phrase "information architect" as far back as 1976, "out of his reaction to a society that daily creates massive amounts of information, but with little care or order. He created the popular ACCESS travel guide books which were innovative in their use of mapping content by neighborhood. Simple, but effective use of colored text allowed the reader to quickly separate, locate and evaluate restaurants, museums, parks, and other categorical destinations. The design concept was based on how we seek information, in this case, by location. With this series of books, Wurman firmly established the purpose of information architecture."

Wurman also wrote about what he called "information anxiety" in two books, the first in 1989. Information Anxiety2 came along in 2000. And he became a conference impresario. Drawing together his design pals and the cream of the crop in the converging fields of entertainment and design, Wurman created TED, an annual invitation-only event on the Left Coast where new ideas could be presented, emerging research could be tested, and assorted thought leaders could gather to share the latest speculations and plans that would dumbfound the rest of us. TED and its series of amazing TEDtalks are now online for the world to share.

In the intervening years, Wurman passed the TED baton and followed his muse in new directions. And TED thrives in the hands of a new executive director, Chris Anderson.

The exclusivity of the TED events is still part of the cachet, but Anderson and the TEDsters also recognize the value of more widely disseminating kinds of ideas and inspiration that TED embodies. You owe yourself a visit to the TED website. And maybe even, subscribe to TEDtalks, a semi-regular e-mail announcement of recently posted video clips of speeches from the presenter archives. You'll see everyone from Isabel Allende and Louise Leakey to Kevin Kelly, Martin Seligman, Malcolm Gladwell, Frank Gehry, and other interesting thought leaders from around the globe.

One of the most-viewed — and fascinating — clips (lasting about 20 minutes) is by Jill Bolte Taylor, scientist and author of My Stroke of Insight. That and many more await online.

 

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