23 Jul 2009
TED rolls on, at a breathless pace. A couple of tech-oriented talks to keep an eye out for:
Jonathan Zitrain, co-founder of the Harvard Berkman Center for Internet and Society, on the kindness of strangers in the virtual world--turns out there’s more of it about than you might think. Using examples ranging from Wikipedia to Cats Which Look Like Hitler, Zitrain explained the technology behind the trust that makes the internet go round. Great line: “The internet is not a noun, it’s a verb.”
Imogen Heap, an English singer and tech performer, delivered a terrific turn and an interesting anecdote. After she sent out her album to selected journalists for review, she found a copy had turned up on EBay, on offer for £80. Rather than try to get EBay to take it down, she contacted her devoted Twitter fans to help her remove it for her by bidding it up—to £10m, which effectively took it off the market. One of the interesting things about TED is how these connections spontaneously arise, between Zitrain and Heap, for example—on stage and off.
Evgeny Morozov, whom I’ve blogged on earlier, on “spinternet”—how governments use the internet to keep countries in check: spin is the new censorship. He gave an interesting example in China of how the state countered bad press on the death of a dissident in prison—the so-called “Elude the Cat” episode of 2008—by inviting bloggers in to see the tidy “detention facility”, thereby catalysing a torrent of blogs on that rather than the death that prompted the visit in the first place...and all was eventually forgotten. Memorable phrase: “IPod Liberalism”.
Rory Sutherland, head of Ogilivy, gave an amusing talk on the power of advertising, seen and unseen, and how to promote the intangible. For one of his most hilarious anecdotes, see www.diamondshreddies.ca.
Interesting new apps profiled (though I suspect this is old news to tech-savvy Meedanis): Ubiquity (labs.mozilla.com/projects/ubiquity) a multi-lingual command system for the net from Mozilla; Prezi (www.prezi.com), a PowerPoint-killer (can’t be too soon). And for the more design-inclined: Papervision 3D (www.papervision3d.org) and Visual Complexity (www.visualcomplexity.com).
There was an Arab connection in the talk of Marcus du Sautoy, an Oxford mathematics professor, celebrating the miracle of symmetry with examples from the Alhambra—a mathematical and artistic tour de force.
And speaking of the Arab connection, a couple of bright young sparks from the region also at the event: Esra’a Al Shafei, Bahraini blogger, and Albara Alohali, from Saudi Arabia. TEDx, a TED-associated event, is coming to Saudi Arabia later this year. More information on that as it comes together—something for Meedanis to watch.