I think TED forgot the Internet.

TEDxMasterCanteenSquare was a not much widely known event held on the 21st of April, 2013 in Bhubaneswar, Orissa. An audience of 100 was privy to the minds and ideas of eight minds from different disciplines and ages. Much was said in its favor, much against. I was part of the organizing team and even after a good month or two, the experience warrants some sort of noting down.
Back in my first year of college study, I’d decided I will organize a TED conference and people brayed into my face. No one doubted my ability to get it done; they were extremely sure this wasn’t the sort of thing people would spend their time on. Not unless you’re paying them for it, not in Orissa.
Almost a year later, a senior includes me in the team. I have no chronological clue to the extent of preparation, although TED guidelines being many and particular, I could only imagine. The final day was a deserving finish to all the loose ends we dealt with as a team while the date drew closer.
Once the lineup of speakers was finalized, tickets for the event went up for sale. We shared links and pictures and quotes and posters and advertised our numbers (not all of us, of course) in case anyone was interested. Five tickets sold during the first four days.
Eventually, and I will not make this sound casual but that eventually took a lot of work, quite a number of curiosities were piqued by the idea and I could not help wondering how people could not know.
It’s not a bad thing but given how vast the internet is, you would expect college undergraduates to know more than sink all their time into social networking. Which is sort of a backfire when you live in a dorm. Anyway, I explained the idea behind getting people to speak on stage and stuff. Occasionally, someone would wonder very loudly, ‘TEDx hai ya FedEx?’
(S)he confused it with the courier company. Others were wary of the prospect of having to travel too far (erm, not really?) while many more shooed the idea saying 300 INR was too much for a ticket. And for having to listen to people speak in a hall. And get fed twice. I agree, Monsignor.
‘Why pay when we can watch this stuff on Youtube? And possibly better ones?’
‘For the same reason you drill holes in your pockets for a rock concert. Awesomer in person.’
It was deadly to want your friends to give it a try because you know some people who speak for this thing are darned good. That does little to change my opinion that TED continues to be elitist, reasons for which I will discuss  later.
Nevertheless, D-day rolled by, by that time I’d met some really cool people who were fun to hang out/work with. I anchored a part of the show, shaking like a generator running on bad quality diesel because my Brain decides here’s what, man. You seem too calm. Okay look, front row- important people. Audience, lots of moaar people. Now boo.
By the time I got a hang of holding a tablet in one hand and a mike in the other and speaking, the curator decided to take things into his own hands, literally.
The event ran its course and soon as the pictures hit Facebook people were even more curious.
A couple of things still remain in my mind. There were six live speakers and two recorded talks. The one by Mary Roach was scheduled for play till someone shrieked it is about sex and orgasms and she debunks myths and reveals truths. It was exchanged with one by Sugata Mitra’s school in the cloud.
Have a look. Mitra speaks about an unusual experiment he conducted wherein students learnt on their own with no substantial guidance or conventional teachers to help them out, except for a young accountant. He probably holds the record for knowing the largest number of British grandmothers.
This is brilliant news for learning, though it remains to be seen how long this experiment will continue till it seeps into the education ecosystem. CCE may be a ride for CBSE but students face the risk of their brains falling out in the name of continuous learning throughout the year (comprehensive evaluation in CCE takes care of it.)
But why Mary Roach’s video considered inappropriate? There weren’t any children. Local sensibilities?
And then, the money part was a big chunk of the deal too. People wanted to listen to ‘ideas’ without having to pay. In all fairness, there is a point in watching stuff on Youtube instead of in a hall, although to be able to interact with like-minded people and the possibility of getting to talk to a speaker in flesh and blood isn’t what a video can offer you. It’s the same as concerts. When it’s live, it can change you. It doesn’t have to be dramatic but even slight.
What is the point of organizing these conferences if they have to end up on the web anyway? The people who wish to convey their ideas might as well record their stuff and upload it, why not?
I don’t know. I don’t have much of a lead and writing is how I think, so let’s see.
Ideas do not flourish in isolation. People are connected on the Internet, no doubt, but a dialogue is something a video cannot recreate. When recorded and stored, it is a message from one to the others. But isn’t that what they are in real time too?
Why do it? One could just as well create a hangout for a particular event. You no longer need sponsors or a venue or the logistics, you only need a reliable internet connection. Well, that is something 100 people could pay for and the organizers can provide to ensure everyone is on the same page and they do not miss out on anything. Why in the age of technology do we insist on going through the rigors of organizing a real time conference? Why not use what we have at hand?
The TED website gives one enough reason to believe the medium is restricted to English only, if it wasn’t for this thread on the site. I guess it’s high time they decided to actively encourage and publicize events being held in other languages.
Translation of videos from English to other languages helps the audience understand, but if the speaker’s knowledge of English were to be held as a prerequisite, it would only constrict that which it was meant to serve.
None of this struck me at first. Only a question did.

What if a brilliant mind was poor in English?

For a first in a series of many such events (oh how I hate repeating that word), TEDxMasterCanteenSquare turned out to be a deeply happy experience. What fortified it further was a conversation a senior of mine had with another guy at BHU who organized a TEDx conference too.
They’d planned on getting Amitabh Bachchan on board, but alas. The stars seemed to be aligned in an undesirable pretty pattern. They discussed attendance (which I believe was well over the stipulated umber but nevertheless. The more the merrier, hain ji?) and their budget.
Sirjee, theirs was 10 lakhs only, and ours was a tenth of that figure. The feeling you get when you know you’ve pulled off a stunt like that, to have been able to deliver with the minimum finances the effort required, with enough for double rounds of chocolate dessert for everyone.
I don't share food.

I don’t share food.

Sometimes, I prefer sitting and reading to going out and dipping myself into a sea of people: talking, listening, sharing, working together, nothing holds me for too long. A sad consequence is, I think my true calling is hermithood on mountain top with cookies and books. And dread locks. And a bike.
I am happy I was part of it simply because I met new people and we had a good time working together.
Time spent,  lessons learnt, bonds forged and memories made.

2 thoughts on “I think TED forgot the Internet.

  1. Loved the personal take on the whole thing. Being aching to read something of this sort. Done with reading articles describing each and every moment of it. Loved the way you wrote about the whole journey, starting from a thought that your peers ridiculed, all the way to..uh, sharing desserts 😛

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