The Telluride version of the four-day Long Beach, Calif.-centered symposium that got its start nearly three decades ago in Silicon Valley is something of a mouthful – billed as TEDxTellurideLive, (the “x” stands for “individually organized event”), it’s one of 160-plus worldwide simulcasts of Day 2 of this year’s four-day TED Conference event.
TED, founded in 1984, had an early focus on “largely technology and design,” according to the TED website, “consistent with a Silicon Valley center of gravity.”
Its reach has expanded since those early days.
This year's presenters range from physicist Brian Green to T. Boone Pickens, from organist Cameron Carpenter to the performance ensemble Quixotic, and from author and "quiet revolutionary" Susan Cain to roboticist Henrik Schärfe to anthropologist/ethnobotanist Wade Davis, a Telluride Mountainfilm stalwart. Past presenters include Bill Clinton, Jane Goodall, Malcolm Gladwell, Al Gore, Gordon Brown, Richard Dawkins, Bill Gates, educator Salman Khan, Google founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin, and many Nobel Prize winners.”
The TED.com website gets 750,000 hits a day, and some presenter videos have been “viewed 300 million times,” TED curator Chris Anderson, a British computer journalist turned magazine publisher, told Charlie Rose in an interview last year. Anderson went on to describe TED, now a nonprofit, as “a brain spa.”
Anderson, whose first publishing company, Future Publishing, grew rapidly under the motto “media with passion,” also founded (in the U.S.) Imagine Media’s Business 2.0 magazine and is creator of the games website IGN. He is founder of the Sapling Foundation, created to finding new ways of tackling global issues by leveraging media, technology, entrepreneurship and ideas. Sapling acquired the TED Conference in 2001, whereupon Anderson devoted himself to developing TED as a platform for identifying and disseminating ideas worth spreading, globally.
Was to Be Simulcast to the Nugget
TEDxTellurideLive is the brainchild of Bill and Katrine Formby, who had planned to host the simulcast in their historic Nugget Building’s 182-seat, one-toilet Nugget Theatre. But when the Nugget filled up for the free simulcast prior to any official announcement, the Formbys and co-organizers Jim Bedford and Luci Reeve, owners of the Nugget Theatre movie business, cast about for a larger venue.
“It will be nice to have more than just one bathroom,” Katrine Formby said this week of TEDxTellurideLive’s relocation to the 600-plus-seat Palm Theater (and its two-gender restrooms, complete with stalls).
Another perk: Thanks to Formby’s tenacity (she pushed hard for a one-day extension) TEDxTellurideLive will be simulcast Thursday, as well.
Speakers featured in Wednesday’s simulcast start at 9:30 a.m. (the schedule and list of speakers for both days appears on page 31), but doors open at 8:30 a.m., so participants can “arrive and mingle,” said Formby.
“We’re kind of a little guinea pig,” said Formby, who convinced TEDxLive organizers that the Telluride audience could sit through more than one day of free programming of 18-minute talks from some of the most innovative thinkers and doers in the world today, so that a simulcast will take place on Thursday, March 1, as well.
“I’m really surprised,” she said, at the number of people in the Telluride region who had heard of TED, going on to muse, “Maybe’s it’s because of the Mountainfilm Festival and Telluride Film Festival,” bracketing the Telluride summer festival season, from Memorial Day and Labor Day, respectively, “but people aren’t asking, ‘What is TED?’
“My guess is it’s going to work out fantastic, and hopefully,” the Telluride audience response will be so positive that TED organizers “will end up changing their whole policy” and allow other cities to simulcast for more than one day, said Formby.
Formby confessed she spent last weekend “looking up every single speaker” in this year’s TED lineup online. “I put in their names and hit ‘video’ – since they’re all top-notch people; every one has YouTube videos of themselves either being interviewed or addressing an audience.”
As for speakers she’s especially excited about, “I love David Rockwell,” she said of the architect who has created a range of “immersive environments,” from the sleek interiors of W Hotels and Nobu restaurants to scenery for the Broadway musical Hairspray to the witty high-modern sets for Team America: World Police, and who won the Presidential Design Award for his renovation of the terminal at New York's Grand Central Station; Formby is also looking forward to the design studio presentation hosted by former I.D. Magazine editor Chee Pearlman.
Also on this year's lineup is activist/songwriter/clawhammer banjo player Abigail Washburn (she’s married to Telluride Bluegrass Festival stalwart Bela Flek), who headed to Beijing to study law, after graduating from Colorado College, in the 1990s, and returned having created what has been praised in Newsweek as a “gorgeous, joyful new sound” in world music.
Formby became a fan of TED in 2009, after attending its midsummer Great Britain symposium. “I’d read about TED on the internet,” she said, “and thought it was fabulous and that I would apply to be able to go.
“I was not accepted into the Long Beach conference,” she said – attendees who pay $7,500 for the SRO Long Beach event are screened – she was, however, accepted to the TEDGlobal symposium, where attendees pay $6,000 (and are also screened), having guessed that, because of the recession, she stood a better chance of getting into a TED event in Europe. She came back from that event a TED convert.
Last year Formby watched the TED simulcast on her computer (one hook-up can be watched by up to ten viewers for a signup cost of $500), and is a regular visitor to the TED website (TED.com), where well over 1,000 TED talks are offered for free online viewing.
Asked why people should give up two days to listen to TED speakers, Formby said, “All the speakers are speaking for 18 minutes or less, that’s the first thing – that is the real key to the program.”
That sentiment has been echoed by Anderson, who describes the TED talks as being “coffee-break-length,” and, in that allotted period of time, as “tapping back into that ancient campfire experience.
“All of knowledge is connected,” Anderson said in last year’s interview with Charlie Rose, “and you don’t really understand, until you emerge from your trench and see how what you do connects with what other people are doing,” how interconnected all humanity can be.