TEDGlobal – An Update from Edinburgh

As you probably know, the TEDGlobal conference has begun! Tomorrow we’ll be streaming the conference from 9 am until 8 pm (as well as live Tweeting and Facebook updates) at our TEDxKrakówLive event at Gazeta Cafe, but today we have an update straight from Edinburgh, Scotland, where our very own Ewa Spohn is attending the conference. Here’s TEDGlobal in her words:

Day 1: Sunday 10 July

I had my mind blown already and it happened only one hour into my TEDGlobal experience. Over 100 TEDx organisers met in an Edinburgh theatre to discuss, plan and share ideas and resources. There are so many things happening around the world and so many ideas, so here’s a few of my highlights:

- TEDxAdventures being organised by TEDxBoston. Short, 1-3 hour meetings, for a few people, held in the weeks before and after TEDxBoston, at places or by people you wouldn’t normally get to see. I loved the example of Boston’s finest lie-detector operator giving a demonstration about lie-detectors and teaching you how to fool them (don’t ask me why I liked this one…) or a helicopter ride over Boston by a former military helicopter pilot. Awesome.
- TEDxAmsterdam creating personalised t-shirts for TEDxYouth@Amsterdam, showing the child’s name, three words they chose to describe them and what they wanted to be. Kids proudly wore these around the conference and beyond.
- Getting people to interact before, during and after the TEDx seems to be at the top of many people’s minds. We brainstormed many ideas and found that the best ideas are also often the simplest!

We also had a great talk by June Cohen about preparing speakers (good to hear we all have the same problems!), Emily McManus and Kari Mulholland about our videos and what they’re looking for when choosing TEDx talks to go on to TED.com and Rhonda Carnegie (Ms “No, you can’t”) about building partnerships. I haven’t yet been to the venue where TED is actually happening but if what she says it’s true, then the sponsors become an integral part of the experience rather than something that has to be endured. Can you imagine?!

Day 2: Monday 11 July

Yesterday we started off with presentations by the TED Fellows and we were particularly happy to see Monika Bulaj up there! A Polish photographer who lives in Italy, her haunting photographs of the innocent victims of our war in Afghanistan look like Caravaggio paintings but bring home the realities of what is being done there in our names.

We also got a behind-the-scenes glimpse of what goes in to making the whole experience when we watched the final speaker briefing in the main auditorium. This wasn’t the time for in-depth coaching – that has been done over the last six months – rather a reminder that we’re recreating the ancient ritual of gathering around the campfire to hear stories and exchange ideas. It was a pretty powerful set-up! It was also a chance for the TED team to reassure the speakers that everyone, including the audience, wants to make them look great; from the host to the camera operators, lighting designers and video editors.

Then it was time for TED University – short talks given by people in the audience. These were riveting. For example, Adam Ostrow, Editor in Chief of Mashable, talked about the role of social media in death. Would you prepare a ‘final status update’ to be published on your Facebook account after you die? How do we archive and analyse all the digital traces we’ve left behind us during our lives? We also heard from musician Thomas Dolby about how he’s used social media to launch his new album The Floating City and Chris Ruffle, a Yorkshireman who built a recreation of a Scottish castle in the Chinese countryside and has started producing organic wines there. Mad. But in a good way. Of course we had to try some of his wine which led to… the Welcome party at Edinburgh Castle in the sunshine (it doesn’t really get dark until about 10 pm here) with kind sponsorship from a whisky manufacturer :) Yes, life is tough.

Day 3: Tuesday 12 July

More TED University was a great way to start the day. Ian Ritchie told us about the days he turned down Tim Berners-Lee, we saw an incredible performance from Imogen Heap and her musical gloves (yes, gloves!) that allow her to manipulate the music she creates.

Then it was time to go over and start the real thing. We’d seen the venue yesterday, but it wasn’t quite ready. People were still setting up exhibits, tables, fridges full of food and drink, and the coffee bar was just getting going. TED have brought together baristas and coffee roasters from several cities in Europe to run a coffee bar with a difference: a different coffee will be served after each session, chosen to reflect the content of the talks. We’ll see how it goes but so far, I’ve learnt that at 8 am with a slight hangover I don’t have the bandwidth to absorb coffee propaganda: I just want caffeine and coffee is the medium.

Once caffeinated, I had a chance to start looking round the technology. Blackberry had demos of their latest tablet here (It’s shiny. And black. And yes, I know it’s wasted on me) but what was more interesting is that they’re working with TED on TED-ED, a project to create videos for education and catalyse learning around the world. They’re looking for help from the TED community to find existing content and to create new content so I wondered: what could we do with this in Kraków or Poland? What would happen if Kraków’s teachers used really interesting, challenging and motivating content in their lessons? Have a look at the website, let me know what you think and I’ll pass your ideas on to the folks at Blackberry!

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