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in Filmmaking
on Mar 1, 2008

When Filmmaker starts pulling in the big bucks, I’m going to demand that the magazine send me to the TED conference each year. The high-level conference acts as a platform and networking group for transformative ideas about technology, politics, social change, and the arts.

The 2008 edition is in progress right now in Monterey, California, and news of the event can be found across the web. Steven Levy at Newsweek has this intro in which he talks about how the conference has changed over the years.

Another distinguishing characteristic of TED is its tilt away from a classical tech conference to one emphasizing social change. While TED’s original idea, formed by founder Richard Saul Wurman, was basically to delight himself and take the audience along for the ride, the current “curator,” Chris Anderson, who bought TED from Wurman seven years ago, sees a mission for the event. He believes that the TED “community” can make a big social impact; the conference now reflects that idea. At one point some people worried that the do-gooding might change the character of TED; by now it’s fair to say that the hand-wringing about global warming, human rights violations, the state of Africa, and other woes are part of TED’s character. (There seems to be an unwritten rule that two hours of TED cannot possibly pass without a mention from the stage of the climate change crisis.) Even the conference bag reflects the spirit—it’s a custom-made shoulder pack made from recycled pop bottles.

The Ouroboros blog has been providing daily coverage. Here’s their report quoting Walter Isaacson’s talk on narrative in the digital age:

“Narrative is connecting the dots. People select facts, determine how they play together and how they add up. They tend to be chronological. Tend to be linear. Tend to work better in an analog world. So how do we nurture and preserve the beauty of narrative in an iterative, collaborative, interactive age.

The Iliad, the Odyssey were collaborative processes, not written by a single writer, but evolved through both telling and hearing the story. Everyone at Aspen Institute does Antigone. The song of Roland has no single author or narrator – but is a result of scholars and scribes recounting and embellishing, editing and recombinating.

The invention of the printing press made narrative less collaborative and iterative – because the narrative gets “carved in lead” – and so, effectively, began mass media, and centrally controlled narrative…

But it seems that current interactive narrative is just old wine poured in new glasses – isn’t YouTube just redistributed video. We haven’t really evolved narrative to into a new form using the new technologies.

Where are there glimmers? Wikis. Books in the future will return to being unwritten. dynamic. alive (like the old Iliad). Alternate Reality Games (ARG) – participatory narratives played out in the real and virtual worlds…

We are featherless bipeds that tell stories. Let’s keep doing that – and bring in collaboration. Participation. The wisdom of crowds…”

The year TED has created the TEDPrize. Three thinkers receive $100,000 and the ability to achieve “one wish to save the world.” Prizes went to author and religious theorist Karen Armstrong, author and screenwriter Dave Eggers, and mathematical physicist Neil Turok.

Here’s Eggers’:

“I wish that you – you personally and every creative individual and organization you know – will find a way to directly engage with a public school in your area and that you’ll then tell the story of how you got involved, so that within a year we have 1,000 examples of transformative partnerships.”

A website has been created,, to provide “guidelines for partnering with schools” and receive “pledges and stories of involvement.”

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