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And Now the Good News

Exploring Possibilities at the TEDSalon in London

Polar explorer Ben Saunders took the stage the other evening at the TEDSalon in London to ask the question: "If everything is being done somewhere by someone and we can participate virtually, then why bother leaving the house?" A journalist had asked him that question weeks earlier. He discussed it in his talk through both his own experience of walking and skiing alone on ice for weeks at a time, as well as through the eyes of others who have ventured out answering what he termed "the call of the unfinished endeavor."

Saunders was one of ten speakers featured at the event, which took place November 7 at the Unicorn Theatre, supported by TED partners Intel and frog. The evening's theme was "Exploring Possibilities," and the 220 attendees heard stories of exploration in an eclectic set of fields: from Saunders' extreme geographies to the frontiers of science, from the writing of a new national constitution to the creation of new markets.

Are You Ready for Radical Openness?

This year’s TEDGlobal conference, which kicked off yesterday in Edinburgh, explores how new technologies, new thinking and new complexities impact the ways we communicate and relate with one another. As the world grows increasingly interconnected, traditional boundaries of what we share and what we hide are constantly being redefined but, the question remains, how open are we really?  From car-sharing to future crimes, TED speakers will explore the implications and restrictions across a wide spectrum of radical openness.

TEDGlobal 2010: It's a Wrap

Six days after the curtains dropped on 2010’s TEDGlobal conference and I’m still sifting through the ideas heard and contacts made in Oxford. After a deep breathe, we now turn our attention to a special TED issue of design mind, one that will try to capture the spirit of the “And Now the Good News” theme, while also taking a deeper dive into some of the ideas we heard from the many interesting speakers.

WikiLeaks at TED Global

Is Julian Assange a troublemaker or hero?

Julian Assange of WikiLeaks just left the stage in Oxford, where he was interviewed by TED’s Chris Anderson. During the interview we saw footage of American helicopter soldiers shooting an unarmed group of men, among which included a Reuters photographer. The video was leaked to Assange from what he said was “a number of military whistleblowers” and published on the Internet. One question Anderson asked that I thought poignant: “Is Assange a dangerous troublemaker or a hero?” Most everyone in the audience raised their hand for the latter. Only a few for the former. 

The Give Idea or Secular Moralism

Jessica Jackley of Kiva.org, a micro-financing non-profit, just spoke at TED about finding ways to give and share with the poor. A couple of days ago Nik Marks, a statistician who measures happiness for the Happy Planet Index, showed us the five things that lead to well being — the last was to give. Over and over from the stage in Oxford this year, we’ve heard people say, essentially, “we who live in the West have enough; it’s time to give away our excesses.” Not only that, but by giving we can find more meaning, and more self actualization in life.

Organic at TEDGlobal


Barrington Estate farmer Adrian Dolby

After the lurching football experience and the near-riots in Piccadilly Circus on Sunday night, I took the early train to Oxford to register for the conference, get my goodie bag, and get on a bus to Barrington Estates, one of England’s largest organic farms, with a group of about ten other TEDsters. There the wood pigeons, sky larks, hopping hares, rolling green pastures, and good conversation provided the right contrast to the panic in the streets of London.

Optimistically Arriving in Oxford


2009 TEDGlobal bag headed for TEDGlobal 2010.

For the past few weeks I've been thinking about the theme for the upcoming TEDGlobal conference — to which I'm headed as we speak, on the 5:48 First Great Western to Oxford. That theme is “And Now the Good News,” and I’m eager to hear what the good news is. I can tell you that sitting in coach on an American Airlines transatlantic flight is not good news. But the conference in Oxford won’t be about such trifles (though there has to be a designer attending willing to listen, probably for the umpteenth time, about this crucial and crumby traveling experience). No, this week will be an opportunity to take a step back and look at the world in a different way.

Interestingly, being optimistic, especially lately and especially among intellectuals, would be considered “looking at the world in a different way.” But the problem is that there just doesn’t seem to be much room for it these days (ref. BP oil spill, global financial grumbles, melting ice caps, politics, war, poverty, etcetera, etcetera). And I consider myself an optimist.

New design mind issue Launches with TED Salon in London

TED Curator Chris Anderson – who had 844,821…wait 844,833 followers the last time we looked – tweeted about it yesterday, and we’re thrilled that the word is now out about the new special TEDGlobal edition of our design mind magazine, “The Substance of Things Not Seen."

We officially unveiled the new issue on Monday with an intimate TED Salon ("More Substance of Things Not Seen") with 120 TEDsters and friends at the Unicorn Theater in London. Hosted by Bruno Giussani, TED’s European director, and Sam Martin, editor-in-chief of design mind, the evening featured three TED Talks.

Countdown to the “The Substance of Things Not Seen”

Yep, today is the big day, and we’re thrilled to present our most ambitious and heftiest design mind magazine so far – and a very special one indeed. The new issue is devoted exclusively to the TEDGlobal 2009 conference (the twin conference of the annual TED conference in Long Beach) that took place this past July in Oxford, England, with the theme “The Substance of Things Not Seen.”

It is the first time a publication was invited to fully cover a TED conference: In collaboration with the TEDGlobal speakers and attendees, frog’s designers, technologists, and writers produced art, essays, and interviews that translate the conference’s theme into a rich magazine, trying to make visible “The Substance of Things Not Seen.”

The Substance of Things Editorial

Paddington Bear

Giddy. That’s the best word to describe the design mind editorial team as we gathered in London’s Paddington Station to take the train to Oxford this past July for the TEDGlobal conference. Jacob Zukerman, intrepid art director, Tim Leberecht, stalwart publisher, and yours truly, worried editor, were meeting Antonia Ward, our British guide and local wordsmith, at the statue of Paddington Bear (pronounced “bare” in American English and “bey-ah” in Antonia’s UK English — yes, we’d already given each other plenty of good-natured guff over our accents).

One might expect there to be a statue of Paddington Bear in Paddington Station — the bear has been a popular literary character for English kids for generations — though one cannot be sure why, other than the similarity in name. What one would not expect is for the bear to be so small and so tucked away behind a partition, divorced from the main concourse, almost hidden under the nearby escalator. Did the sculptor botch the job? Did Michael Bond, the man who created Paddington Bear in 1958, have a falling out with executives at London metro? And indeed why is Paddington Bear in Paddington Station? Could it really be as obvious as the name, or is there more to the story?

Such is the inquisitive mind of a reporter, which was exactly what I was there to do, what we were all there to do — to investigate all sides of the TEDGlobal conference, onstage and off, find speakers to interview, parties to attend, ideas to chew on, and friends to make. In short, we were there to take part in the very theme of the conference, “The Substance of Things Not Seen” — and then figure out a way to mash it up into words and pictures for the next issue of design mind.