In December, for the first time ever, the TED Prize went not to an individual but to an idea on which our planet’s future depends: the City 2.0. This is the city of the future in which more than ten billion people must somehow live happily, healthfully, and sustainably.
This October 13, 2012, TEDxCity2.0 will be a day when TEDx communities around the world will host an event to share the powerful narratives of urban innovators and organizers, stewards and artists, builders and tastemakers. The TEDx platform will harness the power of people across the globe to encourage them to host a TEDx event, themed “City 2.0.”
Ellen Cheng is the organizer of TEDxFactory798, a TEDxCity2.0 event in Beijing, China. We recently talked to her about the event, her visions for a future Beijing, and City 2.0.
TEDx: Why did you decide to host a City 2.0 event? What do you think it offers your community?
Jason from TEDxTaipei once invited me to write a guest blog on the TEDxTaipei blog on what the TEDx community in Beijing looked like. However, I ended up just writing a whole piece on the city of Beijing. I described how Beijing is the most tolerant city in the world, despite its rigorous political system and chaotic social ecosystem. It’s problematic, apocalyptic, with heavy pollution and traffic jams. I am really inspired to rediscover its wonders.
City 2.0 inspires conversations. And also promotes actions. We hope we are the beginning of a series of change after the event ends. We offer our community a platform for ideas worth spreading, as well as a solid back-up for more actions. It’s where ideas worth spreading and actions worth doing converge.
TEDx: How is planning going? What has stood out to you so far? What are you most looking forward to at TEDxFactory798?
We just had our open discussion two weeks ago, to invite public who are intrigued in this topic of City 2.0 in Beijing. We have been trying to define and identify the meaning of it. Like Web 2.0, the essence of City 2.0 lies in “User-Generated” and “Radical Interaction.”
We embrace the belief that individual action can bring collective and colossal change. This is a chapter in our community’s life in which we defy conventional wisdom, shine light on human dignity, and profile our culture with self-conscious engagement from the bottom up.
We are encouraging actions. Not only did we discuss ideas regarding typical public spaces, but we have started a dialogue with the government-backed subway line, and hopefully we can have a photo exhibition themed “City2.0” in subway stations.
You know it’s not easy for a country like China, where it’s even hard to explain what TEDx is, considered its core value is “ideas worth spreading”….But we might be able to create history this time if we succeed, and it’s worth trying no matter what.
TEDx: What are some things you have prepared for this year? Anything exciting?
Actions. We want to convey the message that it’s the first time that TED has chosen an idea rather than a person for the TED Prize, and we are really pushing hard for actions to happen after the talks.
As far as the event goes, we’re happy to have found someone who shares this goal: a creative director who works full-time in the advertising industry, but has started to do a documentary of the city with his creativity and skills. He records what thinkers, doers and visionaries in 4 cities of China see their cities in the future, and he will use the power of video to visualize their thoughts.
Kansas City-based dance troupe Quixotic Fusion performed at TEDxKC 2010 and 2011 before finding their way to the TED 2012 stage. Back during the conference, we asked TEDxKC organizer Mike Lundgren how he found the out-of-this-world dance troupe, and what they were feeling after their performance:
How did you find Quixotic?
Quixotic is emblematic of Kansas City’s surge in arts and technology — they were “starving artists” with a penchant for performances on a grand scale when I first met them. They typically plowed whatever money they made from one event into even grander events to follow, including an ambitious project that had them dangling like sexy Spidermen (and women) atop Kansas City’s Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
Truthfully, it took little effort to convince Quixotic they were perfect for TED and they brought the house down with their first TEDxKC performance in 2010. In an encore performance the following year they hacked an XBOX Kinect so a dancer could directly control music, animation and interaction — dimensionalizing Technology, Entertainment and Design and illuminating their path to the TED main stage.
What was the reaction to their performance at your event?
One email I received from an audience member said: “Even as an experienced Quixotic fan, watching the simulcast from Quixotic’s hometown, we all had goosebumps from awe and pride throughout the four vignettes. Every time they perform, they ratchet up the performance another level. When it was all over we sat in stunned silence for several moments before we looked at each other and cheered.”
You’ve been speaking to the dancers a bit, what are they feeling right now?
I think when you toil at your craft for so long, and then one day your idols approach you to say how mesmerized and in awe they were by your performance — how can you help but not breathe that in and feel satisfied that you have shared something special. No question the troupe is in as much awe of the TED community as we feel towards them.
Krisztina “Z” Holly was the first person to ever be called a TEDx organizer. Her event, TEDxUSC, took place on March 23, 2009, and had 1,200 attendees. Last year there were 6,000 applicants for those same 1,200 spots. We caught up with her at TEDxSummit.
How did you get involved with TEDx (before it even existed)?
One of my team members, Elisa Schreiber, and I reached out to Chris Anderson in November 2007. We had lunch in New York and talked about how we could bring the experience of TED to our community: our students and faculty as well as our alumni and the business community around USC. We proposed the idea of doing an independently organized TED event; if we were successful, we could create a model for others to do the same. I don’t think we can take credit for being the first to suggest organizing a TEDx event. The difference was our vision of making it a broader opportunity, of scaling it.
I’m so honored that Chris took a chance on us and let us take the TED brand and run with it. We really thought he was going to say yes. We were aiming for the event to be in May 2008, and in January he called us and said it wasn’t possible, that he didn’t have the right person on the team to lead the initiative. I was crushed. But then again, why would he have let us do this, anyway? It was too good to be true. I thought that was it.
But then several months later, I got another call from Chris. He said he had found the right person: Lara Stein. We started planning for the following March.
How was planning for that first TEDxUSC? What were some difficulties you faced?
Chris thought that there was no way we should charge for tickets, but we had it in mind from the start that we should. First, very simply for budgetary reasons, but also because we found that people value what they pay for. Chris also thought the event should have more TED content, that half the talks should be videos from TED. But because there was much less content on TED.com back then, most of our audience (who were TED fans) had already seen the best talks. That was a bit tough. But it was a growing process, we weren’t at all upset. And by the end Chris understood. At the event he even came to us and said, “You don’t have to play them all!”
I’m sure you didn’t expect things to come this far. Being here at the first-ever TEDxSummit, what strikes you about how much the community has grown?
In the very beginning, we talked with Lara about what the branding should be. I thought of our tagline as being “ideas worth powering.” X represents the unknown. And also TED to the power of x. It’s funny, we thought maybe the community would grow … to about 12 events!
At Summit, I’m most struck by the organizers. They’re so diverse and so passionate, yet somehow so like-minded and in tune.
From the TED Blog »>