Cathy goes off on TED talks today, calling them shallow, one-directional, and slick.
I was thinking about TED the other day, while I was watching Jared Weinstein give a great lecture at the Arizona Winter School. At AWS, they felt like people were leaning too much on prepped slides, and the rule is now that you have to handwrite your slides in real time, using an opaque projector to show the slides on the big screen.
Would TED talks be better if the speakers were restricted to visuals they could write or draw by hand in 18 minutes?
Aha ha, that’d be awesome.
I generally like a math talk using transparent sheets or a blackboard better if it’s long enough to be able to go into the details to an extent, although there are many ways you can take advantage of computers in a very positive way regardless of the length, e.g., using videos and elaborate animation. But if it’s just a 20 mins talk, I think beamer, powerpoint, etc. can be much better if used wisely because you can pack more information and you don’t expect others understand the details very well in such a short amount of time in the first place.
TED talks are sort of an extreme example of the latter kind in that the speaker is expected to give a nugget of information quickly and elegantly. And the audience isn’t supposed to learn anything deep. It’d be awesome though if the speaker handwrote everything super fast in an extremely efficient way while delivering a smooth talk like a sales person. After all, TED talks are just entertainment with an educational spin. The current format is pretty good for what they are, I think.