The long knives have been out for TED Talks for some time. Benjamin Bratton called them "middlebrow megachurch infotainment." Evegny Morozov called the TED publishing arm the "insatiable kingpin of international meme laundering." The gist of these arguments is that TED Talks are vapid, culty mass-selfies that fetishize technology for every solution. It is "placebo science" meant to make its audience feel good about learning and themselves, where ideas can hang out and do whatever, man—just turn the safety off on your brain-gun.
If not read in the voice of a perpetual techno-cynic, these might not be such terrible things. Is middlebrow entertainment bad? If cynics want [...]
Malcolm Gladwell apparently decided to stuff and mount his strawman Twitter arguments again: "He said he has it on his BlackBerry and made a 'chh-chh' technology sound effect while miming with his thumbs as if he was pressing buttons on a small device. He likes to read things his friends tweet. 'Like I said, these are awesome tools,' he added, fidgeting with the top on a water bottle resting next to his chair. 'I just don’t know why it has to be perfect—right?—or why anyone would claim that it’s good at absolutely everything. Isn’t it enough that it’s an extraordinary means of sharing ideas and bringing people together?' [...]
"I don't come to refute Gladwell's strawman argument…." -I've been waiting for someone to take a swing at Malcolm Gladwell's argument about how Twitter… isn't… the Civil Rights Movement? Well here we are, with your host, Anil Dash.
Another Malcolm Gladwell anecdote sorta bites the dust, in the form of "marriage happiness predictor" and scientist John Gottman, who does not actually predict marriage happiness it turns out. (Not that his work is wrong! He just doesn't do predictions.)
"Gladwell's protagonists are generally intelligent but ordinary folks who have imbued their work with a passionate practicality. Their laboratories are courtrooms and high-concept shopping malls, office parks and African villages, but whatever their locale, they are always buried in data, endless stacks and reams and massive videotape libraries full of tens of thousands of hours of footage documenting their findings, their desks buckling under thick piles of 'carefully annotated tracking sheets.' With this abundance of evidence they espouse theories that Gladwell depicts either as regrettably naÃƒÂ¯ve or courageously counterintuitive, depending on whether he is debunking conventional wisdom or advancing a hitherto unknown experimental truth."
Your weekend reading assignment: "[...]
Today's New Yorker brings a sort of unclosed-circle of a Malcolm Gladwell piece, about a book, To Kill a Mockingbird, which is based loosely on events including the trial of a black man who was alleged to have raped a white woman in 1936, a book that was published in 1960, and also a politician, Jim Folsom, when he was running for election in 1954, and also a 1954 Supreme Court decision, Brown v. Board of Ed, issued in May, which according to Gladwell ended Folsom's career, while even if that is true it also did not apparently prevent Folsom from being reelected for a second stint as governor [...]
Malcolm Gladwell is bringing "his extraordinary alchemy of story-telling and intuitive thinking on a UK tour." He will deliver such insights as: "You can't start blogging at 23 and call yourself a journalist." Oh can't you? I suppose you can't start juggling and getting in tiny cars at 33 and calling yourself a clown, either.