Random Thoughts on 2013 #tedxregina #yqr (and My Hypothetical TED Talk Topics)

Went to TEDxRegina yesterday and honestly, my thoughts on the afternoon, with a couple exceptions, are pretty much the same as my thoughts on the inaugural one in 2012.

  • Perhaps because I usually cherry-pick the best TEDTalks when watching online, both years I’ve gone in expecting all TEDx talks will be stellar too.  But honestly, like any conference you go to, some sessions are good, some aren’t as good
  • Different attendees will disagree about which is which and a lot depends on what you’re bringing in terms of your own viewpoints, interests and experiences (for example, last year one presentation done with a lot of heartfelt emotion didn’t resonate for me.  This year, as a new father, hearing a very emotional story of a mother of a special needs child had me cutting onions throughout.)
  • Meeting new people is cool, especially new people you might not otherwise encounter.  In some ways, those conversations are equally good or even better than the presentations.  How do you get that in “real life” – meeting new interesting people on a regular basis outside your usual circles?
  • Partly because of the opportunity to meet new people, I preferred last year’s full day format which had (I think) the same number of speakers in the day but lots more time for socializing/networking/chatting including a lunch break.
  • Once again, there were people attending from my main circles – other librarians, politics, online communities including Twitter and MetaFilter, etc.
  • I liked the bigger venue this year as well after last year’s rather cramped (and exclusive feeling – which appealed to my own ego since I was in the room but not what I’d like to see in terms of maximizing people’s opportunities to participate in events like this – and I know that small size was due to the TED license, no decision of the event planners.)
  • At the risk of getting sued, I was joking with a couple colleagues who were able to attend with me that we should propose a parody for the next RPL Staff Conference (ReadxRegina?) where librarians and other staff members could get up and do their own 18 minute talks on whatever area is of interest to them.

Speaking of RPL, my former colleague at RPL, Library Journal “Mover & Shaker” and current Public Policy PhD student, Ryan Deschamps, was one of the presenters.  In his presentation, he mentioned that “librarians know nothing…but we know how to find stuff” (I prefer the formulation “Librarians tend to know a little bit about a whole lot of things” which I think means basically the same thing – we are the ultimate generalists able to help people find credible, useful information about everything from health concerns to the tax code to the answer to 37-Down in today’s crossword puzzle.

But that made me think that if, as a librarian, I don’t have one area of specialization or one aspect of my life or career that would be a natural for a TED Talk (unlike say the videos we saw – one from a development worker who talked about her development work and one from an architect who talked about open sourcing architecture), what would my TED talk be about if I was asked to be on that stage?

The obvious is do something library-related (and that’s what I told people when we chatted about this question during breaks throughout the day).  But what about libraries might appeal to a TED audience?  

  1. Libraries as the “grandfather of the current ‘sharing’ age”
  2. Libraries as the embodiment of democracy in society
  3. A Swiftian “Modest Proposal” about why libraries are terrible places, wasting taxpayer dollars and should be abolished  (When I inevitably daydreamed at different points of the day, I even had a plan for how you could do this using a storybook as a prop.  Librarians love props!)
  4. Why copyright should be eliminated (I did this one as part of a debate for a Librarians Forum at RPL so have much of the research done already.)
  5. I did a special project on the relationship between Canadian publishers and public libraries in school and I’ve been published on the charging of user fees by Alberta public libraries but I think those are both pretty inside-baseball (hmm, maybe I should submit that latter topic to TEDxCalgary?) ;-)Beyond library topics, what else am I interested in?
  6. Others with  much much higher profiles have talked about atheism-related topics in TED talks but I’d love to take a shot at my “5 C’s” theory of why people are religious (recapping: Comfort, Community, Conformity, Comprehension, Convenience.)
  7. Confessions of a pro wrestling fan
  8. I’m fascinated by the idea of a maximum wage so, although I think about it from a very layperson perspective, that’d be one topic I think I could have a lot of fun talking about.  (Now where’d I put my Bono wraparound sunglasses?) 
  9. 101 Ways I’ve Failed As A Parent
  10. If librarians are the ultimate generalists, I sometimes wonder if it would work to do a “quick hits” talk covering a number of innovative ideas in short order rather than focusing on just one big idea?  As somebody who’s used this blog to propose everything from a way to improve maternity leave benefits to a new one-stop-shop-for-your-digital-life (er, not counting Google) to  an idea to make people’s birthdays into a new stat holiday, I’d love to give it a shot!

Comments 2

  1. Ryan Deschamps wrote:

    Hi Jason – I think where I wanted to go with that (and probably could have been clearer) is that librarians know the power of not-knowing things. It’s not just being a generalist, it’s more about the willingness to learn about something with others and/or helping people live with the idea of not knowing stuff (and using connections to find out). Not knowing what a library is for (-ish) was key to the success of the consultation process – the public became the experts, and the architects and service people all had to respond to those needs.

    Posted 06 Jun 2013 at 10:22 am
  2. HeadTale wrote:

    Thanks for clarifying – I was going from memory on exactly how you phrased it so knew I’d probably garbled it a bit.

    Anyhow, I think that’s very true that there’s power in admitting you don’t know everything about whatever subject is in front of you and librarians are indeed (usually) very good at this.

    Is it too early to say I’m already excited for TEDxRegina 2014? 😉

    Posted 06 Jun 2013 at 3:45 pm
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