“The chattering creative classes…”

Joseph Huff-Hannon at Salon on the TED conference:

That discussion abruptly over, Andy and I get back to deconstructing some of what we’ve seen so far, and return to brainstorming about our upcoming talk — and the challenge of selling a provocative brand of anti-corporate activism at a conference heavily sponsored by a laundry list of major corporations (Dow Chemical, GE, Walmart, Shell, etc). The challenge also being how to pitch our idea (the creation of a “Yes Laboratory for Creative Activism” which will, hopefully, train subsequent cadres of aspiring provocateurs and culture jammers) to an audience that, from what we had seen so far, seemed dedicated to a utopian, fairly apolitical form of magical thinking in which change is synonymous with invention, or sometimes just better branding, and where politics is nowhere to be found.

“What the world needs now is — mindshift,” conference MC and TED curator Chris Anderson says to wild applause, as he kicked off the conference. At TED, mindshift is best delivered in a huge luxurious ballroom, with crystal chandeliers, and rows of red bean bag chairs and comfy lounge chairs. Here in Palm Springs the experience is totally mediated, mind you, 500 “TEDsters” who paid almost $4000 a pop are here to watch the thematically grouped talks and presentations beamed in on massive TV screens all over the room. One man lies horizontally on a bed set up that resembles a sort of Bedouin encampment in the desert. Only instead of gazing up at the stars, he’s looking up at an LCD monitor above him broadcasting the talks from the main venue in Long Beach, which is invitation-only and costs $6000.

In the world according to TED, where high-powered über-networking between very smart people and their very big ideas is the best way to address the various social, political and economic crises facing the world, would our entreaties for more organizing, more rebellion, more creative activism to change the rules of the game fall on deaf ears? Mindshift sounded nice, whatever it meant, but could we get anybody here interested in policy shift, in economic shift, in power shift? We knew this was a conference of designers, inventors, venture capitalists and management consultants — not a hot bed of radicals — but we also figured given the much vaunted influence of the “TED community, “if we could interest even a few of these people in our scheme, we’d be in good shape.

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