Translating innovation with information infrastructures: the case of TED as a valuation device
This article aims to investigate the TED infrastructure for translating Science and Technology (S&T;) projects (Callon, 1981, 1986; Law, 2006). The analysis uses the concepts of recognition (Honneth, 2012) and the public sphere as interpretative lenses for analyzing the dynamics enforced by or emerging from the TED infrastructure, questioning their relationship to selection and outcomes of presenter-related S&T; projects. The term ‘translational research’ appeared in Pubmed for the first time around 1993 (van der Laan & Boenink, 2012). Translational research aims to identify and challenge the “translational gaps’’ (T gaps) hindering the transformation of discoveries in the life sciences into societal profit from basic research (van der Laan & Boenink, 2012). Since then, different types of gaps have been identified and systematized in translational methods (Dougherty & Conway, 2008). As for the management research, translational issues have been pointed out as relevant and critical factors by Shapiro, Kirkman, & Courtney (2007) within the Academy of Management (AOM) research community. They also have identified and investigated two different types of translational problems, suitable to be solved for an effective impact of management research on practice (Shapiro et al., 2007): “lost in translation” (a failure to find the right way to transfer research results to practitioners using their language, understanding, and responding to their needs) and “lost before translation” (a failure to identify an appropriate and systematic translation process similar to the one leading from “bench to bedside” in life science). Taking these issues into account, a public sphere-related phenomenon has emerged in the last 10 years that has not yet been considered by translational research: the rise of TED Talks. Indeed, these formatted talks contribute to translating science projects in general and more specifically those projects related to technological innovation. Given that a digital platform is a relevant component of the diffusion of TED talks, these talks can be considered information infrastructures. Furthermore, a TED talk could be considered to be a valuation device insofar as this type of talk has the potential to impact the “value” of a S&T; project that is presented in this venue. In what follows we first discuss public speaking and the digital public sphere as the background for the emergence of a phenomenon like TED. We then consider translation, valuation and information infrastructure issues. Finally, we analyse the TED Talks infrastructure. Conclusive remarks and discussion of future work conclude the article.