Presentation / Talk

Sounds of Science: Translating Science and Technology Projects with TED

TED has become a powerful vector for disseminating information and consequently influencing public opinion on a broad range of subjects. While TED talks are immensely popular (Sugimoto et al., 2013), there has not been much scholarly research on this form of public speaking and its impact. This paper seeks to begin to fill this gap by focusing on two areas: the TED talk’s ability to translate complex research related to science and technology (S&T;) projects to a large, non-specialized audience; its influence on traditional institutional structures and functions. The purpose of this paper is, therefore, twofold. On the one hand, we aim to analyze the scope and mechanisms of the TED organization. We argue that TED is a type of public sphere (Breese, 2011; Habermas, 2003) thus creating, through public participation, a new venue for the circulation of public opinion. In order to determine the boundaries of the TED talk sphere, it is necessary to map the organization as a whole. On the other hand, we seek to elucidate how the basic currency of the organization, the TED talk, can be considered to be a valuation device. In this case, our analysis uses the concepts of cultural capital (Bourdieu, 1979) and recognition (Honneth, 2012) as interpretative lenses for analyzing the dynamics enforced by or emerging from the TED organization, questioning their relationship to speaker selection and post-TED talk speaker reputation.


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