This TEDx thing doesn’t look hard. I watched TEDxKrakow yesterday and I reckon we could do just as well. The first thing you need is a theme. The theme of TEDxKrakow was “Texting the Dragon,” which was supposed to inspire speakers to: “show how Krakow (and Poland) can be modern and progressive in the context of a rich historical tradition.” The next step is to get a bunch of people to talk about things that have nothing to do with the theme. Seriously, the only speaker who even mentioned it was our friend Charles Crawford. Perhaps TEDx themes are supposed to have a surrealistic relationship to the actual content of the conference, in which case I suggest “Tweeting Adam Małysz—the ski-jump as a metaphor for modern Poland.” I will be presenting a segment entitled “Hurtling downhill followed by scary flailing around in thin air.”

TEDxKrakow was a bit disappointing. I watched it online because I’m socially inept and didn’t get tickets. I’m kind of glad I got to watch it lounging on my sofa in a state of unshaven dishabille—I’m not sure the buttock ache of attendance would have been worth it. I got the feeling it was a random collection of people talking about stuff that was important to them, but with only token shoehorned references to the location. Maybe I’m being distracted by the geographical tag. When I see TED, I know what to expect—sometimes fascinating and sometimes baffling presentations about ideas with no particular geographical focus. When I see TEDxWarsaw or TEDxKrakow, I expect it to be about Warsaw or Krakow, and I assume the organisers want to focus attention on their cities too. Maybe they should just call in TEDxPoland. It’s not that the subjects weren’t important, they just didn’t have anything to do with Krakow.

The highlight of my intermittent viewing experience was Ewa Sadowska’s segment about deprived migrants. She just seemed to really care about her subject, although I have to say I didn’t see everybody. By contrast, Sir Julian Rose’s comments about the desirability of diminishing desires over expanding supply felt generic and touched only very briefly on a Krakow context.

In the spirit of “ideas worth spreading” I suggest the following, possibly genuinely useful, thoughts for a future TED Poland:

Can the moustache survive?

Is a county smothered in advertising really free?

Do 4,500 people have to die on Poland’s roads every year?

Is Poland really a Catholic country?

Why does one half of the Polish workforce spend it’s time frustrating the day-to-day requirements of the other half?

How to take advantage of the fact that two million of your citizens live abroad.

Where did Polish nationalism come from, and does it make any sense?

Why is there no change?

Now that’s a conference I would go and see. I can’t help but feel TEDxKrakow missed a lot of opportunities.

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14 thoughts on “TEDxPolandian

  1. And now, I give you TEDxComment:
    – yes, but only the left half of it,
    – no, and I think we need a series of colorful and shocking billboards on this very topic,
    – depends on whether people can stop arguing about whose fault it is,
    – yes, but “Catholic” doesn’t mean what it used to,
    – Poland is a deeply divided society,
    – make them invite you to London so that you can shop cheaply for all the cute stuff that they don’t sell in Warsaw
    – Polish nationalists say Polish nationalism is an intelligent design, while Polish non-nationalists say it evolved from monkeys; it doesn’t make sense, but it does makes a very good nonsense
    – because the cashier stole it

  2. scatts says:

    Strange, it’s was only March 5th when they had the TEDxWarsaw as reported in here – http://polandian.home.pl/index.php/2010/03/25/tedx-warsaw/

    I had similar issues with the content but I’m guessing it’s just a case of take what speakers you can get whatever their subject? Jonathan Ornstein’s chat about Jews in Krakow would have been perfect but sounds like he wasn’t on the agenda this time.

  3. island1 says:

    ‘Polish nationalism is intelligent design’—I like that.

  4. island1 says:

    I knew I’d left a link out (now added).

    There was a definite lack of focus, although I’m still unclear how much focus there was supposed to be.

  5. scatts says:

    If there were “ideas worth spreading” then I suppose that’s enough. I think the general idea is that a reasonable percentage of the speakers should be from the general vicinity of the event, even if their ideas are not ones that relate to Krakow, but what do I know?

  6. polkaontheisland says:

    excellent questions! I’d also add:

    -why ladies’ slacks never have proper pockets
    -why potholes are painted in a circle
    -can we have pretty banknotes again
    -can we nationalize the speed cameras
    -can we do the tax return online?

  7. A question about aesthetics or rather lack of thereof:
    -Why are all communist buildings (especially blocks of flats) being painted in such weird colors after being covered with the Styrofoam insulation? Must so-called “thermal modernization” always mean an aesthetic tragedy?

    Many examples are in this thread on the Skyscrapercity forum:

    (I don’t know why the former post didn’t appear).

  8. “Is a county smothered in advertising really free?”

    These two things seem to be two sides of the same coin. Disgusting building modernizations plus excessive outdoor advertising ruined landscape of Polish cities and towns. The chance to improve the look of them after the times of communist grayness has been squandered. Will it be improved in the future?

  9. And here is an example how elevations of inter-war modernist tenements are destroyed with styrofoam.


    Can’t they use other insulation materials to preserve the elevation details?

  10. odrzut says:

    :) it is very good question, and the answer is:

    Polish cities were grey for decades, natural reaction is color overuse. And nobody asked architects, because who needs them, every Pole knows the best way to do anything.

    Don’t worry. After 20 years of flower-power colored cities everything will be repainted to grey.

  11. island1 says:

    Your first comment was held automatically by the spam software because it had lots of links in it. We would have seen it and approved it eventually—doesn’t matter.

    The painting of social housing is not unique to Poland—there are lots of housing blocks in London with radical paint jobs. The temptation to paint big ugly buildings in startling colours seems to be irresistible. I’m not totally against it.

  12. Paul Klipp says:

    That’s a very clever review and I hope it helps to motivate the next organizer to do a better job. I do have a different opinion about the meaning of the city name in the title than you. As curator, I felt I was trying to speak to Krakow (Mirosław Miller, Paul Mankiewicz) or for Krakow (Paweł Moskal, the Seltmann’s) and perhaps sometimes just from Krakow, but never really about Krakow. Perhaps the selections will make a bit more sense from that context.

  13. island1 says:

    A valid defence, but I still feel the publicised theme gave a misleading impression.

  14. …yes, we’re not perfect and that’s why we do TEDx-es …to make our home a better place, step by step from the bottom level. Education by inspiring and motivating.

    Regarding city name it might be just a location information as well as main theme definition. This is very subjectively.

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