“Middlebrow Megachurch Infotainment”

Benjamin Bratton is a associate professor of visual arts at UCSD and a big critic of TED. He took his criticisms to TED itself (well, TEDx San Diego) in the form of a talk entirely about the pathologies of TED. So meta, it hurts. But actually, I thought it was right on point, nicely encapsulating the problems with the TED format while simultaneously hitting on a lot of key themes from STS (about the need to think about social systems and politics in order to make a technology succeed, for example).

One of my favorite bits is Bratton’s discussion of “placebo science and medicine” vs. “placebo politics.” Bratton argues that TED speakers are great at debunking, or at least avoiding, bad science and medicine. But their technoutopianism leads them to offer versions of politics that are just as plagued by wishful thinking as “placebo medicine.” Hence, “You should be as skeptical of placebo politics as you are of placebo medicine.”

Bratton ends with a nice critique of a dominant metaphor of innovation, and also a call for more radicalism in our search for solutions:

“Our problems are not puzzles to be solved. This metaphor implies that all the necessary pieces are already on the table, they just need to be rearranged and reprogrammed. It’s not true. Innovation defined as puzzles, as rearranging pieces and adding more processing power, is not some big idea that’s going to disrupt the broken status quo, that precisely is the broken status quo.”

Recommended. (Via BoingBoing.)

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