Those Fabulous Confabs

From New York Magazine:

Ted120305_4_560Of all the gatherings, it’s TED, which might as well be the official event of digitization, that has acquired an outsize cultural footprint. Giving a talk at TED, the technology journalist Steven Levy has written, is �a rite of passage for an Internet-age intellectual.� The conference makes the Stuff White People Like list. In last year’s The Muppets movie, the character Scooter is updated to be a Google employee and TED attendee. And just as Davos is darkly symbolic to those who believe the world is controlled by 300 people, TED is uniquely able to stir up the Internet’s latent intellectual-class resentments. To attendees, or �TEDsters,� as they refer to themselves, tweeting from behind the velvet rope is a chance to camouflage pride as wonderment. From the 2011 conference, Ashton Kutcher shared that he was �jazzed to be here� and �Wow.� To speakers, filing a dispatch from TED is the jackpot of false modesty. �As I was stepping onstage,� Eboo Patel blogged in 2008 in a classic of the genre, �I thought to myself, �Literally everyone in the audience is smarter than me.’ �

André Balazs could come up with an even more lucrative nightclub by studying TED’s marketing model: Create a Boom Boom Room that not only won’t let you in but also videocasts what’s happening inside so you’ll know exactly what you’re missing. Imagine, further, that everyone in the club is miked, so you hear them going on about how �amazing� it is and how �combined our contacts reach pretty much everyone who’s interesting in the country if not the planet,� as TED’s curator, Chris Anderson, told one TED crowd. TED Talks, curated clips of the eighteen-minute lectures that are gathered on, have become today’s Cliffs Notes to sounding smart. They are, despite their length and seriousness, some of the most popular material on the Internet. TED is now on something of a populist kick. Three years ago, it spun off a franchise version of itself, called TEDX, of which there have been thousands so far. Last month, it announced a global American Idol�style search for speakers for next year’s main conference.

More here.