Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘TED’

08 MAY, 2009

Curating Twitter: Three Hand-Picked Must-Follows


Because #followfriday is insufficient, props are to be given, and we like Big Words.

Twitter is quickly evolving into a superb way to discover fascinating content you normally wouldn’t have, by following interesting people who tweet with great editorial curation. The key, of course, is exercising your own curatory judgment in identifying said interesting people. And since we’ve been in the business of sparing you unnecessary curatory work since 2006, here’s some help — 3 incredible Twitter personas on whom we have a massive, butterflies-in-the-brain culture-crush.


Nick Bilton may work at a pillar of traditional media — The New York Times, to be exact — but his interests are closer to what we like to call enlightened futurism: Cultural and technological innovation of the most compelling kind. You can count on him for a steady stream of fascination across technology, new-age publishing, media, data visualization and miscellaneous finds of cultural relevance.

Nick may tweet infrequently, but when he does, it’s quality stuff.


  • Followers: 3,072
  • Following: 342
  • Tweets/day: 0.8

Underwritten by Mel Exon and Ben Malbon, @BBHLabs is the Twitter outpost of — you guessed it — NY-and-London-based neo-agency BBH Labs.

These guys just “get it” — “it” being all the diverse incarnations of the business of ideas, from design to advertising to social media to interactive wizardry. Mostly, they seem to share our belief that the future of the marketing and advertising industry is not in the pushing of product but in the pulling of ideas — from innovators, from artists, from various cultural agents who pursue their own passions that may just so happen to make for great marketing.

You can count on @BBHLabs for a variety of creative explorations, but especially for bleeding-edge developments across data visualization and crowdsourcing.


  • Followers: 2,888
  • Following: 802
  • Tweets/day: 3.6

If you’ve been reading Brain Pickings, you’re well familiar with TED and thus with Chris Anderson — TED’s brilliant curator but oh-so-much-more.

Unlike most people who tweet as the “public face” of a big organization or institution (sorry, @SamsungMobileUS), Chris goes well beyond simply promoting TED’s (already fascinating) content and actually walks the walk of what TED stands for — ideas worth spreading — sharing brilliant ones across all facets of culture: Design, art, sustainability, technology, social media, philanthropy and miscellaneous curiosity about the world.

Chris also writes The Untweetable — a roomier outpost for insight that can’t be contained in 140 characters. There, you’ll find anything from the continuation of compelling, heated Twitter discussions to bonus content beyond Twitter to original social media experiments.

He comes with our highest stamp of approval — a rare combination of superb editorial judgment, compelling cultural curiosity and, to use a TEDism, incredible moral imagination.


  • Followers: 100,422
  • Following: 269
  • Tweets/day: 5.6
06 MAY, 2009

Running The Numbers: Oceanographic Visualization


What 20,500 tuna have to do with your old toothbrush, or how a plastic comb ended up on top of Japan’s most iconic volcano.

We love TED. We love data visualization. We hate environmental demise.

Naturally, we love artist Chris Jordan‘s (remember him?) response to the overlooked but tremendously concerning issue exposed by legendary ocean researcher Sylvia Earle in her TED Prize wish — overfishing and the rapid decline of oceans’ natural vitality.

In Running The Numbers II, the second installment of his Portraits of Global Mass Culture series, Jordan looks at mass phenomena on a global scale. Again, each image portrays concrete data about a specific issue.

Depicts 270,000 fossilized shark teeth, equal to the estimated number of sharks of all species killed around the world every day for their fins.

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Finding meaning in global mass phenomena can be difficult because the phenomena themselves are invisible, spread across the earth in millions of separate places. There is no Mount Everest of waste that we can make a pilgrimage to and behold the sobering aggregate of our discarded stuff, seeing and feeling it viscerally with our senses.

Depicts 2.4 million pieces of plastic, equal to the estimated number of pounds of plastic pollution that enter the world's oceans every hour.

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Detail of the top of Mt. Fuji

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Jordan’s work is both a reminder of and an antidote to our individual sense of insignificance as we face these disturbing global issues with an increasing sense of urgency — we love the idea of juxtaposing the effect of our collective actions with the tiny individual contributions that make them up. It’s a new kind of call for personal responsibility — could that be your old toothbrush at the foot of Mt. Fuji?

We are stuck with trying to comprehend the gravity of these phenomena through the anaesthetizing and emotionally barren language of statistics. Sociologists tell us that the human mind cannot meaningfully grasp numbers higher than a few thousand; yet every day we read of mass phenomena characterized by numbers in the millions, billions, even trillions.

Depicts 20,500 tuna, the average number of tuna fished from the world

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For a deeper look at our collective individualism in its cultural context, be sure to check out Jordan’s absolutely brilliant book, Running the Numbers: An American Self-Portrait — it comes with our highest stamp of recommendation.

via @TEDchris

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28 APRIL, 2009

A Typographic Visualization of Every TED Talk, Ever


9,306 hours of culture’s biggest brain cloud, condensed into a tiny word cloud.

We love TED. We love data visualization. We love fun. So we had some fun with crafting our very own semantic representation of TED talks.

The data comes from this excellent spreadsheet of every TED talk available, compiled by an anonymous author. (We stumbled upon it somewhere down the Twitter rabbit hole months ago.) We used Wordle for the cloud visualization and pulled the words from the official title of each talk — a fairly reliable representation of what the talk is actually about.

Although this model is certainly limited and not at all representative of the full breadth of what TED stands for, an essence begins to emerge — it’s highly concerned with innovation and the future, it’s about tackling global issues, and design is a big part of the solution puzzle.

Share and enjoy.